If you run into any long lines at the airport over Thanksgiving weekend, don’t blame it on the federal vaccine mandate. The Transportation Security Administration is reporting that the vast majority of its employees are now fully vaccinated.
“Ninety-three percent of the TSA workforce has complied with the vaccination mandate,” said R. Carter Langston, a TSA spokesperson, in an email.
Yesterday, November 22, was the deadline by which all federal employees must either be vaccinated against Covid-19 or submit to frequent coronavirus testing, per President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.
“Since the President announced the vaccination requirement for federal employees in September, TSA has continued to make significant progress ensuring compliance across the agency—and implementation of the requirement will not result in any disruptions to critical services that the American people depend on,” said Langston. “The mandate will not have any impact on holiday travel.”
This latest report clears up a weeks-long mystery. The TSA had not offered an update on the agency’s compliance since October 13. At that time, TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN that “about 60% of our workforce has been vaccinated, that that number needs to go quite a bit higher over the next few weeks.”
Since then, and until yesterday, the TSA was not saying how much the compliance needle had moved, only that the agency would be ready for the holiday volume and that the employee vaccine mandate would not impact travel this weekend.
Thanksgiving weekend is among the busiest travel periods of the entire year. The AAA expects 4.2 million Americans to fly over Thanksgiving, down 11% from pre-pandemic levels but nearly double the air passenger volume from last year.
There are currently 275 TSA employees with active COVID-19 infections, according to the agency’s website. Since the beginning of the pandemic, TSA has cumulatively had 11,199 federal employees test positive for Covid-19. In addition, 33 TSA employees and two screening contractors have died after contracting the virus.