No more temperature checks? CDC changing COVID-19 screenings for international air passengers

The U.S. government is halting its enhanced entry screening for certain international passengers at airports starting Sept. 14, according to the CDC.

It’s replacing the current system of temperature checks and screening for COVID-19 symptoms at 15 centralized airports with one it says is a more effective strategy that “focuses on the continuum, of travel and the individual passenger, including pre-departure and post-arrival education, efforts to develop a potential testing framework with international partners, and illness response.”

The government will shift public health efforts on the individual passenger. Such measures include:
• pre-departure, in-flight and post-arrival health education;
• voluntary electronic contact information collection, as proposed by some airlines;
• possible testing to reduce travel-related transmission risk;
• post-arrival recommendations for self-monitoring, including staying home for 14 days if arriving from a high-risk destination.

Symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness, according to the CDC, as people who have COVID-19 may not show symptoms or fever when screened or have only mild symptoms. Asymptomatic transmission is possible.

The move comes as the U.S. has entered “the current phase of the pandemic,” and the government believes this “more effectively protects the health of the American public,” according to a statement on the CDC’s website.

Until travel bans went into effect last spring, passengers coming from or who had recently been to China (excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, the Schengen region of Europe, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), Ireland and Brazil were subject to enhanced screening when entering the U.S. and had to fly into one of 15 designated airports.

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