Hawaii lawmakers budget $36M for airport scanners to identify sick passengers

Hawaii lawmakers budget $36M for thermal scanners to identify, track sick airline passengers

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) -- The House Finance Committee earmarked $36 million for airport machines to scan arriving passengers for fevers.

The money would go to the state Department of Transportation, which already identified two companies that could provide the thermal scanners.

Currently, members of the Hawaii National Guard are using forehead thermometers to check arriving passengers.

“The equipment would make it so it’s not just one on one,” said Tim Sakahara, spokesman for the Department of Transportation. "You can test the temperature on crowds of people as they came through the airport.”

The money is from the CARES Act, federal money for expenses related to the pandemic.

State Rep. Sylvia Luke said committee members believe it’s necessary ahead of an influx of tourists after mandatory 14-day quarantines are over.

The machines also take a photo of the passenger and can track their movements.

Sakahara said both companies are prepared to provide prototypes and get them installed within 30 days so each could be tested. One provides a stand alone system and the other provides a smart system.

Sakahara said there are pros and cons to both, one would cost more upfront but the operating cost would be less.

Once the agency determines which company to use, it would still take nine months to a year to install them at multiple gates, first at Honolulu’s airport, then, hopefully expanding to neighbor islands.

The House Finance Committee also earmarked an additional $14 million of CARES Act money for the state Department of Health to beef up testing and contact tracing.

The state Senate has already signed off on the budget plan and Luke said the governor has agreed too.

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