The Transportation Security Administration is facing a staffing shortage for the busy holiday travel rush. TSA has already seen a 40% increase in passengers this year over last, and officials expect that number to rise even more as people get ready to head home for Thanksgiving.
Due to workers failing to meet the November 22 deadline for federal employees to be completely COVID-19 vaccinated, it seems that there may be a shortfall of screeners at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport checkpoints during the peak Thanksgiving travel season this year.
Only approximately 60% of TSA workers are now fully vaccinated, with only a little more than four weeks for the remainder to catch up. According to the Los Angeles Times, federal workers who refuse to comply with the requirement may risk disciplinary action, including removal from the agency.
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TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN last week that he’s “extremely optimistic” that more workers would be vaccinated before the deadline, avoiding a staffing shortfall during one of the busiest travel seasons of the year.
TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told the Los Angeles Times that the agency expects more workers to be immunized in the coming weeks, and that the agency wants to have “the overwhelming majority of TSA officers vaccinated” by the deadline.
“At TSA, we’re holding staff town halls, sending out mass emails, and putting information in break rooms on how and where to submit evidence of vaccination status,” she added.
The representative was unable to say how the vaccination rate for screeners compares to that of the whole TSA staff.
There could scarcely be a worse moment for the TSA to lose a significant portion of its personnel than the Monday before Thanksgiving, when the deadline is set. Pekoske did say, however, that the TSA is working on contingency measures in case a shortage cannot be averted.
A mature guy is being vaccinated. (picture courtesy of iStock/Getty Images) E+/Geber86)
Senator Charles E. Schumer, the majority leader in the Senate, was the one who pushed the TSA to develop a contingency plan in case a significant number of its workers became unvaccinated and had to be fired. He suggested that the agency employ bomb-sniffing dogs more often to assist keep screening lines moving.
“As Thanksgiving approaches, the TSA hinted at a possible genuine travel disaster,” Schumer said at a press conference on Sunday. “And it’s because they stated that 40% of their staff is still COVID-19 unvaccinated.”
Airlines for America (A4A), the trade group that represents the majority of major U.S. airlines, refused to comment on the effect of the government vaccination mandate’s impending deadline on Thanksgiving travel. “We stay in regular contact with our government partners to emphasize a safe, smooth travel experience,” it said in a statement.