Blog | Thursday, September 30, 2021

TSA fails to protect passengers from COVID-19


We are taught from a young age to finish the entire job. I confess that I still need reminding on this virtue.

I suspect that all of us must plead guilty to partial task completion from time to time. Have you ever washed some of the dishes remaining in the sink? How about cleaning out part of the garage and rationalizing that this is enough work for one day. How many of us have projects around the house that are waiting patiently for our attention as they sit frozen in time?

There are more stark examples when stopping short if the finish line is downright absurd.

Consider some examples extracted from my imagination.
• An artist paints only on one side of the canvas, and I don't mean for artistic reasons.
• A car wash cleans only the rear section of automobiles.
• A publisher distributes books that are 100 pages short of their true length.

Silly, right?

It's easy to conjure up similar examples regarding the medical universe.
• A surgeon washes only one hand prior to surgery.
• A doctor prescribes antibiotics for only half of the standard number of days.
• A hospital housekeeper cleans half of a patient's room after discharge.
• A gastroenterologist begins a colonoscopy and decides to end the procedure at the halfway mark.

In these examples, the medical interventions are all pointing in the right direction, but they are simply insufficient.

Half measures are called that for a reason.

Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extended its mask requirement for travelers using air and ground transportation from Sept. 13 to Jan. 18, 2022.

This is the Mother of All Half Measures. Yes, we know that masks have impact and I have been wearing one more often since the Delta variant has taken off. But the better response, which every responsible public health expert (or even novice) endorses, is vaccination. If COVID-19 vaccine has incredible safety and efficacy data, far superior to masking, then why doesn't the TSA require this? Technically, it wouldn't be a vaccine mandate since the individual is still free to forego travel. But I suspect it would make vaccination more attractive for those that wish to use public transportation and air travel.

In addition, masked travelers are permitted to demask when taking food or drink, which markedly decreases the masks' effectiveness.

If we are wheeled into the surgical suite to hear the scrub nurse in the operating room announce that half the instruments have been sterilized, wouldn't we be sprinting out of there like a racehorse?

Why then are we satisfied traveling if we are only half protected?

This post by Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, appeared at MD Whistleblower. Dr. Kirsch is a full time practicing physician and writer who addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.