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Facial imaging operational at Kahului, other airports

The Maui News

Facial imaging equipment aimed at detecting passengers with COVID-19 symptoms are now operational at Kahului Airport and four other Hawaii airports that accept trans-Pacific flights.

The state Department of Transportation Airports Division announced Monday that Phase III of the state’s thermal temperature screening and facial imaging project had been completed. Phases I and II, finished last year, included the installation of thermal screening cameras at all arrival gates to screen passengers as they deplane the aircraft and take images of those with core body temperatures of 100.4 degrees and higher, a common symptom of the virus.

Phase III included the installation of the facial imaging technology to help airport representatives pull passengers aside as they approach the nearest monitoring control room located in the airport terminal. If a manual temperature check confirms the initial temperature reading, the passenger will have an additional medical screening, which includes the option to have a COVID-19 sample taken.

“Hawaii continues to implement proactive measures in response to the pandemic, and this is one part of a multilayered process designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of the community,” Gov. David Ige said in a news release Monday. “Utilizing technology such as the thermal temperature screening and facial imaging equipment will also add efficiency to the passenger verification process and bring Hawaii closer to reaching the new normal at our airports.”

The DOT partnered with a team led by NEC Corporation in July and had the thermal screening equipment operational by August. The combined thermal screening and facial imaging equipment began operations at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, Kahului Airport, Lihue Airport, Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole and Hilo International Airport early this year after personnel were trained in operating the system.

Any images collected will remain anonymous, meaning no traveler’s image will be connected to personal information, such as a traveler’s name, address or driver’s license number, the DOT said. It will not contain information about criminal history or outstanding warrants. Images will be deleted within 30 minutes and will not be shared with any outside agencies. People with a temperature of 100.3 degrees and lower will not have their image taken at all.

DOT said that the technology is safer and more cost effective; without it, employees would need to be stationed at each gate for every arriving flight to individually take passengers’ temperatures one by one, which would take longer, increase risk of exposure and require additional funding and resources. With the technology, an employee can simultaneously monitor multiple gates from a control room.

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