The Transportation Security Administration is working to put in place a plan to check temperatures of passengers as they go through security at multiple American airports, a federal health official confirmed to CNN on Friday.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the plan and said the TSA would take the temperatures at about a dozen unidentified airports. According to the newspaper, the program could begin as soon as next week.
The federal health official emphasized to CNN the plan was not yet final.
The TSA would not confirm it was planning on enacting such a program.
“At this time, no decision has been made regarding specific health screening measures at airports,” the agency said in a statement Friday.
The agency went on to say it continues to rely on the health expertise of the Department of Health and Human Services and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Ongoing discussions with our (Department of Homeland Security) 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,” the agency said.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was not supportive of temperature checking.
“I cannot find any law that gives TSA the authority to perform temperature checks as reported. The health and safety of our Transportation Security Officers have already been put at great risk the past few months. The Administration should not put these frontline workers in further danger in order to provide passengers a potential false sense of safety,” the Mississippi Democrat said.
This comes as US airline executives and an industry trade group, Airlines for America, have pushed for the TSA to conduct temperature checks as part of regular airport screening.
Frontier Airlines announced earlier this month that it plans to begin temperature screening all passengers and crew next month. Starting June 1, any individual with a temperature exceeding 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit “will be denied boarding,” the airline said.
However, there’s been debate over the usefulness of airport temperature checks.
In mid-February, CNN reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had screened more than 30,000 passengers on flights from China, but not a single US coronavirus case had been caught by the airport temperature checks.
TSA has already taken the precautionary measure of requiring its employees to wear facial protection while at screening checkpoints.
The agency reported on April 29 that 500 of its employees, majority of whom include officers who screen passengers, have tested positive for the coronavirus. As of Friday, six TSA employees had died due to Covid-19.
The airline industry has been hit especially hard during the coronavirus crisis due to stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. The number of people traveling by plane has dramatically dropped by about 96% amid the pandemic.
CNN’s Pete Muntean and Greg Wallace contributed to this report.