The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to emphasize that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continues to implement a range of procedures to keep contact to a minimum for both TSA agents and fliers who go through security screening during the coronavirus outbreak. There’s added urgency to do so, as the number of COVID-19 cases has risen in the U.S., as well as the number of air travelers. More than 946,000 passengers passed through TSA checkpoints on Feb. 14, for example, up from around 90,000 a day in mid-April (though still less than the more than 2.2 million who flew on the same February day last year).
The latest change is a requirement that passengers over the age of 2 wear face masks, with new penalties announced: Those who fail to comply will be prevented from entering the screening area, and “the TSA will recommend a fine ranging from $250 for the first offense up to $1,500 for repeat offenders,” the agency said in a Jan. 31 statement. The order became effective Feb. 2, through at least May 11, 2021.
The TSA also requires officers to don face shields or protective eyewear when their job requires close contact with the public, unless there are acrylic barriers between themselves and passengers (the TSA has installed nearly 7,000 of the barriers at airports around the country). The agency has also embraced new technology that prevents agents from having to touch bags: It’s installed more than 300 computed tomography (CT) units, able to offer detailed 3-D images of a carry-on bag’s contents.
The TSA said in a recent statement that even as COVID-19 vaccines become available for agents in the next few weeks or months, these infection-prevention procedures will stay in place.
More than 6,100 TSA employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and 14 have died as a result of contracting the coronavirus.
The current safety measures — part of the TSA’s “Stay Healthy, Stay Secure” campaign — include:
1. To avoid cross-contamination, TSA officials no longer handle boarding passes. Passengers place their paper or electronic passes on the code reader and hold it for the officer to inspect. The agent may ask you to briefly lower your mask to confirm your identity.
2. Food needs to be placed in a clear plastic bag and taken out of other bags before being put into a bin for inspection. The TSA explains: “Food items often trigger an alarm during the screening process; separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag and remove the food items for a closer inspection.”
3. Travelers are asked to be extra vigilant about prohibited items. The TSA has long limited liquids to 3.4 ounces, and the agency says it’s even more important to follow this guideline now so that officers can “touch the contents inside a carry-on bag much less frequently.” If there are prohibited items, passengers may be asked to remove them and return through security after throwing them out. Up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer will be permitted through security, but the TSA asks that it be removed from carry-on bags before screening.
4. Passengers need to practice physical distancing whenever possible. Floor markers indicate appropriate spacing between those waiting in line, and many reminders are posted.
5. TSA officers at checkpoints must wear face masks and gloves (and eye protection when close contact is necessary), and there’s a new federal order for the TSA to require that travelers wear masks during airport screening (as noted above). Face shields aren’t considered a suitable substitute, though they can be used in addition to masks. Officers are also required to change gloves after each pat-down search of a passenger.
6. Travelers should put loose items into carry-on bags rather than into bins. Keeping objects such as keys and phones out of the bins will “reduce touch-points during the screening process,” according to the TSA.
7. Passengers should arrive at airports with plenty of time for screening. They are encouraged to sign up for TSA PreCheck, which allows for speedier passage through screening (you don’t need to take off your shoes and belts and can leave liquids and laptops in your carry-on).
8. The TSA will accept driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs a year after expiration. But travelers should be aware that enforcement of the Real ID law begins Oct. 1.
If you have any questions about the procedures, you can call the TSA’s customer service center at 866-289-9673, or get in touch through Twitter (@AskTSA) or Ask TSA on Facebook.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 21, 2020. It’s been updated to reflect new TSA procedures.
And he set sail for Florida on a boat hewn from bootleg timber
If all goes well, the negligent and incompetent owner of Maine’s Big Squaw ski area will soon be exiled to Florida and the mountain transferred to new owners. Its Homestead-era name would give way to the more palatable Moosehead Lake Ski Resort, a new quad would re-open the long-dormant upper mountain, and new snowmaking, lodging, and trails would expand and modernize the whole operation.
This $75 million investment would come courtesy of local developer Perry Williams and Provident Resources Group, a nonprofit out of Louisiana. Why a Baton Rouge-based outfit is involved or even what they would do (their website opaquely states that they “serve our charitable missions by undertaking a broad range of services, activities, and programs”), is unimportant at this time. Money can do amazing things, and $75 million is a lot of money.
What’s important is that James Confalone could soon be gone. He is indisputably the worst ski area owner in New England, and probably on the continent. Despite clear requirements in the 1995 sales contract that he maintain the ski area, he has allowed it to deteriorate. The upper mountain hasn’t been accessible since a 2004 chairlift accident. The ski area sat dormant for years afterward, until a local Friends of the Mountain volunteer group resuscitated the lower mountain. In November, a judge concluded the State of Maine’s four-year lawsuit against Canfalone for tax delinquency, illegal timber harvesting, and negligence by ordering him to restore the place to its mid-90s condition or sell.
Thankfully for all of us, he seems to have chosen to sell. A Facebook comment from the Friends of the Mountain administrator indicates that “the resort is under contract.” Of course, plenty could still go wrong. And not just with the sale. The goal of opening by next winter may be overly optimistic. This is not Saddleback, which had sat dormant for five years but had been showered with tens of millions in upgrades by the Berry family in the decade before that. They upgraded lifts and snowmaking and dramatically expanded the trail network. The bones were there. It’s hard to say what state of osteoporosis Big Squaw’s upper mountain is in.
Still, the potential here is enormous. The restored ski area would tower 1,700 vertical feet, with a developable footprint of up to 1,700 acres. New buildings would anchor a “Mountain Village.” The resort swallows the current trail network, suggesting plenty of room to expand:
On the plus side, the lower mountain has been maintained and the Facebook group’s 10,000-plus followers suggest a dormant passion for an abused asset. On the flip side, the ski area is so remote that it makes Sugarloaf seem like Times Square, and Maine is littered with failed ski areas and failed ski area revitalization efforts. I’m choosing cautious optimism.
A rendering of Big Squaw’s Upper Mountain, inspired by cartoon chairlifts and the surface of Mars.
CORTLAND, NY – Sadly, I’ll never get to say, “I’ll take Mythology for a thousand please, Alex,” (as Jeopardy’s long-time host has now gone to that Great Game Show in the Sky), but I would have run the category.
Western Civ is a long suit of mine, and still the best way to educate young minds about philosophy, history, civics, and yes, writing. So it was with juuuuuuust a little pedantic delight that I regaled my ski buddy with the tales of Homer and Herodotus as we made our way around Cortland, New York’s Greek Peak.
Police have taken to the slopes in Europe in order to ensure COVID regulation adherence. We’ve all seen bike cops and mall cops, but the COVID-19 pandemic has bred a new type of cop: ski cops! And no, they’re not there to give out speeding tickets, regardless of how fast you think you are. We’ll leave that job to the yellow jackets and slow signs. The police have taken to the slopes exclusively to enforce COVID-19 regulations.
What exactly are the police doing on the ski slopes? In the Alps, the police have been brought in to provide a visible presence and ensure that everyone is abiding by the COVID-19 regulations. Resorts have had trouble enforcing physical distancing and mask requirements, particularly in large gathering areas, such as lift lines. There’s only so much a single lift operator can do when trying to enforce the rules to hundreds of guests. Before the police presence, the only way to punish disobedience was to remove the guest from the ski resort. However, with the police, legitimate legal repercussions could result from refusing to abide by the new rules. Hopefully, the police presence alone will be enough to encourage guests to follow the rules, and legal action will not be required.
Skis are the latest illicit contraband. France hasn’t been permitted to open any of its ski resorts this year. French police have been organized to stop skiers who are attempting to cross the border to ski the surrounding open ski areas in Switzerland, Spain, and Andorra. French police have also been working at the border to stop people from entering the country with ski gear.
Following COVID-19 Regulations. | Photo Via Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
If you are living in the United States and have had the privilege of skiing this year, remember that this could happen here too. In Colorado, police have already had a presence at many resorts including Vail, Breckenridge and Monarch. Amidst the pandemic, police presence at resorts could potentially become much more widespread. Resorts in the United States are having the same amount of difficulty enforcing COVID-19 regulations as European resorts. This is quite surprising considering our regulations are much less severe, despite our significantly larger number of cases. Fortunately, contact tracing has helped to prove that most COVID-19 transmissions at ski resorts are due to après activities, and not skiing.
That being said, the Biden administration has made it clear that they intend on cracking down on COVID-19. On his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued a federal mask mandate on all federal lands. With 60% of ski resorts being located on federal lands, this mask mandate could be federally enforced at ski resorts. It is unlikely that this will actually occur, but it should still be taken as a warning. Don’t be a Jerry! The only thing more embarrassing than a gaper gap is an improperly worn face mask. Don’t be the reason our ski resorts get shut down again!