Checking people's temperatures upon entry to businesses and schools is essentially pointless as a standalone measure to protect against the spread of COVID-19, and the practice can just as well be avoided to save time, Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a Facebook Live broadcast Thursday.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the temperature checks aren't reliable, and it's more effective to question people about symptoms than it is to take their temperature with an infrared thermometer, which is an increasingly popular practice as places reopen.
"We have found at NIH that it is much, much better to just question people when they come in and save the time, because temperatures are notoriously inaccurate many times," Fauci said.
Schools, common business such as grocery stores, large corporations including Amazon, and Disney's Florida theme parks all utilize temperature screenings in an attempt to prevent people with COVID-19 from entering.
Despite the popularity of the temperature checks as a safety measure, their ineffectiveness in detecting COVID-19 should be rather obvious. One of the most well-known and complicating aspects of COVID-19 is the likely number of people who have, or have had, the coronavirus with few or no symptoms, let alone a fever.
That's not to mention the inaccuracy of infrared temperature readings, particularly when used on people in the summer time after they've been out in the heat. Fauci himself said he's registered at 103 on a temperature check just from being outside.
So, while there's some chance that a temperature check could catch someone who is attempting to go somewhere with a fever, the checks are not likely to catch a significant portion of COVID-19 cases.
"All in all, temperature screenings may catch some cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus. But it could miss many others," Bruce Y. Lee, a public health expert, wrote for Forbes last month. "Thus, be skeptical whenever anyone tries to assure you that things are safe just because they are doing temperature and symptom screening."
Much of the opposition to reopening schools for in-person classes is due to fear of asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 among students and teachers, or the risk that students may unknowingly contract the virus at school and bring it home to vulnerable family members.
Statistics have proven that children without underlying health problems are unlikely to have serious illness if they get COVID-19, but the potential for asymptomatic spread creates an uncertainty that some parents and school officials are unwilling to risk.