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TSA announces changes to screening process in wake of coronavirus


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Travelers hitting the skies in the coming months should expect some changes when they head to airports across the country, the Transportation Security Administration says.

The TSA announced Thursday they are updating security procedures to help “reduce the potential for cross-contamination” at security checkpoints. The organizations says it has already started implementing the changes that can be expected nationwide by mid-June.

“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. “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.”

Here are the changes the TSA is making:

Hold onto your boarding pass

Instead of handing their boarding pass over to a TSA officer at the podium, travelers will now be asked to hold onto it and place it on the boarding pass reader themselves. Travelers should then hold their boarding pass out toward the TSA officer so it can be visually inspected.

The TSA says the change will reduce the need for an officer to touch a passenger’s boarding pass, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

Separate your food

Travelers who have carry-on food items are encouraged to put the food in a clear plastic bag that can be placed in a bin.

“Food items often trigger an alarm during the screening process; separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag and remove the food items for a closer inspection,” the agency explained.

TSA Precheck members will not have to remove items from their bags.

Pack smart

The TSA is asking travelers to take extra caution when packing to make sure they don’t have any prohibited items like liquids, gels or aerosols larger than 3.4 ounces in their carry-on.

Passengers will be allowed one liquid hand sanitizer container – up to 12 ounces per passenger – in carry-on bags due to coronavirus. The hand sanitizer will have to be removed from the bag before it’s submitted for x-ray screening.

“If a bag is found to contain a prohibited item, passengers may be directed to return to the divestiture table outside of security with their carry-on bags to remove the item and dispose of the item,” the TSA said. “The passenger may also be directed back outside of security to remove, items that should have originally been divested (such as laptops, liquids, gels, and aerosols, and large electronics) and resubmit their property for X-ray screening.”

Travelers are also urged to remove belts and items in their pockets and put them directly in their carry-on bags instead of in bins. That will help reduce touch points during the screening process.

Social distancing

Social distancing will be encouraged throughout the security process at airports. The TSA says passengers should allow for social distancing whenever possible without compromising security.

“Noticeable adjustments leading up to the security checkpoint include, increasing the distance between individuals as they enter the security checkpoint, placing visual reminders of appropriate spacing on checkpoint floors and staggering the use of lanes where feasible,” officials said. “No two airports are alike, so this could look a little different at each airport.”

Face coverings

TSA officers working at checkpoints are wearing facial protection in response to coronavirus. Travelers will also be encouraged to wear face protection to the checkpoint. They are warned, however, the protection may need to be adjusted during the screening process.

The TSA says 590 federal employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Six have died and 386 have recovered.

You can learn more about the changes to security screenings on the TSA website.


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