NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The federal vaccine mandate takes effect Monday, impacting thousands of TSA personnel.
It comes as the Thanksgiving travel rush is on, with millions of Americans crowding airports and hitting the roads in what’s expected to be the biggest holiday travel period since the pandemic started.
READ MORE: TSA Confident Start Of Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Will Not Impact Staffing During Thanksgiving Travel Period
While there is concern the TSA could struggle to stay fully staffed, representatives remain confident that won’t be the case.
A TSA spokesperson tweeted over the weekend that the agency screened more than two million people Saturday for the third consecutive day, saying the last time it screened that many people in three or more days was in the summer.
One of those traveling this weekend was Andrea Giulan, who was visiting her dad in New York for the holidays. She said she saw plenty of long lines through security.
“I always anticipate there will be a little bit, because of the holiday season,” Giulan told CBS2.
The wait may get even longer as the new vaccine mandate for federal workers kicks in.
“I guess it would make me leave a little bit earlier for the airport, right?” another traveler said. “I assume most people who are working in this kind of industry are vaccinated.
READ MORE: Volunteers Around NYC Working To Ensure Everyone Is Fed This Thanksgiving
A TSA spokesperson would not give CBS2 a figure, only saying the compliance rate is “very high,” and 60% of workers got at least one shot in October.
“There is the potential if you do not have an approved exemption and you are not vaccinated, that you will lose your job,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We will go through a progressive discipline process with our employees who have not been vaccinated. But we have a lot of employees who asked for either medical or religious exemptions, as well. So we’ll go through the process of looking at each one of those individual cases and make a determination over the next several weeks.”
This comes as AAA predicts Thanksgiving travel overall will rebound to near pre-pandemic levels, with more than 53 million Americans traveling.
“Well, TSA says that it’s going to be prepared, so we have to take them at their word,” AAA Senior Manager of Public Affairs Robert Sinclair Jr. said. “Many airlines are paying overtime or bonuses for employees to work during the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Sinclair said 90% of those traveling will be driving. He believes the eastbound lanes of the Long Island Expressway will be the most congested Thanksgiving eve.
“From 2:30 to 6:30 Wednesday, the day before the holiday, we are anticipating a 480% increase in traffic volumes,” he said.
The TSA anticipates the Sunday after Thanksgiving will likely see the highest numbers of air travelers as people return home.
MORE NEWS: Health Experts Concerned About New Wave Of COVID After Thanksgiving
All this comes as new COVID cases are up nearly 54% in the last month nationwide. Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin are among the hardest hit states.
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