According to TSA checkpoint data, there has been a sharp decline of air travelers in March.
At the beginning of the month, there were still millions of people passing through checkpoints — as many as 2,203,716, just a couple hundred thousand fewer than were recorded in 2019. Ten days later, the number of travelers were roughly cut in half.
“Many airports have consolidated checkpoints due to low passenger counts and TSA staffing,” a TSA spokesperson told The Washington Post in an email. “In some cases, due to the desire to maintain social distancing, some checkpoint lanes at airports are not open to ensure passengers are spaced apart by not having two lanes open adjacent to each other.”
“Because the health and safety of our workforce is of paramount importance, TSA is authorizing its employees to take leave for up to 14 calendar days, ensuring that they have time to assess their health status and coordinate personal and family matters,” the TSA spokesperson said. “TSA will work with its local leadership at airports nationwide to adjust screening operations as needed to ensure that security is not compromised.”
According to the spokesperson, TSA employees have had the option to wear surgical masks since the beginning of the pandemic, and use of TSA standard nitrile gloves continues to be mandatory when screening an individual or their property. They’ve also authorized the use of eye protection and N95 respirator masks for TSA employees.
In addition to adjusting staff protocol, TSA has implemented some changes to its standard policies for travelers in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
For example, if a traveler’s driver’s license or state-issued ID expired on or after March 1, and the person wasn’t able to get it renewed at their local DMV, they’ll still be allowed to use it at airport security. TSA will allow expired driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs a year after expiration or 60 days after the duration of the emergency, whichever is longer.
Another new TSA protocol tweak is that fliers can carry one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces in their carry-on bags until further notice, although it may slow down their check-in process.
As far as traveling with other disinfectants, passengers should note that large cans of aerosol disinfectant spray (e.g., Lysol spray) are not allowed in checked or carry-on bags per FAA regulations because they’re flammable.
All nonessential travel has been discouraged by health experts and government officials as the number of confirmed cases of covid-19 continues to grow.
“You’re at risk of spreading the disease,” special pathogens expert Syra Madad, who was recently featured in Netflix docuseries “Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak,” told The Post. “At this point, everybody should avoid all nonessential travel."
Instead of traveling, people are being encouraged to stay home to slow the spread of coronavirus. As of Friday afternoon, covid-19 had killed more than 25,000 people worldwide.