Starting Tuesday LAX airport will begin to do temperature screenings at the Tom Bradley International Terminal as people enter the airport and in the arrivals corridor using thermal imaging cameras. This is similar to what I’ve experienced, for instance, in Hong Kong for over 15 years.
Signs will direct travelers to walk through an area where cameras that detect whether someone has a temperature of 100.4 or higher are stationed. Those who show an elevated temperature will be pulled aside for a secondary screening to confirm.
No one will be required to go through temperature screenings at this point according to the airport, which says that “[p]articipation will be voluntary, and the airport will not stop anyone from continuing with their journey during the pilot test — although workers will give advice from county and federal health officials about traveling with an elevated temperature.”
At this point they’re testing to see if the technology works, taking accurate readings. And they hope what they learn will be put into practice “across the industry.”
However mandatory airport temperature checks would be legally questionable though the FAA has provided airports with assurances that they won’t violate federal grant rules by doing them.
While airlines have asked TSA to do temperature checks that would clearly be illegal, and dangerous with the government denying travel to people even when poorly-maintained machines register incorrect readers. Nonetheless the TSA has been doing its own tests of passenger temperature screenings.
Ultimately temperature checks are of limited use because they do nothing to stop pre-symptomatic spread (it’s believed people with COVID-19 are most infectious before they have a fever) and because many people consciously choosing to travel with a fever would consciously choose to take over the counter medication to bring down the fever.
Nonetheless it might stop someone from traveling with the virus (or from traveling with any number of other ailments that cause fever that aren’t caused by SARS-CoV-2.