What you need to know about latest TSA coronavirus screening procedures

Coronavirus

 (CNN) — The Transportation Security Administration says it is making some changes to its security screening procedures, but did not include passenger temperature screening in its list, something a federal official has told CNN the agency is considering.

The changes include several ways to prevent officers from handling travelers’ belongings and travelers from handling shared X-ray bins.

The agency says passengers should hang onto their boarding passes, rather than handing them to TSA officers, to prevent cross contamination. Instead, officers will visually review the boarding pass.

It also says that when a bag does not pass X-ray screening, passengers may be responsible for unpacking the bag and sending it through the X-ray machine again, rather than an officer searching through it by hand.

The agency is encouraging travelers to pack food items in a clear plastic bag to make it easier for officers to check them. Food items sometimes require further inspection by TSA.

TSA’s website says, “Passengers should take extra care to ensure that they do not have any prohibited items, such as liquids, gels or aerosols in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces, in their carry-on bags (water bottles, shampoo). In response to COVID-19, TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags. Passengers are required to remove the hand sanitizer from the carry-on bag before being submitted for X-ray screening. If a bag is found to contain a prohibited item, passengers may be directed to return to the divestiture table outside of security with their carry-on bags to remove the item and dispose of the item. The passenger may also be directed back outside of security to remove, items that should have originally been divested (such as laptops, liquids, gels, and aerosols, and large electronics) and resubmit their property for X-ray screening. By resolving alarms in this manner, TSA officers will need to touch the contents inside a carry-on bag much less frequently, reducing the potential for cross-contamination.”

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It is also encouraging passengers to put small items like a wallet and phone into their carry-on bags before walking through the body scanner rather than placing those items in X-ray bins. That practice means fewer travelers handing the shared bins.

The statement makes no mention of temperature checks. An official told CNN on Friday the agency is working on a plan to screen passengers for fevers, one symptom of coronavirus. Airlines have encouraged TSA to take on this role and generally have not implemented temperature checks for passengers themselves. Health experts have cautioned that temperature checks will not screen out all of the passengers who may be contagious.

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 600 of its employees, the majority of whom include officers who screen passengers, have tested positive for the coronavirus. At least six TSA employees have 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.

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