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Face Masks To Be Allowed for TSA?

By Ed O'Keefe

TSA officers like this one (left) might soon don protective face masks at airport security checkpoints. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu / Post)

Do not be alarmed if one day soon you see TSA officers wearing face masks at airport security checkpoints.

The House later this week will consider an amendment to the TSA Authorization Bill that would allow transportation security officers to wear "personal protective equipment" (PPE) including protective masks during any public health emergency. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.) stems from concern during the recent swine flu outbreak that TSOs and Customs and Border Protection officers might spread the virus to colleagues, family members and neighbors if they came into contact with infected passengers.

The Department of Homeland Security said officers in close contact with infected passengers should wear protective gear and take other preventative measures, but never issued formal guidelines that TSOs or CBP officers could wear gear without seeking permission from supervisors. The department cited medical advice from the CDC and other government health agencies that deemed such guidelines unnecessary.

Lynch, who chairs a House subcommittee on federal employee issues, called the DHS decision "lame" during a May hearing and threatened legislative action if DHS failed to issue written guidelines. Officials admitted at the time that some CBP supervisors at U.S.-Mexico border crossings did not permit officers to wear masks while screening travelers, even as Mexican counterparts wore them at nearby Mexican border crossings. Lynch plans similar legislation for CBP officers in a separate authorization bill.

The Lynch measure is one of several slated for consideration, including an amendment (pdf) that directs TSA to develop a faster screening process for members of the military traveling through airports on official orders while in uniform. The new policy would make it easier to screen heavy military gear and would also apply to family members traveling with service members or just at the airport to see them off.

By Ed O'Keefe  | June 1, 2009; 4:35 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Workplace Issues  
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I hope these employees are getting one of the two masks approved by the CDC.
I wear a mask on public transportation all winter because of my illness and no air conditioning during the winter.

But as a citizen I can't get a box of 20 masks and the Ohio Dept of Health refuses to stock cdc approved masks or any other for citizens.
Public health in the USA has gone to the sewer like all other public services. It is a shame.

Posted by: teddi_ohio | June 1, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

What makes TSA employees so bloody special? Why don't store clerks and bus drivers and airline workers and so on all wear them? In fact, why don't we all just walk around in a big plastic bubble, protecting ourselves against everything. IT'S JUST THE FLU, PEOPLE -- GET OVER YOURSELVES.

Posted by: 7900rmc | June 1, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

How about just getting rid of this fraudulant agency and the Gov. does not have to spend any money on face masks. I would not have to waste my time thinking this was really news worthy news.

Posted by: elesteban | June 1, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Heres a thought...get them to put their "thinking caps" on first. Allowing a sick person to go through the security checkpoint is akin to saying "go ahead...infect all of the passengers on that flight and the connecting airports, as long as I have MY mask on, I don't care". With the Thinking Cap, they could actually see a sick person in line and ask them to go to a separate room for an analysis before boarding the aircraft. Since the airlines aren't going to supply masks for all of their passengers, it should fall to the TSA to be the watchdog. sic'em Fido!

Posted by: DrSmith3 | June 2, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

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