Airport Fever Screenings For Coronavirus Raise Racial Discrimination Concerns
Photo Credit: Beautiful young Black female tourist is sitting inside of modern airport terminal and waiting for her flight; cute Brazilian girl with curly Afro hair is sitting in waiting hall of railway station

Photo Credit: Beautiful young Black female tourist is sitting inside of modern airport terminal and waiting for her flight; cute Brazilian girl with curly Afro hair is sitting in waiting hall of railway station

Airport Fever Screenings For Coronavirus Raise Racial Discrimination Concerns

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Parker Diakite
Parker Diakite Jun 3, 2020

A new federal program that would screen air travelers for a fever to ultimately detect the coronavirus has raised some concerns from a government watchdog officer worried about racial discrimination and privacy intrusions.

Travis LeBlanc, a board member for the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to detail its plan of collecting, using, and safeguarding sensitive health information. 

LeBlanc has raised dozens of questions about the government’s unpublished airport screening plan in a letter released to USA TODAY.

“The ongoing pandemic is not a hall pass to disregard the privacy and civil liberties of the traveling public,” said LeBlanc, a Democrat on the five-member bipartisan Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. 

The independent federal agency was created in response to the 9/11 attack. The Board’s mission is to ensure that the federal government’s efforts to prevent terrorism are balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties.​

In his letter, LeBlanc states his concern about having TSA officials monitor the health of passengers.

“As far as I know, TSA officers typically have no medical training nor are they otherwise trained in protecting public health,” said LeBlanc.

He also called the potential for disproportionately barring racial minorities from traveling “deeply troubling.” Data shows that more African Americans have contracted and died from the coronavirus at higher rates than any other race.

LeBlanc’s letter comes amid the decision from many airline carriers to take passengers’ temperatures before flying. Frontier is the only U.S. airline that has implemented temperature checks so far. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be allowed on the plane.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also expressed concern about screening passengers for fevers, as reported in USA Today.

ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley said that mass temperature screenings are not always accurate. 

“Nobody wants to be on an airplane next to somebody who is infected with COVID,” he said adding that kicking someone off could pose a problem.

“It is a serious business to deny people their right to travel.”