Screening at airports for COVID-19 carriers may not be as effective as we would like to believe. This was revealed in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which showed that the process of screening may lead to more "trouble" than what they are really worth.
In CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report titled "Risk Assessment and Management of COVID-19 Among Travelers Arriving at Designated U.S. Airports" published on Nov. 13, the agency noted that passenger-entry screening at airports were resource-intensive and yet they have a low yield of laboratory-diagnosed cases of coronavirus. The agency only detected one case per 85,000 travelers who got screened.
The Department of Homeland Security assisted the CDC in screening passengers who arrived from countries hard-hit by the pandemic between January and September, NYPost reported. Officials were able to screen more than 766,000 passengers. Out of these passengers, only 35 were tested for COVID-19 and only nine tested positive, which gives the ratio of one per 85,000. Aside from this low turnout, officials ascertained that they are missing contact information on a significant number of those screened travelers.
The report noted that with the low number of screened travelers, it is even possible that many asymptomatic ones do not get screened at all. They could pass the virus to others without being detected, rendering the whole screening process ineffective.
Some of the screening processes that were done at the airport included monitoring for any sign of illness, contactless temperature checks, and filling out a questionnaire that seeks to find out if the passenger has any of the coronavirus symptoms or if he was previously exposed to a patient. If the traveler is ill or was exposed to a coronavirus patient, he is then referred to a medical officer for further assessment.
Previously, David Pekoske, head of the Transportation Security Administration, in a Fox News report stated that temperature checks are not an assurance that an individual does not have COVID-19. Despite the screenings, the virus still kept on spreading.
The CDC has already halted airport screenings in September. The agency has since focused on effective mitigation efforts. In its recent report, the agency suggested the collection of contact information of passengers prior to their arrival to help in effective contact tracing.