Temperature checks have become normal in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants, hair salons, museums, and workplaces use temperature checks to help monitor those that might be carrying the virus. Experts warn that they might not be the magic solution many think it is.
Checking fevers have become commonplace and are often invoked as safeguards for reopening. New York governor Andrew Cuomo included temperature checks as a requirement for restaurants wanting to add indoor dining on September 30 in New York City.
Experts say that temperature checks will flag people that are seriously ill, and probably not likely to be dining or getting a haircut if they feel that sick. But temperature checks don’t screen out people that might have the virus but are asymptomatic.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has said that it would stop requiring temperature screenings for international passengers at airports, because the checks don’t catch those silent carriers. “We now have a better understanding of Covid-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with Covid-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms,” the C.D.C. said in a statement.
Dr. David Thomas, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the New York Times that temperature checks are the same as, “getting the oil checked before you go on a long car trip. It makes you feel better, but it’s not going to keep you from wrecking the car or prevent the tires from falling off. It’s not going to make your trip any safer. It’s something you can do, and it makes you feel like you’re doing something. But it won’t catch most people who are spreading Covid.”
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