COVID-19s delta variant has brought some interesting changes to air travel.
Right now, delta is the predominant variant, being COVID-19s most contagious strain. It had its origins in India, sweeping through the entire country before reaching the UK, then the US.
But infection rates aren’t what’s strange about the ordeal. It’s how the American public is reacting to the delta strain.
Americans aren’t staying off airplane travel this summer. The air travel industry is still booming, with 2 million+ travelers crossing through US airport checkpoints in the last week of July (at least according to TSA reports).
This is a good sign, right? It should mean that the strain isn’t too serious. Or is this a case of public ignorance?
We assume the latter. Besides the booming travel numbers, infection rates are also going up in each airport.
In fact, throughout the first week of August, over 50 US airports reported TSA officers testing positive for COVID-19. That number is almost double the previous week’s values, with the previous showing 25 infected airports.
But let’s say you’d still like to travel. Should the infection rates deter you? Unless your health is already in crisis, we don’t think so. We simply recommend taking caution. This means facemasks and alcohol sanitizers are going to be a must.
But let’s get into further detail. Below, we’ll look at the Transportation Security Administration’s infection data, and further conclusions we can draw from those.
TSA Infection Patterns
Throughout COVID-19’s lifespan, there has been a correlation between infected TSA officer counts and COVID-19 transmission rates. Basically, as more citizens get sick, even more TSA officers are tested as positive. Alternatively, as transmission rates drop across the US, less officers are infected with COVID-19.
Now, that patterns seems like common sense. However, what’s interesting is how obvious it is in this year’s data (and the previous year’s too).
In 2020, a few weeks after Labor Day’s weekend, the country recorded 13.3 new cases (per 100K individuals). During that time, 229 TSA officers were founded with active coronavirus infections (the information was sourced from the Brown School of Public Health).
Also, 4Th November last year saw very high infection rates. Around 28.2 daily new infections were found (per 100k individuals). During that time, 391 officers were infected.
Moving two weeks ahead (to one week before Thanksgiving), the country saw an average of 48.4 new infections daily, per 100K individuals. During that time, 585 officers were found infected.
Finally, infection rates hit a peak during December 12. The US tallied 66.5 new daily infections for every 100,000. During that time, 830 officers were found infected.
What About Infections Today?
Right now, transmission rates are getting better. The United States is witnessing half of its highest transmission rates compared to last year.
31 new daily cases are being recorded for every 100,000 individuals, where that number represents an average value across a 7 day period. Additionally, 441 officers were found with infections, which is also almost a half drop.
The impact is widespread. Currently, 50 airports have been infected across the entire US, two of them situated in Hawaii. Also, there’s a disproportionate infection rate across the country, with some states registering less.
For example, just a single TSA officer showed positive results for COVID-19 during the end of July within Florida – with that state having the highest rate of infection the same month.
The majority of infected TSA officers are screeners. They are employees who deal with passengers and their items.
Over the past 6 months, those officers have used face masks and shields to deal with passengers. However, there was no acrylic barrier setup between passengers and agents. In those situations, to avoid cross-contamination, each officer was required to clean or change their gloves after every interactions. This included ID checks, pat downs, and bag inspections.
Also, as instructed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each working member (and the public too) are required to wear masks in airplanes and airports.
So if you’re not wearing a mask due to negligence, you’re required to wear it in airports as part of a mandatory measure, where since the pandemic’s start, around 19 officers passed away after getting infected.