Why Temperature Checks in Schools May Not Be Effective in Stopping Spread of COVID-19

September 18, 2020

    As students return to classrooms around the country, schools have implemented safety protocols such as mask wearing, social distancing and frequent hand washing to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

    Many of these school districts have also invested a lot of money in purchasing infrared temperature scanners to determine if students and faculty have fevers.

    While these body temperature checks have been seen as an advanced way to help curtail the transmission of the novel virus, some medical experts are warning they may not be effective in detecting COVID symptoms and could be giving parents, teachers and students a false sense of security.

    "In the context of schools, fever screening is a particularly bad idea," Katelyn Gostic, an epidemiologist at the University of Chicago, who studies the use of symptom screening systems for catching infectious diseases, told NBC News.

    "Fever screening only works if you have a fever. And we know that a lot of infections in children and young people seem to be asymptomatic or mild enough that you might not have a fever for several days, even though you're contagious, or you might never develop a fever at all," Gostic added.

    Another problem is that as temperature checks have become more common, many companies have gotten into the newly lucrative business by manufacturing them without being properly vetted by the FDA or independently tested, the outlet noted.

    Other experts warn that unless the body temperature scans are obtained using international standards which include scanning individuals one at a time after they’ve had time to regulate their temperature after coming from outside, the readings could be inaccurate.

    "This is no different than having a fake camera in the building and people have the illusion that they're safe and they let their guard down," said David Pascoe, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Auburn, who served as director of the Thermal and Infrared Imaging Lab.

    Some infrared temperature check manufactures have also admitted their products only detect if you have an elevated body temperature and not if you have a fever.

    Sam Skinner, chief experience officer at X.Labs which makes Feevr thermal cameras, told NBC News, "It's a screening mechanism to determine whether or not a person has elevated skin temperature, and skin temperature is actually not related to febrile conditions."

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