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With 10th Orlando TSA officer testing positive, Congress members call for more safeguards

Val Demings, Darren Soto, Stephanie Murphy urge TSA to provide more coronavirus safeguards.

With reports that a 10th TSA officer in Orlando has tested positive for COVID-19, three Florida members of Congress called for more stringent safety and health safeguards against the new coronavirus.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Val Demings of Orlando, Darren Soto of Kissimmee, and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park sent a joint letter Monday to Transportation Security Administration Administrator David Pekoske expressing alarm about the cases and urging action to shore up officer safety.

According to a release from the lawmakers, the TSA officer was assigned to the Orlando International Airport west side security checkpoint and last worked at the airport on March 23.

“To date, TSA officers are authorized, but not required, to use masks and respirators to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the virus. Although we understand PPE is in short supply, we respectfully ask you to update protocol to require that TSA officers use masks when working at checkpoints, especially at large hub airports that move passengers traveling from COVID-19 epicenters,” the trio urged.

Demings is a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA. The airport is in Soto’s district.

Demings now has sent several letters to Pekoske asking for additional protections, starting with her first letter on March 20, when there were reports of 15 TSA officers being infected with the coronavirus nationwide.

The CARES Act approved by Congress last month included hundreds of millions of dollars for the TSA to provide personal protection equipment (PPE) to officers and to do comprehensive sanitizing. Demings, Soto, and Murphy called for more effort.

“Furthermore, the most recent CDC guidance recommends that individuals ‘wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,'” they wrote. “We urge TSA to take all reasonable steps to increase public awareness and adoption of the updated CDC guidelines, both on its website and in signage and announcements at airports. These actions will make our airports and aviation workforce safer during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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