WASHINGTON — As the government amps up security at the country's major airports because of Ebola, there's one group of workers that has seen little change in their day-to-day precautions: agents for the Transportation Security Administration.
American Federation of Government Employees General Counsel David Borer said aside from some additional briefings, TSA agents are so far only being encouraged to follow the regular precautions they'd normally take anyway: wash their hands, use gloves, and disinfect their work area.
"The precautionary measures [for Ebola] are measures that are already in place," Borer told BuzzFeed News. "They're just redoubled now because of the Ebola."
Borer said AFGE, which represents some 45,000 TSA screeners around the country, has been talking with the administration on a fairly constant basis. And while there is "concern" among agents because they come into contact with so many passengers, he said as long as everybody continues to have reliable information the situation should remain under control.
"Everybody, the TSA included, faces this sort of tug of war between communicating extensively and whatever tipping point there is where you begin to add to the panic," Borer said.
When passengers at five of the country's largest airports arrive from West Africa, Homeland Security and Customs agents evaluate them for symptoms. If someone is suspected of having Ebola, they are turned over to someone from the Centers for Disease Control.
But still the concern from TSA agents and others is there.
Workers at airports around the country, even those not at the five airports where the majority of arrivals from West Africa come in, have used the outbreak to speak out about their own workplace safety concerns.
In New York's LaGuardia airport, cabin cleaners for Delta went on strike to demand state officials look into their workplace conditions. And a cabin cleaner for ReadyJet at Boston's Logan Airport said workers sometimes are accidentally exposed to passenger's bodily fluids.
"I have seen accidents where people are draining fluid from the lavatory and get excrement on their face and body," ReadyJet cabin cleaner Edwin Lopes said in a statement sent by Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ. "This is why we need better equipment to wear."
Jacob Fischler is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C.
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