Paine Field installs fever detection system

New technology scans temperatures of passengers

EVERETT, Wash. — In order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Paine Field installed thermal cameras that detect if someone has a fever.

“Even if catches one person a week and saves another 20 people from getting sick, I think we’ve done our job,” said Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Aviation.

For being such a new destination, Paine Field is already making aviation history.

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Currently, it’s the first and only airport in the United States to use fever detection systems.

“I will tell you that most of the passengers are happy when they see it,” Smith told KIRO 7. “Most of them want to know what their own temperature is.”

“Should someone have a temperature above 100.5, airport staff said they would strongly suggest against air travel.”

They added they can’t actually deny a sick person from boarding an airplane. Instead, airport workers said they would notify airline employees of a passenger’s sickness. In turn, airline workers would have the final say if a potentially-ill person could travel.

“Bird flu, swine flu, they were using (the thermal cameras) then and in Singapore, they still do,” Smith said.

The makers of thermal cameras said they’ve been getting orders not only from airports, but at places like grocery stores.

They added that businesses see the cameras as a means to reopen while still guarding against coronavirus.

“What we’re seeing is there will be a new normal that will involve thermal screening as a front-line tool," said Chris Bainter, executive of FLIR Systems.

In terms of privacy worries, the makers of thermal cameras insisted it’s a tool for safety, not surveillance.

“If you’ve seen a thermal images, you can’t really detect exactly who that individual is … we aren’t really focused on collecting data of any sort,” Bainter said.

As for any possible disruptions caused by thermal cameras at Paine Field, Smith insisted it will be minimal. He said the cameras can scan 2,000 people in the course of an hour.