COVID Outbreaks Affect TSA, US and Southwest Airlines at LAX

COVID-19 outbreaks have hit Los Angeles International Airport with at least 400 confirmed cases among Transportation Security Administration employees and employees of U.S. and Southwest airlines, according to county health officials.

According to the LA County Department of Public Health, at least 233 TSA employees at LAX have tested positive for the coronavirus since an outbreak among workers was first discovered on June 9.

The TSA outbreak is said to be the largest active outbreak monitored by the provincial department, which records outbreaks in nursing homes, workplaces, food and retail outlets, homeless service locations, schools, prisons, law enforcement agencies and courts.

However, TSA officials said the county’s numbers did not reflect current infections.

“Our infection rate for LAX is reported about seven times more inaccurately than we currently see in our surgery,” said a TSA official.

TSA declined to provide current infection rates, saying it will no longer provide such data “because it is consistent with community distribution patterns.” The agency confirmed that the numbers used by the LA County Department of Public Health were provided by local LAX TSA officials.

The province’s outbreak data reflects cases reported since the start of the active outbreak, and includes cases where the patient has since recovered, according to the Department of Health.

Despite the number of reported cases, LAX and TSA officials said services were not affected.

“There has been no effect on the security lines at LAX,” said Daniel D. Velez, a TSA spokesperson.

On Sunday, the maximum standard wait time for a traveler at the airport was 21 minutes, and 99% of travelers were able to get through the screenings in less than 15 minutes, Velez said.

The outbreaks among airport workers come as the entire province faces increased levels of infections and a possible renewed requirement for indoor masking if the high number of cases persists.

On Friday, LA County was faced with an average of about 6,600 new cases per day over the past week.

TSA officials point out that percentages among staff often reflect what’s happening locally, and employees continue to follow masking guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those who feel ill are asked to stay at home and report confirmed COVID-19 infections.

According to county health officials, American Airlines employees at LAX are also experiencing an outbreak of its own, with 154 confirmed cases among the staff.

In Terminal 1 of LAX, Southwest Airlines employees have seen 28 confirmed cases among the staff.

An American Airlines spokesperson said the 154 infections are cases reported since May 6 and reflect about 2% of the 7,000 employees at LAX. Many of them, the spokesman said, have already recovered and are back to work.

“The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority,” the airline said in a statement. “We have been in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Los Angeles County public health officials during the pandemic and will continue to coordinate with them on all required health and safety-related measures.”

Southwest Airlines officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Victoria Spilabotte, a LAX spokesperson, said operations at the airport are still proceeding normally.

LAX still requires travelers to wear face masks at the airport, but relaxed travel regulations have meant that many airlines no longer require masks for domestic travel.

For example, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Southwest Airlines are making masks optional for travelers traveling within the US

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