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Fifth TSA employee dies of coronavirus as more than 500 have tested positive

The TSA says 505 of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

WASHINGTON — Editor's note: The video above was published before TSA confirmed a fifth employee had died of COVID-19.

An officer at Newark Liberty International Airport is the fifth employee of the Transportation Security Administration to die from COVID-19, the agency announced this week. 

The federal agency said that TSA Officer Mark Barisonek died Tuesday as a result of the new coronavirus. He worked at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, less than 20 miles west of New York City, which has been the epicenter of the country's outbreak.

Barisonek worked at the TSA for almost 16 years, first joining in 2004. "He was an integral member of Team Newark and will be remembered fondly by those who knew him and worked alongside him," the agency's statement said.

As of Friday, 505 TSA employees have tested positive for coronavirus and 212 have recovered. 

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 was over 61,000, according to the count by Johns Hopkins University.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

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Credit: AP
A TSA shoulder patch is shown on the uniform of a Transportation Security Administration officer at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

A union that represents U.S. airport security officers wants to require travelers to wear face masks when they go through checkpoints.

American Federation of Government Employees President Everett Kelley said in an online forum with members of Congress that such a requirement should be a “priority” to protect security screening officers. Kelley said the threat to officers will increase as travel volume returns to normal levels.

The TSA has imposed social distancing at airport checkpoints and says that travelers who choose to wear a mask should be prepared to move it so officers can confirm their identity.

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The Associated Press contributed.