Los Angeles Airport to Test Fever Cameras to Detect Coronavirus

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Los Angeles International Airport will begin testing temperature-scanning cameras on passengers in late June, making it the largest U.S. airport known to experiment with the technology at scale.

Airport officials hope the cameras will help them root out passengers with coronavirus by detecting those who have a fever. The airport will place thermal cameras at Tom Bradley International Terminal so they can scan passenger temperatures as they walk by.

No passengers will be denied boarding because they have high temperatures, said Heath Montgomery, public relations director for Los Angeles World Airports. The goal for now is to test the effectiveness of the technology so findings can be shared with other airports, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the airport said in a presentation.

Carlyle Airport Group, an arm of the Carlyle Group LP, and Schneider Electric SE will work on the cameras. The two have partnered on previous infrastructure projects. Another company, Texas-based Concentra, will provide medical assistants to evaluate the scan results and do secondary checks for passengers found with high temperatures.

Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images
People wearing masks walk inside Tom Bradley Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus April 16, 2020.

The coronavirus has ravaged air travel, with airlines serving record-low numbers of travelers since pandemic shutdowns began in the U.S. in March. The fever-testing program could help airports nationwide begin to restore consumer confidence in air travel by visually separating out passengers who could be infected with the virus.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing carriers such as JetBlue Airways Corp, American Airlines Group Inc, and Southwest Airlines Co, called on the Transportation Security Administration in mid-May to check passengers’ temperatures at airports.

Usefulness Questioned

However, how useful temperature screenings are to detect coronavirus infection has stirred debate. An infected passenger may not have a fever at the time of the scan, said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, or the person could be taking medication that masks a fever.

“It would miss a high percentage of people, if you’re only using fever as a criteria,” Benjamin said by phone.

Airports across the world have begun checking passengers’ temperatures as a way to identify people who are infected with Covid-19.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in mid-June that passengers traveling to, from, and within Canada must have their temperatures checked before they are allowed to travel.

Los Angeles International is the second-largest airport in the U.S., having served 42 million passengers is 2018. The airport received about $324 million in coronavirus aid from the federal government in March (Public Law 116-136), enough to carry the airport through 127 days.

To contact the reporter on this story: Courtney Rozen in Washington at crozen@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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