Expecting staff shortage, Schumer urges TSA to deploy more agency dogs during the holidays

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) on Sunday called on the Transportation Security Administration to enlist more agency dogs in anticipation of a possible staff shortage during the holiday season.

The suggestion comes after TSA administrator David Pekoske told CNN last week that 40% of his agency’s staff were still unvaccinated. The deadline for federal employees, with few exceptions, to be fully immunized is November 22, as set by the Biden administration.

“If the TSA is lagging behind in the jabs, send the dogs,” Schumer said at a press conference in Manhattan on Sunday. “They could lend a real paw to the TSA.”

Pekoske told CNN his agency was making contingency plans, which Schumer said should include a larger deployment of his canine teams, including trained detection dogs and their handlers.

“They can help secure national security and allow TSA agents to more effectively and efficiently screen individuals looking for explosives,” Schumer said. “It really works and it pushes the lines forward.”

As the TSA continues to improve the immunization rate of its staff, Schumer said he also wanted the agency to release its contingency plans within the next month so that New Yorkers could plan their trips to the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the busiest times for area airports.

“I ask them, in particular to look at New York, as our three airports combined are the busiest in the country for travel,” said the senator.

A TSA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

Time is running out for unvaccinated federal employees to comply with the mandate, given that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two injections and a few weeks apart.

The shortest turnaround time is two weeks if the person chooses the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one injection and two weeks to take full effect. According to this schedule, the deadline to receive a Johnson & Johnson vaccine is November 8.

Agencies can initiate the enforcement process, which includes termination or revocation, as early as November 9, depending on guidelines issued by the Office of Personnel Management.

In New York City, Gov. Kathy Hochul said last week that 3% of the state’s healthcare workers – nearly 34,000 – were forced to quit their jobs after refusing to be vaccinated against the virus.


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