The back-to-school preparations at the Sharyland Independent School District in southern Texas this year include a variety of supplies now common in daily life during the pandemic: plastic dividers, masks and hand sanitizer.
They also include something not as common: body temperature screening terminals. The district, which serves about 10,200 students across 13 campuses, spent more than $178,000 on 52 walk-through infrared temperature scanners from SafeCheck USA, a Miami-based company that launched about six months ago.
The school district made the purchase without testing the technology after watching a demonstration over Zoom, Assistant Superintendent Ismael Gonzalez said.
We are looking forward to reopening our schools. We miss our students,” he said, noting that the school district had been “flooded” with pitches for new Covid-19 mitigation tools.
Body temperature checks have emerged in recent months as one of the more advanced and passive coronavirus mitigation techniques, with tripods mounting infrared cameras now a common sight at the entrances of buildings.
But just how well temperature checks work remains unclear, and epidemiologists caution that mass temperature screening systems do little to detect people infected with the coronavirus and that they could make people less safe by giving the false impression that Covid-19 is not present.
“In the context of schools, fever screening is a particularly bad idea,” said Katelyn Gostic, an epidemiologist at the University of Chicago, who studies the use of symptom screening systems for catching infectious diseases. “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 said. That has not stopped companies, many newly formed or with little track record in temperature detection technology, to join in the rush to pitch lucrative contracts to schools, offering fever checks, contact tracing and other safety services.
A handful of companies have pivoted from selling gun detection systems to selling temperature screening systems to meet demand and prevent the spread of the coronavirus on school campuses. – MSNBC