According to the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard, 67% of American schools are using student temperature checks to determine who can and cannot re-enter their classrooms. The dashboard tracks and updates school-based coronavirus cases and disease-prevention protocols across 47 U.S. states.
However, in a Facebook Live event associated with Walter Reed Medical Center, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and advisor to the White House, cited the inaccuracy of temperature checks. How inaccurate? Currently, the NIH Clinical Center and the White House have abandoned traditional temperature checks as a reliable indicator of potential COVID cases.
“The temperatures are notoriously inaccurate, many times,” Fauci said.
Now, as more schools return to in-classroom learning, the testing need and volume are predicted to increase–as will the need to find the most efficient and reliable way of testing thousands of students for COVID-related fevers.
What Causes Inaccurate Temperature Screens in Schools and Work Places?
Traditional, non-contact temperature scans are inaccurate for three, science-based reasons:
First, traditional infrared thermometers are susceptible to the ambient temperature or settings in which the scan is being done and, can, therefore, yield different and inaccurate results.
For example, during his Walter Reed presentation, Dr. Fauci cited a recent, hot-weather workday when his own temperature registered at 103°F (at the White House) and 97.4° F (in an air-conditioned car) and 93° F (at another facility). That’s a 10-point variant during one workday.
Second, typical non-contact scanners—such as those we encounter in airports, shopping locations or beauty salons–only measure our surface temperature, and that skin-temperature check can yield inaccurate or false results. In fact, in our facial area alone, there may be a four-point temperature variance between our foreheads and our cheeks.
Third, traditional infrared, non-contact thermometers can only operate when the surrounding (ambient) temperature is at or above 70° and below or at 90° degrees. This means that a temperature check during very hot summer days, frigid winter days or in a highly air-conditioned room may not yield accurate readings.
Why Schools Need to Accurately Measure Students’ Body Temperatures
There’s a clinical reason why your healthcare provider places a thermometer in your ear or under your tongue. On routine checkups or emergent intakes, clinicians need to check your core body temperature—the temperature of your body’s internal organs such as the heart, liver, brain or blood.
Unlike surface or skin checks, the core body temperature does not vary or change based on environmental conditions or your recent physical exercise. As such, in COVID-symptomatic or a-symptomatic students, a core body temperature check will reliably indicate the presence or absence of a COVID-induced fever.
Conducting Efficient and Accurate School Temperature Checks
Of course, in terms of traffic, volume and social-distancing mandates, schools are not like your doctor’s office. Instead, even with phased bus drop-offs or staggered start times, schools have a limited time slot to quickly and accurately temperature check large groups of students—all while complying with the CDC’s school-based social distancing guidelines.
Also, a temperature check that yields a false negative presents infection risks for other students, school faculty, staff and the larger community. Meanwhile, a false positive can lead to unnecessary student quarantining and case investigations, while it also undermines the reliability of the school’s or school system’s case-rate and data reportage.
Can Schools Test Large Groups of Students and Get Accurate Temperature Readings?
Seven years ago, the Baltimore-based company MachineSense developed a set of industrial applications to accurately measure the temperatures of plastic heating machines and bridges. On March 27th, 2020 –two weeks after the NIH declared the coronavirus a worldwide pandemic–MachineSense adapted its precision technology to accurately measure human temperatures.
FeverWarn®, the sub-company that manufactures and distributes MachineSense’s non-contact, high-accuracy and FDA-compliant human thermometers, uses infrared thermal sensors and a custom-developed algorithm to quickly and reliably measure core body temperature.
Currently, FeverWarn’s touchless, self-service, HIPAA-compliant temperature scanners are being used by American preschools and childcare centers, medical clinics, hospitals, urgent care centers, and other organizations who need to accurately temperature check large volumes of guests, patients, students and employees.
Earlier this year, the NFL used FeverWarn’s technology to temperature check vendors and guests at the 2021 Super Bowl.
Now, as schools across America plan and implement their infection-prevention protocols for the 2021/2022 school year, FeverWarn’s high-accuracy, high volume, portable temperature scanners aim to provide schools with an affordable solution to temperature check their students accurately and safely.