WebMD News Brief

White House and CDC at Odds Over Airport Screening

crowded airport

May 11, 2020 - The Trump Administration is calling for temperature screenings of air travelers at 20 airports despite objections from the CDC, USA Today reported.

Meanwhile, the idea is gaining traction with airlines, with Frontier Airlines and Air Canada announcing plans to start screening passengers with touchless thermometers.

USA Today said it obtained internal documents that show CDC officials trying to convince White House officials that testing travelers for fever is ineffective, partly because many people with coronavirus don’t show symptoms and fever can be caused by other health conditions.

“Thermal scanning as proposed is a poorly designed control and detection strategy as we have learned very clearly,” Martin Cetron, MD, the CDC’s director of global mitigation and quarantine, wrote in an email to Department of Homeland Security officials on Thursday, the newspaper reported. “We should be concentrating our CDC resources where there is impact and a probability of mission success.”

USA Today reported that “Cetron questioned his agency’s legal authority to execute the airport plan, ending the email: ‘Please kindly strike out CDC from this role.’”

But Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, directed the Department of Homeland Security to announce the screenings. The plan has not been finalized, the newspaper says.

Discount carrier Frontier announced plans to begin screening passengers with touchless thermometers before they board, starting June 1, Travel Weekly reported. People with temperatures of 104.4 Fahrenheit or higher would not be allowed to board.

Air Canada announced a similar measure last week.

Heathrow Airport in London is testing temperature screenings, the BBC reported.

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on May 12, 2020

Sources

USA Today. “CDC Scientists overruled in White House Push to restart airport fever screenings for COVID-19”

Travel Weekly. “Frontier Airlines to begin temperature screenings”

Air Canada. “Air Canada CleanCare+ Program Introduces New Personal Safety and Sanitary Measures to Give Customers Added Assurance”

BBC. “Coronavirus: Heathrow trialling passenger temperature checks”

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