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TSA Updates Travelers on Coronavirus Policies Ahead of the Holidays

By Tim Chester

Nov 20, 2020

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Larger volumes of hand sanitizer are now permitted on flights.

Photo by Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock

Larger volumes of hand sanitizer are now permitted on flights.

You’re allowed more hand sanitizer. Be sure to pack it.

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As we head into the holiday season, the always entertaining TSA Twitter account has been keeping passengers updated on its latest rules and restrictions, particularly regarding travel during the pandemic.

As well as reminding fliers what six feet looks like when measured in turkeys, the agency has been tweeting links to its dedicated coronavirus page with information on health and safety protocols and rules for travelers.

The TSA has adjusted operations several times during the year. Back in the spring, it announced several changes to its screening processes “to limit physical contact and increase physical distance as much as possible.”

It also relaxed one of its main rules regarding carry-on liquids. The agency started allowing passengers to bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in their carry-on bags, up from the usual 3.4-ounce allowance. (The rule was still in effect in November.) Other liquids, gels, and aerosols are limited to 3.4 ounces, or 100 milliliters, carried in a quart-size bag.

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The ID rules also changed. Travelers can now use a state driver’s license that expired after March 1, 2020, if they haven’t been able to renew it at their local license agency. “TSA will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued ID a year after expiration” the site states.

The whole aiport experience is a bit different these days. Now, as travelers pass through checkpoints, they’re greeted by TSA agents in masks and gloves, need to practice social distancing in lines, and are encouraged to wear facial protection (but may have to remove it for screening).

Passengers hold onto their own boarding pass, whether paper or electronic, and just show it to the agent for inspection. They have to put food in a separate bag, to lessen the possibility of it triggering an alarm and requiring a search by an agent.

Officers wear eye protection and clear plastic face shields in some airports; plastic shields cover document-checking podiums and other spots, and there’s lots more cleaning and disinfecting. TSA agents change gloves after each pat-down.

The TSA launched a Stay Healthy Stay Secure campaign in the summer to reiterate some of the rules and regulations. It also now offers live assistance for travelers who have additional questions.

TSA screening numbers have remained low throughout 2020, compared to 2019. They hit a historic low of 87,534 on April 14 before rebounding to 340,769 on Memorial Day Monday (compared to more than 2.5 million last year) and surpassing 1 million on October 18.

As of November 20, TSA says that 3,020 federal employees have cumulatively tested positive for COVID-19 and 9 have died, in addition to 1 screening contractor.

The CDC has more advice for traveling during the coronavirus pandemic and recently advised against traveling during Thanksgiving.

This article was published on March 17, 2020; it was updated on May 28, 2020, and then on November 20, 2020, to include new information.

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