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Tag: coronavirus

About 20% of Border Patrol Agents, Employees Have Not Been Vaccinated

Photo via Border Patrol

By Steve Neavling

With less than two weeks before all federal employees must be vaccinated, one of five Border Patrol agents and employees have not been inoculated, The Washington Post reports, citing internal data.

As of Nov. 10, 77% of employees were fully vaccinated, and another 3% were partially vaccinated. 

About 4,000 agents and employees have not been vaccinated. About 15.5% of agents and employees requested a religious or medical exemption 

Biden’s mandate requires all federal employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 22. Those who don’t get vaccinated face discipline and could be terminated, his administration has said. 

Earlier this month, 44 Republican lawmakers called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to avoid enforcing the vaccine mandate to prevent a mass exodus of agents and other CBP employees.

“Our men and women in the Border Patrol have worked tirelessly to manage the crisis at our southern border,” the letter stated. “This year especially, they have been subject to extraordinary amounts of mental and physical stress. With morale at an all-time low, this mandate will serve as the last straw for agents who can easily leave the agency for other law enforcement organizations at the state and local level or retire.”

40% of TSA Employees Face Potential Termination As Vaccine Deadline Looms

By Steve Neavling

About 40% of TSA’s workforce remains unvaccinated and could be terminated if they don’t roll up their sleeves by the Nov. 22 deadline. 

TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN that he’s “very hopeful” that the agency’s roughly 24,000 employees will meet the deadline. But for those who don’t, there are “contingency plans” being developed, he said.

“We have about 60 percent of our workforce has been vaccinated, that that number needs to go quite a bit higher over the next few weeks,” Pekoske said. “We are building contingency plans for if we do have some staffing shortages as a result of this, but I hope to avoid that.”

Pekoske is using town hall meetings to encourage employees to get vaccinated. 

But it may be too late for some employees. The Moderna vaccine, for example, is administered four weeks apart. It takes another two weeks for the patient to be considered fully vaccinated. 

The deadline, created by President Biden’s administration, comes just before the busy Thanksgiving travel period. 

Retired Executive Assistant Director of FBI Is Driving a School Bus to Help with Shortage

Michael Mason, retired executive assistant director of the FBI. Screenshot via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

Michael Mason, a retired executive assistant director of the FBI, could be traveling or playing golf after a long, successful career. 

Instead, Mason recently began driving a school bus in Chesterfield County, Virginia, CBS affiliate WTVR reports.

Mason decided to get behind the wheel after hearing about a shortage in school bus drivers. 

“When the pandemic struck there were so many people that were doing so many extra things. People like you who still have to get out here. People like grocery store workers. People like telecommunications workers. All kinds of folks who still had to do their job,” Mason said. “And I felt like I can be doing something to help in this post-pandemic recovery.”

Mason retired from the FBI in 2007 and worked as chief security officer for Verizon from 2008 to 2020 before retiring.

Chesterfield County Public School cast Mason in a promotional video

Mason said he’s just doing his part to make the world a little better.

“I believe if all of us gave a little something,” he said. “Wow, how we could impact the world. How we could change the world.”

Mason worked for the FBI for 23 years and served as special agent in charge of the Sacramento Division and assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office. 

CBP Seizes Thousands of Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Cards Nationwide

Fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. Photo: CBP.

By Steve Neavling

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have seized thousands of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards in the past few months, but the investigations are draining resources normally used to intercept drugs, CBP said. 

Agents at the port of Memphis recently found more than 3,000 fake vaccine cards that were inside more than 120 packages, CBP announced. Agents spotted a suspicious shipment from Shenzhen, China, that was headed to New Orleans. The package contained 41 blank, “low quality” counterfeit cards with typos. 

It was the 15th intercepted shipment of the night from all over the country. 

“The recipients of this ubiquitous contraband are unfortunately all over the United States,” CBP said in a news release.

The FBI has warned that it’s a crime to buy, sell or use counterfeit vaccination cards. 

“These vaccinations are free and available everywhere,” Michael Neipert, area port director of Memphis, said in a statement. “If you do not wish to receive a vaccine, that is your decision. But don’t order a counterfeit, waste my officer’s time, break the law, and misrepresent yourself. CBP Officers at the Area Port of Memphis remain committed to stopping counterfeit smuggling and helping to protect our communities. But just know that when you order a fake vaxx card, you are using my officers time as they also seize fentanyl and methamphetamines.”

Nearly 900 Secret Service Agents Infected with COVID-19 in First Year of Pandemic

By Steve Neavling

Nearly 900 Secret Service employees tested positive for the coronavirus in the first year of the pandemic, representing 11% of the workforce, according to records obtained by a government watchdog group. 

Between March 1, 2020, and March, 9, 2021, 881 active Secret Service employees were infected with COVID-19, far more than previously known, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) revealed.

The list of employees who tested positive were 477 special agents, 249 members of the Uniformed Division, 131 working in administrative, professional and technical positions, 12 investigative protection officers, and 12 technical security investigators. 

More than half of those infected worked in the special agent division, which is tasked with protecting the president, vice president and their families.

President Trump’s administration downplayed the pandemic. When Trump was infected with COVID-19, he was criticized for putting Secret Service agents at risk during a drive in his presidential vehicle to wave at cameras. 

It’s unclear how many infections were the result of the administration’s actions – or lack of actions. 

“Maintaining the health and welfare of its dedicated workforce is a top priority for the Secret Service,” the Secret Service said in a statement to CNN. “The agency also secured the CDC- recommended PPE including masks, shields, gloves, and other equipment and ensured it was distributed to employees around the world.”

3 U.S. Marshals Charged in COVID-19 Vaccination Dispute with Judge

A federal judge charged three members of the U.S. Marshals Service with contempt of court and obstructing justice over a dispute about COVID-19 vaccinations in South Dakota. 

U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann lashed out at the supervisory law enforcement officers on Monday for allegedly permitting a deputy marshal to escort prisoners from a courtroom after refusing to disclose whether she had been vaccinated, The Washington Post reports.

The agency’s Chief of Staff John Kilgallon, South Dakota Marshal Daniel C. Mosteller, and Deputy South Dakota Marshal Stephen Houghtaling were charged in the dispute. 

“This was such an outrageous thing to do,” the judge said. “Nothing like this that we could find has ever been done in this country. If it is the marshals’ position that they can override court orders, they are badly mistaken.”

Kornmann is asking the U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute the case. 

In a letter to federal officials in March, Kornmann said he expects to be informed of the vaccination status of people who work in the courthouse. 

“We are not talking about politics or conspiracy theories. We are talking about science and protecting all of us who serve the public here as well as the jurors, lawyers and parties who come to this building,” Kornmann wrote. “If you are refusing to take the vaccines, I want to know that so I can decide what further action is required on my part.”

Border Patrol Agent, Canine Handler Honored After Dying from COVID-19

Border Patrol Agent Freddie Vasquez. Photo: CBP

By Steve Neavling

A Border Patrol agent and canine handler who died from COVID-19 was honored Wednesday at a funeral Mass in Texas. 

Agent Freddie Vasquez, 43, was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator in February after authorities say he was infected with the coronavirus while on the job. The CBP determined he died in the line of duty.

“Today, we will lay to rest our friend and brother, Border Patrol Agent Freddie Vasquez,” El Paso Border Patrol Chief Gloria I. Chavez said in a tweet. “We will never forget the impact you have made on our lives, and we will honor your legacy always.  We will miss you Freddie.  Honor First.”

Vasquez, who worked for CBP for nearly 19 years, was given full honors at San Lorenzo Catholic Church in Clint, Texas. 

Vasquez is survived by a wife, three children, two brothers and both parents. 

Last month, his wife Inez Vasquez said she encouraged her husband to get vaccinated but he didn’t follow through. 

“I am left to wonder if he had obtained the vaccine, would he have been left like this, would it have been as severe?” Vasquez, 44, a registered nurse, told The San Diego Union.

Maskless DOJ Employees Won’t Have to Prove Vaccination Status, Memo Says

Justice Department employees won’t have to prove they were vaccinated if they decide to enter the agency’s buildings without a mask. 

In a memo obtained by The Hill, managers were instructed not to ask employees about their vaccination status.

The memo comes just after vaccinated federal employees were given permission to go inside the agency’s buildings without a mask following new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Supervisors and managers should not ask about an employee’s vaccination status or use information about an employee’s vaccination status to make decisions about how and when employees will report to a workplace instead of teleworking,” the DOJ told employees in a Friday email. 

The new policy is in stark contrast to the DOJ’s guidance in February that gave employers permission to inquire about their employees’ vaccination status. 

The email on Friday said employees have the option to continue wearing masks. 

“As we go forward, we ask everyone to respect the wishes of our colleagues and visitors and ensure that anyone who chooses to continue wearing a mask while in department buildings and facilities may continue to do so without interference,” DOJ said.