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Tag: coronavirus

$1.75 Billion in Funding for New FBI Headquarters Is Added to Coronavirus Relief Bill

FBI headquarters, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Funding for the long-delayed construction of a new FBI headquarters is tucked inside a coronavirus relief bill that Senate Republicans agreed to Monday.

The White House insisted the bill include $1.75 billion in funding for a new headquarters in downtown Washington D.C., drawing criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, The Washington Post reports.

Trump has long called for the headquarters, which is a stone’s throw from his Washington D.C. hotel, to be built downtown, rather than in the suburbs.

Asked why the headquarters funding was added to the coronavirus relief bill, Sen. Richard C. Shelby said, “Good question.”

“This is an administration proposal to move on with the FBI,” Shelby, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said. “They need a new FBI building down the street; it’s not safe to work in, you know, and so forth.”

Democrats were quick to criticize the headquarters funding.

“They managed to have enough money for $2 billion for the FBI headquarters that benefits Trump hotel and they say they have no money for food assistance,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “What the heck is going on?”

The White House defended the funding.

“As President Trump has said, the FBI desperately needs a new building and this measure provides critical funding for this project that would keep the building responsibly near the Department of Justice,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

McAllen Station Border Patrol Agent Dies from COVID-19

Photo via Border Patrol

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A Border Patrol agent from the McAllen Station in Texas has died from the coronavirus.

Enrique J. Rositas died Saturday “after a courage battle with COVID-19,” Chief Border Patrol Agent Brian Hastings announced on Twitter.

“Agent Rositas proudly served the United States Border Patrol for nearly 23 years. Our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and coworkers during this difficult time,” Hastings said. “He will be truly missed.

The McAllen Station, which patrols 53 miles along the Rio Grande, is part of the Rio Grand Valley Sector.

“The El Paso Sector mourns the loss of Border Patrol Agent Enrique J. Rositas of the Rio Grande Valley Sector,” El Paso Sector Chief Border Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the agents & professional staff employees of RGV.”

More Than 1,000 TSA Employees Infected with Coronavirus

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

More than 1,000 TSA employees have tested for the coronavirus, and six have died, the agency revealed Thursday.

No federal agency has been hit harder by COVID-19 than the TSA, whose employee have close contact with the public.

The TSA will now require its employees to wear face shields while screening passengers. TSA employees also mush change their gloves after every interaction with the public.

The TSA has come under fire for failing to adequately protect its employees.

“Right now they’re bringing people back to work and the social distance is not in total effect,” Hydrick Thomas, president of the union that represents the officers, told The Washington Post. “Employees are still complaining there’s too many of them in one area.”

TSA employees have been infected at more than 125 airports.

House Democrats Urge TSA to Require Masks at Security Checkpoints to Protect Employees, Travelers

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

House Democrats are urging the TSA to require face masks for travelers at airport security checkpoints to protect agency employees and others.

In a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske, Reps. Bennie Thompson and Lou Correa pointed out that nearly 1,000 TSA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and seven died, Government Executive reports.

“We were pleased to see you fulfill part of that request when you announced on May 7th a requirement for TSA employees to wear masks. However, it is difficult to understand your hesitation to issue a national requirement for passenger masks to ensure that all frontline workers and passengers are equally protected across the aviation system,” they wrote.

The Democrats said mask requirements are a common sense approach to protecting frontline workers and travelers.

“The only controversy surrounding masks is a dangerous political one manufactured by President Trump and his enablers. There is a clear consensus among public health officials that masks are effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19,” they wrote. “TSA employees routinely enforce a number of requirements that are unpopular with the public, such as conducting invasive pat-downs and confiscating liquids, which you and your predecessors have deemed necessary to protect passengers.”

The TSA last month suggested there were no mask requirements because the CDC only recommends – not mandates – face coverings.

Secret Service Agents Helping Set Up Pence Trip to Arizona Have Suspected Coronavirus Infections

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Multiple Secret Service agents who were planning Vice President Pence’s trip to Arizona have tested positive for the coronavirus or were showing signs of being infected.

The suspected infections prompted Pence to postpone his trip to Phoenix on Tuesday, The Washington Post reports.

The Secret Service asked Pence’s staff to postpone the trip to Wednesday to give the agency more time to replace eight to 10 agents with suspected infections.

It was the second time in two weeks that Secret Service agents working on campaign events were impacted by COVID-19. At least three Secret Service employees tested positive for the coronavirus after helping set up President Trump’s rally on June 20.

A Pence spokesperson declined to comment on the delay.

“Instead of highlighting Vice President Pence’s concerted effort with Task Force members to visit and support states with new cases, The Washington Post is choosing to use its pages to report on a story of little use to every day Americans attempting to learn more about how coronavirus affects them or the Administration’s response efforts,” Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement.

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TSA Employees Continue to Face Serious Coronavirus Risks at Nation’s Airports

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

No federal agency has been more impacted by the coronavirus than the TSA.

As of Monday, 780 TSA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and five have died.

Now that coronavirus cases are increasing in at least 36 states, the TSA is trying to provide more training and protective gear to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to airport employees and travelers.

Jay Brainard, the top TSA official in Kansas, has reported that supervisors were prevented from providing screeners with stockpiled N95 masks in March, when it was difficult to buy the respirators. He also said the TSA failed to adequately train employees to deal with the coronavirus.

It’s a difficult job because security requires person-to-person contact, and that’s how the virus spreads.

Congress is asking for more information on the safety protocols to keep employee safe. In a June 16 letter to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Homeland Security, called on more effective protocols.

“Given that COVID-19 disproportionately affects certain demographics, any such protocols must be designed to guard against passengers from certain racial or ethnic minorities being targeted for screening in a discriminatory fashion,” Thompson wrote.

Dozens of Secret Service Employees Ordered to Self-Quarantine After Trump’s Tulsa Rally

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Secret Service ordered dozens of its officers and agents to self-quarantine after attending President Trump’s rally in Tulsa.

The employees were instructed to work from home for 14 days, The Washington Post reports.

Two Secret Service employees were among at least six advance staffers who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Employees who were ordered to self-quarantine also must get tested for COVID-19.

The Secret Service is now requiring agents to be tested 24 to 48 hours before a presidential trip, according to an email obtained by CNN.

“We want to make sure that we have a healthy workforce and that we are protecting our people,” a Secret Service official told CNN. “This is good common sense.”

Trump has been criticized for holding the rally in defiance of federal social-distancing guidelines.

It’s still not clear yet whether the rally led to an outbreak of the virus.

TSA Official Blows Whistle on Agency’s Failures to Protect Employees, Travelers

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A senior TSA official in Kansas filed a complaint against the agency, saying it failed to provide adequate training and protective gear to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus to airport employees and travelers.

The TSA reports that 706 of its employees tested positive for COVID-19, and five have died.

Jay Brainard, the top TSA official in Kansas, said supervisors were prevented from providing screeners with stockpiled N95 masks in March, when it was difficult to buy the respirators.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that our people became Typhoid Marys and contributed to the spread of that virus because TSA senior leadership did not make sure (screeners) were adequately protected,” Brainard told The Associated Press.

Brainard’s complaint prompted the Office of Special Counsel to order Homeland Security to investigate.

In a statement, the TSA insisted if followed CDC guidelines in protecting employees.

Brainard countered that the TSA failed to notify screeners that they should change gloves after every pat-down.