Lawmakers Introduce Pilot Program for Temperature Checks at Airports

Lawmakers Introduce Pilot Program for Temperature Checks at Airports
TSA officers inspect airline passengers before they board their flights, at Lambert, St. Louis International Airport in St Louis, Mo., on Oct. 10, 2016. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Masooma Haq

Amidst a push to make air travel safer lawmakers have introduced legislation for a pilot program that would check the temperature of travelers as they go through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints.

Reps. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), and John Larson (D-Conn.) introduced a bill on Thursday to require TSA to check passengers’ temperatures as they go through screening.

The program would mandate the airport TSA officers screen all airline passengers for their temperatures, in an effort to prevent COVID 19 positive patients to board a flight.

“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,” Budd said in a statement.

Norman said taking temperatures at checkpoints could help slow the spread of the virus.

“Air travel poses unique challenges on this front, and it's important to study and understand how TSA checkpoints might play a role in our fight against this and future pandemics,” Norman said.

The bill announcement comes days after a letter Budd, Norman, and several other Republican members of Congress sent to White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows July 1, asking for the administration’s support on this issue.

“It ensures that regardless of where a passenger travels or on which air carrier, they experience a consistent nationwide process that identifies passengers with elevated temperatures while also creating a disincentive for those who know they may be sick from attempting to travel,” the letter states.

“Finally, adding temporary temperature screening to TSA’s toolkit will also ensure their preparedness for any future health pandemics that threaten American lives and prosperity,” the letter continues.

Major airlines are expected to start requiring passengers to complete a health acknowledgment form during check-in for a flight, which encourages passengers to evaluate their own health before traveling.

TSA has incorporated a series of measures, based on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, to help halt the spread of the virus including physical distancing, disinfecting, personal protective gear for officers, and plastic screens.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske office's spokesperson referred The Epoch Times to the Federal interagency position (pdf) on temperature checks which states, “The policy should note that a temperature check does not verify that a person does or does not have COVID-19, and industry screening protocols should include a process to allow individuals with known reasons for having elevated temperatures, other than COVID-19, to fly with appropriate medical documentation.”

Other lawmakers have criticized airlines for not doing enough to make air travel safer and to help stop the spread of the virus on airplanes.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) specifically called out American Airlines for being irresponsible, in a July 2 tweet.

“@AmericanAir: how many Americans will die bc you fill middle seats, w/your customer's shoulder to shoulder, hour after hour. This is incredibly irresponsible. People eat and drink on planes and must take off masks to do so. No way you aren’t facilitating the spread of COVID infection,” Merkley said.

On July 2, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) shared Merkley’s concern, saying full commercial flights pose a health threat.

Sanders wrote a letter to the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, Secretary Elaine Chao, and Administrator Stephen Dickson on July 2, seeking immediate steps “to mandate that airlines protect passengers and employees and put safety over profit.”
Masooma Haq began reporting for The Epoch Times from Pakistan in 2008. She currently covers a variety of topics including U.S. government, culture, and entertainment.