TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -More than 7,000 cases were reported in Arizona today alone and as COVID-19 cases rise, so does the number of travelers at airports. This weekend alone TSA screened more than 3 million passengers, nationwide despite the alarming surge in cases.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Tucson Air Traffic Control towers are periodically closing due to staff members testing positive for COVID-19. Researchers believe airport screenings could be where the virus is spreading.
“Security checkpoints are a small footprint of the large number of people congregating. It becomes a COVID-19 warzone,” said Sheldon Jacobson, a computer science professor at the University of Illinois.
Jacobson’s study shows more than 90% infected TSA workers across the country still performed checkpoint screenings.
“We’re seeing this surge at airports and what we suggest is the TSA officers are not getting infected at the vacuum They’re getting infected when working and we’re seeing a transmission between the TSA officers and passengers,” said Jacobson.
Like all airports in the U.S., Tucson’s International Airport is also experiencing high volumes.
“Saturday was our busiest day since the pandemic started in March. We had over 4,000 people departing,” said Vice President of Operations Bruce Goetz.
Goetz said travel is about 40% of what it was last year.
“That’s kind of what we are expecting for the rest of the week to be at that percentage of normal,” Goetz added.
He assured TIA is aggressively protecting and preventing transmission amongst passengers and workers .
“We have two people to elevators; we have floor toe kick buttons, so you don’t have to touch anything. We’re doing UV light disinfection on handrails. You’ll see our employees out there doing a lot of cleaning throughout the terminal.”
The Federal Aviation Administration told KOLD the tower closures have minimal impact on flights and air traffic will be monitored remotely through December 29th.