A longtime Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport died Tuesday from complications associated with COVID-19.
Gerald “Teddy” Girard began working for the TSA at the airport in December 2007, according to a TSA news release. He was certified to conduct security screenings in the checkpoint areas at the airport, as well as the TSA’s checked baggage operation.
Girard, 67, of Minneapolis, is one of eight TSA employees to succumb to the coronavirus nationwide. All told, 2,102 TSA employees at airports across the country have tested positive for the virus. Nineteen TSA workers at MSP have contracted the virus, 18 of whom worked as screeners.
TSA said Girard “was committed to the TSA mission and was diligent in carrying out his screening responsibilities.” It did not elaborate on whether he contracted the virus at work or if any of his colleagues have been quarantined.
Girard was remembered by the TSA as being “good-natured, regularly re-connecting with old friends when they were flying out of MSP and making new acquaintances while doing his job.”
Girard was married to his wife, Terra, for 41 years and has two adult children. “He was a wonderful man, always telling jokes; his laugh was infectious,” his wife said. “He was everyone’s favorite uncle.”
A representative from the American Federation of Government Employees, a union that represents TSA employees, said Girard was hospitalized last week.
The TSA said passengers who believe they may have come in contact with an infected individual within the past 14 days should follow the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations for travel-associated exposure.
Employees who come into close contact with another employee diagnosed with COVID-19 are required to isolate or quarantine, said TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers.
“TSA’s procedures were followed in this instance,” Dankers said in an e-mail, although she said she could not provide the number of employees in this case who were required to quarantine.
TSA employees are considered essential, and additional precautions at MSP have been implemented for the pandemic, including acrylic shields to separate agents from passengers, increased cleaning in screening areas and social distancing measures.
Air travel has been hit hard in the economic fallout related to the virus. Passenger volume at MSP plunged 90% at the height of the pandemic last spring, but has since recovered to about 30% of what it was last year.
On Tuesday, the TSA screened 680,894 passengers nationwide, compared with about 2.3 million travelers the same period last year. The agency does not release screening information for individual airports.