As Memorial Day and the usual kickoff to summer travel season approaches, the Transportation Security Administration is implementing changes to its security screening process amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“In the interest of TSA frontline workers' and traveler health, TSA is committed to making prudent changes to our screening processes to limit physical contact and increase physical distance as much as possible,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a press release Thursday. “We continue to evaluate our security measures with an eye towards making smart, timely decisions benefiting health and safety, as well as the traveler experience.”
The release says that the TSA has already started implementing the changes, but will continue to implement them at airports nationwide by mid-June.
In March, the TSA announced other coronavirus-prompted changes, including relaxing the 3.4 ounces or less carry-on liquid requirement for liquid hand sanitizer. Instead, travelers are allowed up to 12 ounces per passenger.
What are some of the new changes? Travelers should expect the following:Boarding passes: Travelers should place their boarding pass on the boarding pass reader themselves as opposed to handing it to a TSA officer. Then, travelers are expected to hold up their pass so an officer can inspect it without needing to touch it. Food: Place carry-on food items into a clear plastic bag and place that bag into a bin for X-ray screenings. Social distancing: Keep an increased distance between people "without compromising security." Visual reminders about appropriate spacing are also placed on checkpoint floors. Face masks: TSA officers are using face masks, and it is encouraged that travelers do so, too. Abide by the rules: Making sure you "pack smart" (no prohibited items in your bag, etc.) helps reduce time in the screening process. If a prohibited item is found, travelers may be directed outside of security to remove the item before being re-screened in order to reduce the number of TSA officers needing to touch the contents of someone's carry-on.
Safety measures that are already put in place include reduced security lane usage, some TSA officers wearing eye protection, TSA officers changing gloves after each pat-down, plastic shielding at many podiums and counters and routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
Despite calls for temperature-checking measures at airports, neither the TSA nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated any plans to take on that responsibility or when it might start. Even if they do, there is debate about whether checking for fevers has much effect on keeping sick people from boarding planes or from entering the country. Temperature scans done on travelers entering the country from China and Europe seemingly did little to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Contributing: Curtis Tate