Federal employee vaccine mandate takes effect Monday

In just a few hours, all federal employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing their jobs.

That includes TSA agents.

Monday’s deadline comes as millions more people are expected to fly during this Thanksgiving holiday than last year.

Even on a Sunday when some thought not as many people would be flying. But based on the traffic we have seen here today, that is not the case.

And it could get pretty rough inside if some TSA workers lose their jobs tomorrow because they are not vaccinated.

This Sunday before the Thanksgiving holiday, the TSA lines inside Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are not as long as many here had feared.

“Ah, not too bad,” said Catherine Poulsen, Kirkland, holding her 18-month-old daughter, Evelyn. “We were actually expecting a lot more just being a few days leading up to Thanksgiving. But it hasn’t been bad so far. Lines are moving pretty well.”

“I usually come in earlier, at least two, three hours earlier,” said Yan Pek, Sacramento, CA.

Traveler Ruth Urban said she came to SEA earlier, too. “Yes,” said Urban. “Not much.” But enough, she says, that it was fine.

That could change come Monday. TSA workers and all federal employees must be vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. That didn’t change even after a letter from their union calling it “inexcusable” that contractors have until January to get the COVID-19 vaccination. Yet, they are facing a Nov. 22 deadline and possible termination.

“We are very confident this will be a smooth operation over the next couple of days,” said David Pekoske, TSA administrator.

Moreover, Pekoske insists it would take time to know the full impact of the vaccine mandate.

“We have a lot of employees who have asked for medical or religious exemptions as well,” he said. “So, we will go through the process of looking through each one of those individual cases and make a determination over the next several weeks.”

He says not to expect chaos, but there are some skeptics here.

“Hopefully, it goes well overall, and people are inclined to get vaccinated,” said Alexa Patnode, Seattle. “Yeah, I guess more delays to be expectedly, probably.”

That is probably sound advice.

After all, they are expecting 1.5 million people to come through here through next Monday.

And there is one more thing: SEA officials say to ditch your vehicle and get here any other way.

They expect the drive area to be full, as well as the parking lots.

So, there may not be any place to park once you get here.