Bill Would Require TSA to Check Passengers’ Temperatures

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By on July 16, 2020 in Agency News with 0 Comments
Close up of a security officer's hand taking the temperature of a woman wearing a face mask at a public temperature checkpoint

Legislation introduced in the House today would require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to conduct a pilot program to screen all airline passengers for their temperatures before they proceed through security.

The Healthy Skies Act as the bill is known is being introduced by Congressmen Ted Budd (R-NC), Ralph Norman (R-SC), and John Larson (D-CT).

According to the wording of the legislation as currently written, the TSA would be required to carry out a pilot program at a minimum of 10 airports to conduct temperature checks on passengers at security checkpoints before the passengers “proceed through security into the sterile area.” If a passenger’s temperature exceeds what Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines state is acceptable, the passenger would not be allowed to “enter the sterile area.”

The legislation adds, however, that the TSA administrator “shall consider a resolution process for identifying medical conditions unrelated to COVID-19 that could result in a temperature that exceeds CDC guidance.”

The legislation includes a sunset provision that would end the temperature checks “on the date of the termination of the COVID-19 public health emergency…”

The lawmakers say the bill is necessary to keep the flying public safe.

Budd said in a statement, “Reopening America should be the top priority of our government. Making sure air travelers are healthy enough to fly is a common sense way to boost passenger confidence and jumpstart economic activity. That’s how we can stop the spread of the virus and continue a great American comeback. I want to thank Rep. Norman for his teamwork on this issue.”

TSA administrator David Pekoske said recently, however, that taking passengers’ temperatures might not be the best way to prevent spreading COVID-19.

“I know in talking to our medical professionals and talking to the Centers for Disease Control is that temperature checks are not a guarantee that passengers who don’t have an elevated temperature also don’t have COVID-19,” Pekoske said in a statement.

According to information provided by R. Carter Langston, media relations manager for the TSA, a recent report published by the government, Runway to Recovery, that details ways to mitigate public health risks from the coronavirus states:

While temperature screening has limited reliability in detecting individuals with COVID-19, it may detect some noticeably sick passengers. Airlines and airports may need to consider the use of temperature screening to meet destination requirements or requirements of local health authorities. Temperature screening may also serve as a general deterrent for passengers who may have otherwise considered traveling when ill. It should be noted that some persons with chronic, non-COVID related health issues may have an elevated body temperature; policies should be implemented as part of a temperature screening program to ensure such persons are not unfairly blocked from air travel if their illness does not threaten public health.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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