LAX to start testing thermal cameras to ID travelers with high temperatures in effort against COVID-19

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In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Los Angeles International Airport will start testing thermal cameras on Tuesday that can detect travelers with elevated temperatures.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the program, which will be voluntary, in a news conference at the airport on Monday.

According to the mayor, the technology can identify people with temperatures of 100.4 degrees or more. One of the symptoms of COVID-19 is fever.

When the camera detects a person with a high temperature, a staff member will request they undergo a second screening with a medical professional. That professional will then use a no-contact thermometer to take the traveler’s temperature.

Airport officials will advise those confirmed to have high temperatures who are on departing flights not to travel. Meanwhile, arriving international passengers deemed to be possibly ill may be referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staffers so they can quarantine, Garcetti said.

The CDC later clarified that its staffers will conduct further evaluation but won’t place travelers into quarantine.

The airport will initially run the program at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at the main entrance of the departure levels and inside the terminal near some international arrivals.

“This is a voluntary program with signage alerting passengers where the pilot will take place,” Garcetti said.

The mayor emphasized that the technology will not replace other safety measures at the airport, which already requires travelers to wear masks, enforces deep cleaning in trafficked areas and has installed more than 250 hand sanitizing stations throughout the hub.

The American Civil Liberties Union has questioned thermal scanning technology’s accuracy and its effect on privacy as airports, workplaces and others use the tool while the economy reopens during the ongoing pandemic.

“To protect guest privacy, the cameras will not store, transmit, or share any data or images taken,” said a statement from the mayor’s office. “Guests who decline to participate will have the opportunity to use a different pathway.”

The thermal scanning program will begin at LAX Tuesday.

Officials have meanwhile reported a 95% drop in passenger traffic in April. In recent weeks, some have raised questions about the airport’s early response to the pandemic — with one airline passenger believed to have brought the novel coronavirus to LAX in March.

“We’re not saying that you only can rely on this,” Garcetti said of the LAX initiative. “This is an additional layer of safety.”

Thermal technology equipment will be loaned to the airport at no cost, and authorities will work on the project with county and federal health officials, according to the mayor’s office.

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