3 TSA officers at San Jose airport test positive for coronavirus; 42 agents now on leave

Three Transportation Security Administration officers who work at Mineta San Jose International Airport tested positive for COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) an airport spokesperson confirmed. 

The three officers are receiving medical care and the 42 TSA employees they came in contact with over the past 14 days are quarantined at home, officials said on Tuesday. 

The security agents all worked the evening shift and were stationed at a security checkpoint in Terminal B which services both Alaska Airlines and Southwest, TSA union officials said. Two of them are men and one is a woman. 

According to James Mudrock, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1230, of the three TSA agents confirmed to have the virus, one has been off work for the past 15 days due to illness.

Mudrock said the union learned of the positive test results on Monday, adding that he doesn't know the time frame of how long the three security officers had been working while infected. However, it is believed that one of them caught the coronavirus around Feb. 26 and then infected the other two, sending waves of panic through the entire workforce.

“Anxiety. Especially for the younger ones. You’d think it would be the older ones. But, anxiety is going through their minds,” said Bauer. “We still have employees who are worried, because they don’t know who it is.”

None of the 42 TSA employees exposed to COVID-19 are experiencing any symptoms. They are on paid administrative leave and remain in quarantine at their homes. 

A statement from Santa Clara County officials read in part, "The risk of transmission is extremely low for individuals who aren’t in close proximity for an extended period of time. Risk would be higher when sitting in close proximity to a person for multiple hours versus quick contact passing by an individual..."

The statement did not say what interactions the officers may have had with the general public.

Mineta San Jose officials also did not elaborate on the TSA officers' interactions with the public. A statement by the airport on Twitter at @flySJC confirming the positive COVID-19 tests left many people leaving worried tweets below.

"I flew twice last week at SJC and have a compromised immune system...any way to let folks know if they're at risk while respecting HIPPA?" one tweet asked, referring to medical privacy laws.

"I literally just got back home last night, flew out last Friday. Can we get info on when they were on duty? I'm living with a 90+ year old elder, this is very vital information for me," another tweet said.

With dozens of security agents off the job at the airport, their coworkers are being asked to step up. 

TSA union officials said emergency funding was approved from Washington D.C. and the remaining employees are working 12 to 14-hour shifts. 

“We had a lot of employees who actually volunteered to do that, again, to ensure operations for the checkpoints,” said Carolyn Bauer, a TSA employee who is also a member of AFGE Local 1230.

The TSA said it is cooperating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health and the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and "will update as more information becomes available."

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Bay City News contributed to this report.