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COVID cases among TSA employees spike at McCarran

Updated August 10, 2021 - 7:50 pm

As the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to surge in Nevada and across the U.S. Transportation Security Administration officers who regulate the nation’s airport security gates are seeing an increase of cases with it.

At Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, cases have increased 18 percent between July 2 and Tuesday, jumping from 197 positive cases to 233, according to TSA daily data tracked by the Review-Journal. The jump of 36 new infections in that 40-day period is significantly higher than what was seen during an 88-day stretch from April 5 to July 2, when 18 new cases were reported at McCarran for a 10 percent spike.

“Unfortunately COVID infections are rising in the workforce there (Las Vegas),” TSA spokesman Carter Langston said. “What we’re seeing, really across the nation, but right there at McCarran is COVID infections are closely mirroring what’s taking place in the communities.”

The recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Nevada led Gov. Steve Sisolak to implement an indoor mask mandate July 30 in hopes of slowing the rising infection rate.

The percentage increase at McCarran is above what’s occurring nationally, as between July 2 and Tuesday there were 800 new cases, a 10 percent spike, jumping to 8,986 total.

Of those total cases nationally, as of Monday 8,438 TSA employees had recovered from their infections with 548 active infections.

The recent surge at McCarran has some TSA officers there worried about their health.

“TSA employees are concerned,” said Becky Esquivel, American Federation of Government Employees Local 1250 vice president, who is also a TSA agent at McCarran. “There are immune compromised and pregnant employees who have expressed concerns since the virus is as contagious as chicken pox.”

Those who test positive are quarantined for 10 days with pay, Esquivel noted.

Additionally, two more officers died from the disease between July 22 and July 27, bringing the number of coronavirus deaths among TSA employees nationally to 18. Before those two deaths, there had not been a COVID-related death of a TSA employee since April 27.

With the recent rise in infections there is a push nationwide to get the front-line workers vaccinated.

“Federal security directors are encouraging their staff, those that don’t feel well to stay home,” Langston said. “We continue to encourage vaccinations among all of the workforce. That is a continuing effort.”

Esquivel confirmed there was a vaccine push locally among TSA employees, but also noted the importance of the public’s cooperation with health and safety regulations.

“We all have a responsibility to ourselves and others to wear protective gear, use good hygiene and safely distance,” Esquivel said. “Although, we as TSA employees cannot enforce the public to wear masks, it is appreciated that they (traveling public) would practice these precautionary measures.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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