A TSA agent searches luggage at an airport.  Carolina K. Smith MD / Shutterstock.com

AFGE report: COVID-19 sickness—one TSA family’s terrible experience

A Transportation Security Officer’s painful and troubling experience in trying to get diagnosed—and then treated—for COVID-19 reveals a terrifying need for quick changes, in both government policy and medical practice regarding management of the ongoing pandemic.

The TSO—Brian Shoup—attended an agency training meeting at the end of February, experiencing high fever, cough, shortness of breath soon afterward, according to a press release from the American Federation of Government Employees. Shoup then called in sick to work—following up by seeing his doctor, who lacking a proper test, told the sick fed that he “did not think” he had coronavirus.

The physician prescribed nothing more than “steroids, antibiotics and cold medicine.” On March 9, Shoup went back to work—but the fever returned and soon after he was in an emergency room. After x-rays and multiple tests for other illnesses—but apparently still lacking or at least employing a COVID-19 virus test—the medical professionals on hand told Shoup they had ruled out flu and many other illnesses, and sent him home with a note to his employer indicating he may be infected with the novel coronavirus. He was not in bad enough shape to require hospitalization, they had determined.

Unfortunately, however, Shoup’s doctor’s note—and subsequent similar notes provided to his wife, as also a COVID-19 infection suspect and a fellow TSO at that same Tennessee airport—did not pass muster with the couple’s managers at TSA. The process of getting TSA management to finally offer at least some legitimate leave status for both—despite the obvious that he had documented illness and she was living with him in a quarantine necessary for the safety of the couple and the public—took weeks and enormous effort.

“This back and forth run around caused us a great deal of added stress to the already stressful situation,” Shoup said. “My greatest concern lies in the fact that my agency has no clear direction on what to do during this national pandemic emergency.”

“We are considered essential personnel and are required to report to work no matter what the emergency is,” Shoup said, rightly, of himself and his wife. “We are frontline workers and therefore are at the greatest risk for exposure, contracting and spreading this virus to the traveling public, friends and family.”

The president of Shoup’s AFGE union local noted that the agency should provide coronavirus tests for any employee who exhibits symptoms.

“We the frontline workers should be getting tested before sport figures and other influential people,” the union official said, referring to recent media reports of basketball stars and other celebrities who have been provided with prompt COVID-19 testing. “This is unconscionable for us to be subjected to this kind of disrespect from not only our government but our agency too.”


Reader comments

Thu, Mar 26, 2020

completely incompetent, dangerous.

Thu, Mar 26, 2020

totally gross negligence. totally. and so unnecessary.

Thu, Mar 26, 2020

Who is running TSA? No common sense.

Wed, Mar 25, 2020 SAM USA

WARNING Federal employees are NOT entitled to claim getting it as an On-the-job related illness/injury unless they can Prove they contacted on the Job and did not contact it somewhere else.

Wed, Mar 25, 2020

Same thing going on in CBP AMO. Local leaders are doing nothing until an employee gets test results back. Though it’s obvious he has the virus. We all continue to gather for group muster with nothing more than a bottle of hand sanitizer. This is gross negligence to enact no protective measures.

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