As “ghost flights” sail through the skies, carriers reduce schedules and flight prices plummet amid the coronavirus crisis, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is doubling down with new measures to ensure its employees are safe during the ongoing outbreak.
On Tuesday, a TSA spokesperson confirmed to Fox News that frontline agency employees who closely interact with the traveling public are welcome to wear surgical masks to help fight the virus and its spread. Security screeners are also urged to frequently wash hands and practice respiratory hygiene, they said.
“TSA has authorized frontline personnel whose security screening tasks require them to routinely come into close contact with the traveling public to wear surgical masks if they choose to do so. In addition, all of our employees are being encouraged to regularly wash their hands and cover their coughs,” the spokesperson shared. “Finally, TSA's standard operating procedures require frontline personnel to wear nitrile gloves when conducting screening duties and that adds an additional layer of protection.”
“TSA will continue to follow guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding workforce protection,” the official added. “We also put up CDC notices in TSA areas for public information on coronavirus.”
According to Reuters, the CDC has also recommended that airport medical screeners who are interacting with travelers arriving from countries like China wear a surgical mask, gloves and eye protection. These screeners should also stand at least six feet away from passengers, CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said.
Last week, a medical screener at Los Angeles International Airport tested positive for the coronavirus. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says it’s unclear if the person contracted the virus through their work as a medical screener or from community transmission. The agency said no travelers screened at LAX have tested positive for coronavirus.
As of Tuesday morning, the novel coronavirus has infected at least 113,672 people across 103 countries, resulting in over 4,000 deaths.
In the U.S., at least 36 states plus the District of Columbia have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19, tallying almost 650 illnesses and at least 26 deaths.
Fox News’ Frank Miles and Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.