The TSA could start airport temperature screenings as early as next week despite concerns the agency doesn’t have the authority to conduct them

A general view of the departure hall of Terminal 1 at JFK airport on May 15, 2020. There are virtually no travelers during COVID-19 pandemic at the airport.
A general view of the departure hall of Terminal 1 at JFK airport on May 15, 2020. There are virtually no travelers during COVID-19 pandemic at the airport.

Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

  • The White House is moving forward with a plan to have the Transportation Security Administration administer temperature checks to air travelers despite concerns from lawmakers and the agency that it does not have the authority to conduct them.

  • Those who have a recorded temperature of 100.4°F or higher be directed toward the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the report from The Wall Street Journal. 

  • In addition to authority concerns, there are also fears the plan could put TSA agents at further risk of contracting the disease.

  • More than 500 TSA employees have contracted COVID-19 and at least six have died, according to the report. 

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The White House is reportedly moving forward with a plan to have the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) administer temperature screenings at certain US airports to make travelers feel that air travel is safe.

According to a Friday report from The Wall Street Journal, an administration official said the temperature screenings involve both tripods that can scan multiple people at the same time and hand-held thermal devices. Passengers who record a temperature of 100.4°F or higher would be referred to the Centers for Disease Control, the administration official said.

Officials haven’t yet determined at which point in the security screening process the temperature scanning will occur, according to the report. Representatives for the TSA did not immediately return Business Insider’s request for comment Saturday.

The agency has reportedly raised concerns over the plan and whether it falls within its mission. There are also fears that the plan would further put agents at risk. In total, six TSA agents have died from COVID-19 and more than 500 have contracted the virus, according to the report. As Business Insider reported in April, TSA workers were still contracting COVID-19 — even with record low air travel. 

The TSA ran a week-long pilot of the temperature screening program at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia last month, according to the WSJ. 

While airports have seen record low number of travelers, the amount of people taking to the skies has seemed to increase as states across the country begin to relax or end stay-at-home orders. A doctor who had traveled to New York to fight COVID-19 told Insider that passengers on his May 9 return flight to San Francisco were shocked to board a nearly-full aircraft after they thought the airline was keeping middle seats empty.

Lisa Farbstein, a spokesperson for the TSA, tweeted Saturday that the agency saw more than 250,000 people pass through its nationwide security checkpoints on Friday, marking the first time since the end of March that the TSA had seen more than a quarter of a million travelers in one day.

Some Democrats have suggested the president would first need to get authorization from Congress to implement the screenings.

“I cannot find any law that gives TSA the authority to perform temperature checks as reported,” Missouri Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D), the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told the WSJ.

Thompson added that the White House “should not put these front-line workers in further danger in order to provide passengers a potential false sense of safety,” according to the report.

A House Homeland Security aide told Politico that lawmakers have questioned whether the TSA has the authority to conduct the screenings — and has instead wondered whether the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would have better authority to conduct them. 

The CDC last week reportedly urged the White House against airport temperature screenings, arguing they were a waste of resources and proved ineffective at stopping the virus when they were implemented at the outset of the pandemic. The CDC had asked to be removed from future discussions about the initiative.

Temperature screenings do not account for all cases of COVID-19, including asymptomatic carriers or cases where an individual has other symptoms but does not have a fever.

The airline industry earlier this month announced its support for a plan to have both passengers and employees to undergo temperature screenings to bolster “additional public confidence that is critical to relaunching air travel and our nation’s economy.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Source Article