Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Junior Officer Advisory Group

Passenger Screening Deployment, 2020

By LT Tanesha Tutt

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is your current assignment in USPHS?

Currently, I serve as a Health Education Specialist at CDC. I provide cross-division technical support and consultation to Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development's seven fellowship programs, as well as other CDC Programs needing assistance with training development, training facilitation and instructional design.

What was the mission of your deployment? (e.g. dates, location, and other pertinent details)

2020 Novel Coronavirus: From January 24 - February 7, 2020, I served as both a secondary and tertiary passenger screener at New York City's JFK Quarantine station inside JFK airport. This mission was in support of CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ).

What was your role during this deployment? What skills (scientific, personal, etc.) did you use?

In addition to screening passengers, I worked with the CDC Joint Communications Office to determine gaps in passenger communication and screening processes. This coordination facilitated the update or development of materials. I triaged incoming calls to the quarantine station for non-COVID related questions and issues.   I facilitated trainings and on boarding of new staff and participated in several lunch time "town hall" meetings for airport staff who desired more guidance on how to protect themselves when assisting passengers. I also worked with Customs and Boarder portal to identify any passengers that may need additional assistance related to screening.

Was this your first deployment? Either way, how did you prepare for the deployment, personally or work-wise?

Since I have been in PHS, I have deployed six times. To personally prepare for this deployment, I arranged childcare for my infant daughter. I made sure all of my emergency contact information and beneficiary information were up to date, provided my husband/family as well as the information to the CDC Commissioned Corps desk and other numbers they could contact in case of an emergency. I also made sure they had access to secure documents and accounts, and I alerted my bank and credit card companies that out of state charges would appear for the next few weeks.

For work, I put together a document for my supervisor, highlighting current and future tasks to include the status of each task. I also tried to close the loop on any outstanding tasks prior to my departure. I also updated my out of office.

Lastly, I made sure my "Go Bag" was restocked, I had all my uniform components, and other items such as Tide pods to wash clothes (if needed) and snacks.

Do you have any advice or “pearls of wisdom” for fellow officers who are being deployed or are interested in deploying?

Try to connect with those who have previously deployed so that you can get an idea of what to expect. Also, be open and flexible as what you think you will be doing on deployment may not always align with what you will actually do on deployment. Pack light, as most of the time you will be too tired to do anything after your deployment shift ends. But, do take at least a few nice things just in case. If you can, take time to check-in with your family, even if it is for a quick FaceTime or phone call.  Most importantly, practice self-care.

What was the most important thing you learned during this deployment?

I learned how the Quarantine Station, Customs and Boarder Portal, airlines, and airport all work together to ensure passenger safety and security. Working behind the scenes gave me a new-found respect for these employees and the work they do each day. 

What were some of the key challenges that you experienced?

There were language barriers that sometimes made it difficult for me to communicate with passengers. We were very early in the response, and there were so many unknowns that it was often difficult to respond to passenger questions. Luckily, JFK staff served as translators for us to help us explain the screening process and screening documents to passengers. As the response went on, we started to brief the airplane staff so that they could brief passengers prior to the passengers exiting the aircraft.

What did you enjoy the most (e.g., favorite memory) about this deployment?

I thoroughly enjoyed working at the quarantine station, as well as meeting other staff from across the various OPDIVs. My most exciting experience was riding on the airport apron (tarmac) and getting to see the planes up close and personal. I had not been that close since I was a child and my dad served in the Air Force as an aircraft engineer. 

What would you consider to be your major accomplishment stemming from this deployment?

I was able to assist in the screening of over 2000 passengers. I also was able to use some of my social work skills to provide support to passengers who experienced mental and emotional distress during the screening processes.

Were there any classes or trainings that helped you in your deployment?

The DGMQ training on the general inter-workings of the quarantine station were helpful, and the training provided on site at the quarantine station was invaluable.

Page Last Modified on 9/2/2020

This page may require you to download plug-ins to view all content. Persons with disabilities having problems accessing any PDF or document on this page may call 1-888-225-3302 toll free for assistance.

You will be automatically logged out in , losing any unsaved work. Any movement detected within the screen will allow you more time.

External Link Warning!