Schumer tells TSA to slow down on implementing temperature checks

FILE PHOTO: People wait in line to reach TSA immigration process at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, U.S., March 9, 2020. (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo)

After the Transportation Security Administration announced it would not only screen for passengers for weapons but would broaden its role to gauging people’s temperatures, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer says it should go no further without more discussion.

Schumer, while mentioning a CNN report which claimed 30,000 travelers from China had been screened through temperature checks by the CDC over the course of the pandemic to no positive discoveries, said no action like this should be considered without some discourse members of Congress.

“Before a plan like this is cleared for takeoff, the TSA needs to take the temperature of a variety of stakeholders, and that includes Congress,” Schumer said. “We need to know who will lead the effort, which airports will be involved, what this means for travelers and when it might begin, among other things. TSA, as an agency, has not been immune to COVID and some agents have sadly passed away. That is why any plan to assign agents a task that might be considered outside the general scope of their actual training will require a detailed and public proposal before it simply gets the all-clear to fly.”

Some questions Schumer posited to TSA Administrator David Pekoske went as follows:

1)     Will the TSA lead the effort to administer temperature screenings, and if not, then which agency?

2)     While the TSA considers or engages in the planning of an effort such as this, have New York airports been of special interest given their size and traveler volume?

3)     What might this new practice mean for air travelers in terms of informing them of temperature screenings?

4)     Has there been any discussion(s) on where to send a traveler who might be found to, in fact, have a fever?

5)     What might constitute a ‘fever’ as it relates to this potential effort?

6)     Is there an internal target date for this effort to begin, say, this summer?

7)     Does the TSA consider a potential plan like this to be outside the general scope of a TSA agent’s specific training? Why or why not?

8)     What steps might be under consideration to ensure the safety of agents who might face increased exposures to COVID given the effort?

9)     What steps, if any, are being considered to incorporate contact tracing for passengers and/or agents into an effort like this?

10)  Can your agency commit to briefing Congress on any temperature screening plan before one is so far along that it is simply inexorable?

“New York-area airports are among the busiest in the nation, and so your agency’s public comments about its ongoing discussions with the Department of Homeland Security and other ‘interagency colleagues,’ related to temperature screenings has spurred many questions,” the letter from Schumer stated.

But according to the TSA, recommendations from the CDC and Department of Homeland Security will be where they draw their input on the matter.

“At this time, no decision has been made regarding specific health screening measures at airports. TSA continues to rely on the health expertise of HHS and the CDC,” a TSA statement read. “Ongoing discussions with our DHS and interagency colleagues, as well as our airport and airline partners, will enable the agency to make informed decisions with regard to the health and safety of the aviation environment. The safety and security of the traveling public and our employees will always be our top priority.”

Upon recommendation from the TSA, amNewYork Metro reached out to DHS for comment. We will update this story.

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