Starting on Jan. 25, Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids will officially launch its COVID-19 screening protocol that will see passengers be vetted for symptoms of the virus before they go through airport security.
The airport, which served a little over 1.3 million passengers in 2019, will be the first U.S. airport to require all passengers departing on a flight, as well as employees working beyond the security checkpoint, to be checked for COVID-19 symptoms as part of security protocols.
The program, called Travel Well, will see passengers and employees answers a few health-related questions and a temperature check in accordance with guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Passengers who clear the initial check, which Eastern Iowa says will take around 10 seconds per person, will then be directed to the TSA security checkpoint.
Those that don’t, including those with a temperature above 100.4 degrees F or those who report a recent exposure to COVID-19, will then be directed to a second screening that includes a possible rapid test.
The final decision about whether or not a passenger is able to travel would then be made by the passenger’s airline.
The program was unveiled and greenlit by local authorities in the summer but finally got approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in December, clearing the runway for its start next week. The airline partnered with Mercy Medical Center and MercyCare Business Health Solutions to build the program (Mercy healthcare professionals will be the ones doing the passenger screening) and used money, about $23 million, secured during the CARES Act rollout to fund it.
The process won’t take the place of any COVID-19 testing requirement that destinations have begun requiring for inbound travelers (Eastern Iowa doesn’t offer any direct international flights), but will provide another layer of security both for airlines and for weary passengers.
The director of the airport, Marty Lenss, said that the hope is that the program “will provide an efficient approach to screening passengers and employees.” And Dr. Timothy Sagers of Mercy said that the program could help provide “further assurance that those who fly are as safe as possible” and “could assist other communities as they work to make air travel even safer.”
While some individual airlines have started their own pre-boarding checks for passengers, and have implemented policies that it hopes will keep passengers safe during travel, Eastern Iowa is the first airport to install a check prior to even going through TSA security.