May 14, 2020

Temperature Screening – One Hot Topic

[5 Minute Read] 

Thermal Cameras and temperature screening have people talking. Major news publications, privacy advocates, and technology blogs are buzzing with discussion and debate.

If you are like most of our clients, you might have mixed feelings about temperature screening.

On one hand, it sets the tone that your organization is taking safety seriously. This can bring a sense of confidence to your team and clients that their workplace is a safe space. Additionally, you don’t wish to stand idle, and you want to do something to help keep your people safe during this pandemic. Screening for coronavirus by way of temperature measurement seems like a good start. If you can stop someone from entering the space, you have successfully eliminated the possibility of transmission.

On the other hand, you have some concerns about privacy. You worry of mishandling a potentially awkward, or confrontational conversation. Most of us don’t want to give off the “No Soup for You” or “You Shall Not Pass” vibe, especially when we’ve spent a good deal of time making our first impressions as welcoming as possible. You also recognize that there are reasons outside of COVID-19 why someone might present a high body temperature. Making matters more complicated, how are you going to store and manage this information, and what type of risk does that present?

From our perspective, every organization needs to find its own right answer. This starts with weighing how you feel people will perceive the move as well as the ethical, legal, and financial pros and cons. High volume areas like airports, stadiums, malls, and large commercial office buildings certainly can make a strong case for thermal cameras. This technology is in high demand, so we’re designing various thermal cameras and kiosk-based systems for our clients. We acknowledge the fact that there are many compelling use cases for temperature screening.

However, I worry that with as much press as this topic is getting, other technologies that assist in the reduction and transmission of COVID-19 are not being as widely discussed. As consultants and industry leaders, it’s our job to make sure all of the options are laid out on the table and assessed thoroughly and honestly.

thermal camera

In April 2020, the World Health Organization (Situation Report – 73) outlined, “The routes of transmission from COVID-19 patients” in three categories.

1. Symptomatic transmission

      “…from a person, while they are experiencing symptoms.”

2. Pre-symptomatic transmission

      “…from a pre-symptomatic case can occur before symptom onset.”

3. Asymptomatic transmission

      “…is a person infected with COVID-19 who does not develop symptoms.”

Temperature screening can be effective for those who are symptomatic and display a fever. However, it can not account for two of the three types of transmission outlined above. At this point, experts do not have concrete answers on how many people are contagious or what percentage of the population falls into these three categories at a given time.

As of mid-May (when this is being written), the World Health Organization posts the following on their site:

Can COVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?

“COVID-19 is mainly spread through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is coughing or has other symptoms such as fever or tiredness. Many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true in the early stages of the disease. It is possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has just a mild cough and does not feel ill.

Some reports have indicated that people with no symptoms can transmit the virus. It is not yet known how often it happens. WHO is assessing ongoing research on the topic and will continue to share updated findings.”

Furthermore, those with mild symptoms (no fever) could still be contagious.

As a general statement, we can all agree that limiting people into a space with fevers is a good idea. Although, before this pandemic, you were not likely to be debating this in your weekly staff meetings.

White temperature screening can be beneficial in detecting symptomatic individuals; it’s just one small piece of workplace re-entry technology solutions. We advise our clients to consider technologies that address the broad range of transmission scenarios: pre-symptomatic, asymptomatic, and those with mild or early symptoms.

Having multiple systems working together is the best way to safeguard your space. In addition to temperature screening, there is:

  • Touchless technology like handsfree access control and cordless screen sharing, which create fewer instances of potential transmission.
  • Density monitoring technology that can help ensure you’re meeting guidelines for physical distancing. As guidelines for businesses like retail spaces and restaurants continue to evolve, these technologies can help you maintain compliance.
  • Alerts for immediate cleaning of desk “hoteling” and collaborative spaces after use can assist with your disinfection plan.
  • Space design that encourages physical distancing. We are working with several clients who are considering reconfiguration of their spaces to ensure people are at least 6 feet apart when at their work stations.

I believe that temperature screening can be a useful tool for the workplace. Still, it’s only part of several crucial steps to protect your employees and clients. As we fight this pandemic, we should be looking for creative and robust solutions.

The ASD® platform is about bringing confidence back to workplace technology. Never before has this been so needed. We would like to know what you are thinking and what you think works best for your environment. Please send us your feedback and let us know your thoughts as to the best next steps. Partners, manufacturers, and collaborators are welcome.

About the author 

Mike Castiglione

Michael is the Chief Operating Officer at ASD®. He has more than a decade of experience in the workplace technology space. His oversight includes management of ASD® operations, development of the ASD® cloud platform OMNI, and key initiatives to continuously improve the ASD® client experience.

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