Partial government shutdown: What travelers should know
During the early stages of the ongoing partial government shutdown most travelers were not negatively impacted. However, some travelers are beginning to feel the effects of the shutdown as no agreement has been reached. The following is a summary of what travelers should know:
Employees whose jobs are considered essential including TSA, Customs and Border Protection and Air Traffic control are still on the job, but many are working without pay. After past shutdowns, affected employees have been paid retroactively, but a prolonged shutdown still causes significant difficulties, especially for those who live paycheck to paycheck.
Embassies and consulates are expected to remain open and most fee-based travel services such as passports, visas and PreCheck applications are still available for now because a good portion of their operating budgets come from those fees. However, a prolonged shutdown could deplete their budgets and thus cause a reduction or suspension in some services down the road. However, Global Entry applications, have already been suspended as part of the partial shutdown. Airport identification verification kiosks are still available to current enrollees.
Government run tourist attractions are now being affected. Museums and galleries under the Smithsonian umbrella along with the National Zoo closed on Jan. 2. National Parks were to remain accessible to the public, but many are facing difficulties due to bare bones staffing levels. Unsanitary conditions, threats to elements in the parks and safety concerns have prompted some parks to limit access or close completely.
Travelers are advised to keep abreast of possible changes that may occur if the partial shutdown continues.
Travelers at Newark possibly exposed to Measles
Health officials issued an alert that people visiting Newark Liberty International Airport on Dec. 24 were possibly exposed to the measles virus. A passenger who arrived from Brussels was officially diagnosed with the highly contagious virus. The disease easily spreads through the air when an infected individual sneezes or coughs. Those who have not been vaccinated or who have never had the measles are at the most risk if exposed. Health officials say that it could take until Jan. 14 for those who were exposed to develop symptoms of the measles. Symptoms include a high fever, rash, red watery eyes and a runny nose. Anyone who suspects an exposure is urged to call a health care provider and should do so before going to a medical office or emergency department, so the necessary precautions can be taken to protect others from possible infection.
New 3D and CAT scanners coming to U.S. airports
New 3D scanners that look like CT machines are being introduced at 13 airports across the United States. The new machines use computed tomography to scan items giving screeners the ability to look at objects from different angles. The TSA expects to rollout 200 more 3D baggage screening units to airports throughout 2019.
Meanwhile, the government is also giving screening officers new Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) devices, which provide an enlarged picture of the traveler’s driver’s license or passport. It also shows the travel information located on the boarding pass on a screen so that officers don’t have to continually look down to verify information, which reduces the amount of eye contact made with the traveler.