WASHINGTON — More than 1,000 employees at the Transportation Security Administration have tested positive for coronavirus, according to figures the agency released Thursday. Nearly all of them are security officers who have continued to work screening passengers at airports throughout the pandemic.
Hydrick Thomas, president of the union that represents the officers, said the figure is a reflection of the agency’s ongoing struggle to do enough to protect its employees. Air travel numbers, that collapsed in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, are steadily climbing even as the virus is surging again: Nearly 2.7 million people traveled over the July Fourth holiday weekend.
‘‘Right now they’re bringing people back to work and the social distance is not in total effect,’’ Thomas said. ‘‘Employees are still complaining there’s too many of them in one area.’’
In all, the TSA says 1,018 employees have tested positive. Its 50,000-strong force of screening officers has borne the brunt, accounting for 907 of the cases. Six employees have died, as has a contractor.
The virus spread rapidly among the TSA’s workforce in the spring, forcing officers to stay home to try to limit its spread. The difference then was that air travel had come to an almost complete standstill, with fewer than 100,000 people passing through the agency’s checkpoints on some days, compared to a normal volume of 2 million or more.
The figures released by the TSA show that JFK remains the hardest hit airport, with 116 agency employees testing positive. The most recent officer to test positive there last worked on May 23.
But new cases are spread widely. Officers who worked at 43 different airports within the last two weeks have tested positive. They include officers working at airports in states across the South, Southwest, and Midwest where cases have been climbing among the population as a whole.
Disney World prepares to reopen its theme parks
ORLANDO, Fla. — Forget about up-close “meet-and-greet’’ sessions with Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck when Walt Disney World parks reopen. There will be no firework shows or parades — those would draw too many people together — and both visitors and employees will be getting temperature checks when they enter.
Despite a huge surge of Floridians testing positive for the new coronavirus in recent weeks, two of Disney World’s four parks are reopening Saturday. When they do, visitors to “The Most Magical Place on Earth” will find new rules in place.
Everyone has to wear a mask and maintain social distance. No hopping between parks is allowed, for the time being, and visitors will need reservations to enter. Disney employees won’t be allowed to take photos of visitors in front of Cinderella’s Castle since it involves touching the tourists’ cameras.
“That is a very different Disney World than the one you worked at back in March, and that is because of the need for safety,’’ Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here! Local 362, told his members in a recent Facebook discussion.
Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will reopen on July 11. Disney World’s other two parks, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, will welcome back guests four days later. All of the parks closed in mid-March in an effort to stop the virus’s spread. Disney World’s crosstown rivals, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, also closed in March but have been back open for several weeks after instituting similar rules to protect employees and customers from the virus.
Disney has been opening back up its parks around the globe for the past two months. In May, the company opened Disney Springs, a complex of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues in Lake Buena Vista. Only Disneyland in California delayed its plans to reopen in mid-July, saying it was awaiting guidelines from the state. Associated Press
New York City restricting large outdoor events
NEW YORK — The Bronx Zoo and New York City’s aquarium are set to reopen this month, but New York City is canceling street fairs, outdoor concerts, parades, and other big events through September as local officials try to keep city blocks open for restaurants and the public.
Large outdoor gatherings have been officially banned in New York since the spring, though thousands have taken to city streets to protest against police brutality. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that the city’s ban will exempt “demonstrations, religious events and press conferences.”
“Look this is always an area of real sensitivity here,” de Blasio said in a CNN appearance, in response to a question about whether protests would be allowed. “You’re talking about health, we would always say, ‘Hey folks stay home if you can.’ But we understand this moment in history, people are talking about the need for historic change.” Associated Press