TSA: Vaccine mandate for federal workers won't impact holiday travel

The federal Transportation and Security Administration, which oversees security checkpoints at U.S. airports, anticipates a surge in travelers this week due to the holidays but doesn't expect the Biden administration's vaccinate mandate for federal workers to impact travel.

"Approximately 93% of @TSA employees are in compliance with today’s deadline for the federal employee vaccine mandate and exemption requirements," TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted Monday morning. "The employee vaccine mandate will not impact holiday travel. Happy Thanksgiving!"

The vaccine mandate requires more than 3.5 million federal employees to have gotten either at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or an approved exemption by Nov. 22. 

A senior administration official told Fox News on Monday that the Biden administration has achieved 95% compliance across the federal government. That means that employees have either had at least a first dose or have pending or approved exception or extension requests. The official said that more than 90% of those employees have had at least one shot, with "the vast majority of those employees being fully vaccinated."

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TSA said it expects to screen about 20 million passengers during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, which runs from Friday, Nov. 19, through Sunday, Nov. 28. 

"We anticipate that travel may be very close to pre-pandemic levels this holiday, and we are staffed and prepared for the holiday travelers," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. "We have deployed technologies that enhance detection capabilities and reduce physical contact, and it's equally important that passengers are prepared with travel tips for the most efficient checkpoint experience."

An airport security checkpoint. (TSA handout)

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TSA is also reminding travelers that wearing a mask is required under the federal mask mandate — and not just in airports and on planes.

"Everyone in airports, bus and rail stations, on passenger aircraft, public transportation, passenger railroads, and over-the-road buses operating on scheduled fixed-routes must wear a mask," TSA said in a statement. "If a traveler did not bring a mask, a TSA officer will offer a mask to that individual at the screening checkpoint."

The mask mandate applies to travelers, TSA personnel, airport employees, and other aviation workers.

AAA predicts that more than 53.4 million people will travel this year in what will be the highest single-year increase since 2005. Travel for the holiday, AAA noted, is up 13% from 2020, bringing volumes within 5% of pre-pandemic levels.

"With overall vaccination rates improving nationwide and greater confidence in healthy travel, there will be more people traveling," TSA's Pekoske said. "So plan ahead, remain vigilant and practice kindness."

With Fox News.

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