Hot or Not: Temperature Screening To Reduce U.S. COVID-19 SpreadMelanie Williams
It’s summer in Las Vegas, and the talk around town is about the temperatures. In any normal year, this topic of chatter would be perfectly normal in Sin City. In 2020, however, in the midst of a once-in-a-generation global pandemic brought on by COVID-19, the heat check discussions are anything but ordinary since they have taken on an entirely new context. Las Vegas locals, ubiquitously donning face masks in 108℉ weather, are getting into heated debates (pun intended) not about their blistering desert climate, but about body temperature thresholds and screening for fevers.
Temperature screening is essential for Frank Alvarado, Shift Manager at the LINQ Promenade’s Tilted Kilt Las Vegas, one of the city’s most popular bars located smack dab in the center of the Las Vegas Strip: “We require employees wear face masks at all times on-site and we test their body temperatures right before the start of their shift, per Nevada state guidelines. We point a temperature reader onto the employee’s forehead; if it’s 100.4 or above, we send him or her home to self-quarantine for at least a week until the fever goes down and they don’t have a cough or any of the other COVID-19 symptoms.”
“We point a temperature reader onto the employee’s forehead; if it’s 100.4 or above, we send him or her home to self-quarantine”
So far, according to Mr. Alvarado, none of his employees have failed the pre-shift temperature test and had to be sent home – a positive sign he attributes to the locals in Las Vegas taking the disease and the effects of its spread much more seriously now than they did in the early stages of the pandemic.
CDC Guidelines for COVID-19 Temperature Screening
Scientists have determined that the coronavirus strain SARS-CoV-2 that causes the COVID-19 disease can be transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces. It also easily spreads through coughing and sneezing and can even remain active in airborne droplets for up to 3 hours. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released guidelines recommending wearing masks and maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between oneself and others to put up a roadblock to the aerosolized droplet methods of transmission.
The most common early-onset symptoms from the complete list of possible COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and muscle pain, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue. Of this subset, recent studies have identified fever as tending to appear both the earliest and the most frequently in symptomatic COVID-19 patients. According to USC researchers, knowing the order of COVID-19’s symptoms allows potential cases to self-isolate more quickly then seek appropriate medical care promptly before they expose others to infection. Additionally, the study also concludes that early detection could aid medical professionals in developing more effective plans for patient treatment.
“Recent studies have identified fever as tending to appear both the earliest and the most frequently in symptomatic COVID-19 patients.”
With respect to detecting fever, the CDC has issued the following guidelines for temperature control screening:
- Temperature screening alone, at exit or entry, is not an effective way to stop the international spread, since infected individuals may be in the incubation period, may not express apparent symptoms early on in the course of the disease, or may dissimulate fever through the use of antipyretics. It is more effective to provide prevention recommendation messages to travelers and to collect health declarations at arrival, with travelers’ contact details, to allow for a proper risk assessment and a possible contact tracing of incoming travelers.
- Screening employees is an optional strategy that employers may use. Performing screening or health checks will not be completely effective because asymptomatic individuals or individuals with mild non-specific symptoms may not realize they are infected and may pass through screening. Screening and health checks are not a replacement for other protective measures such as social distancing.”
- Consider encouraging individuals planning to enter the workplace to self-screen prior to coming onsite and not to attempt to enter the workplace if any of the following are present:
- Fever equal to or higher than 100.4℉/38.0℃
- Are under evaluation for COVID-19 (for example, waiting for the results of a viral test to confirm infection)
- Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and not yet cleared to discontinue isolation
- *A lower temperature threshold (e.g. 100.0℉/37.7℃) may be used, especially in healthcare settings.
Temperature Screening Protocol across the U.S.
Across the country have drawn from the CDC’s guidelines and implemented their own local requirements for all or some businesses to conduct temperature checks or other health screenings of their workers as a condition of conducting business in the physical workplace. Many state legislatures have issued not requirements but merely recommendations on screenings that businesses should be aware of as best practices for responsibly mitigating COVID-19 spread. It is important to note that recommendations are non-enforceable by state law, and thus not punishable for lack of compliance on the part of any business.
On the Las Vegas Strip and all across Nevada, temperature screening has been strongly recommended by government authorities for all businesses, and it is required by state law for certain businesses. As a hybrid bar and restaurant, Mr. Alvarado’s Tilted Kilt establishment falls under the category of businesses requiring temperature screening as part of employee symptom assessment monitoring. Along with such food and drink establishments, Nevada businesses bound to this testing law are agriculture, appliance and furniture showrooms, auto dealerships, banks, and financial services, personal care services, general office operations, retail, and consumer services, and transportation, couriers, and warehousing.
Like all non-essential local businesses in Las Vegas, Tilted Kilt had to shut down for all of April and May due to the Governor’s executive order, and it was tough for their staff here at Kilt and the Vegas economy as a whole. Says Mr. Alvarado: “Most of our staff is in their 20s and 30s, fit and healthy, so they initially weren’t as concerned about the physical effects of COVID-19 as they were about the financial impact. But by now, everyone knows someone personally who has had it and understands how it works: worst-case you go to the hospital, even the mild symptoms don’t sound fun, you can catch it and not show any symptoms…and it spreads like wildfire. If businesses want to stay open so employees make money, we’re all for temperature checks and mandatory masks and social distancing – we need to do what we can to prevent outbreaks.”
“If businesses want to stay open so employees make money, we’re all for temperature checks and mandatory masks and social distancing.”
Most screening protocols across the United States are highly similar to Nevada’s protocols but do vary from state to state. For example, 38 of 50 U.S. states including Nevada and California have set the temperature threshold of fever at 100.4℉/38.0℃ 2 states have set it higher (Arizona is the highest at 103℉/39.4℃), and 10 states have set it lower (Minnesota is the lowest at 99.5℉/37.5℃). All businesses must consult their state’s guidelines and adjust their equipment and practices to match. (A handy reference list for each state can be found here.)
New York is another special case: it has one of the more stringent protocols comparing to other states. The state gives discretion to its commercial business owners and managers to manage public places within their buildings and businesses to require any individuals, not just employees but customers as well, to undergo temperature checks prior to admittance. New York also grants businesses the discretion to deny admittance to any individual who refuses to undergo a temperature check and any individual whose temperature is above the 100.4℉/38.0℃ threshold set by New York State Department of Health Guidelines.
High Fever Temperature Requirements across the U.S. States
|U.S. State||High Fever Temperature|
|Arizona||103º F for adults|
|New Jersey||100 axillary temperature|
Thermal Scanning: Safety, Reliability…Style Too?
With the first and foremost symptom indicator of possible COVID-19 being fever, the process of conducting temperature checks is quickly becoming the most important line of defense in early detection of the disease. While the “temperature gun” (aka the handheld infrared thermometer) remains the most popular non-contact method of taking temperature, it is not without its negatives, which Mr. Alvarado has to deal with on a weekly basis on his shifts at Tilted Kilt: “Sometimes as the manager on duty I’m running around handling a million things at a time, and I forget where I put the thermal gun, which then makes my employees late to clock in. Or even worse, if I’m tied up at the exact moment an employee comes in, I don’t get a chance to test them immediately when they arrive, and during that time they could have come in contact with other employees or customers. Obviously the thermal checks are necessary and always get done, but logistically they can be a hassle.”
“if I’m tied up at the exact moment an employee comes in, I don’t get a chance to test them immediately when they arrive.”
To solve the practical problems Mr. Alvarado and other managers encounter in their places of business, a more elegant thermal scanning solution exists the Turing Body Temperature Thermal Scanner. The Turing Body Temperature Thermal Scanner, a sleek touchscreen device with a futuristic feel, utilizes the combination of advanced thermal sensor and facial recognition AI technologies to provide highly accurate non-contact subject temperature results. Here’s how the device works:
- The device’s front-facing camera collects live streaming images and displays them in real-time on its screen.
- Turing’s patented AI software algorithm analyzes the incoming images stream and signals an alert when it recognizes and classifies the image as a human face.
- After recognizing the face, the algorithm then pinpoints and detects the exact spot on the individual’s forehead where temperature reading yields the highest accuracy
- The device triangulates its built-in thermal sensor onto the forehead location and triggers it to collect the subject’s forehead temperature.
The technical advantages the Turing Body Temperature Thermal Scanner holds over a temperature gun or a traditional thermometer are numerous:
- It produces rapid results, taking less than 0.1 seconds per scan/display
- It is highly accurate, with results +/-0.5°F
- It complies with FDA and CDC COVID-19 policies
- It is not only non-contact but can be applied from a distance of more than 6 feet, ensuring maximum safety for both administrators and subjects
- It can be mounted in a permanent secure location near entryway so it can serve employees AND customers in a hassle-free process, increasing usage frequency and ROI and more importantly creating safer environments to reduce risk of COVID spread
“if everyone is using a Turing [Body Temperature Thermal Scanner], it will help keep guests healthier, Vegas businesses open longer, and the revenue coming in for us.”
Back on the Vegas Strip at Tilted Kilt, Mr. Alvarado was wowed when shown the demo video of the Turing Body Temperature Thermal Scanner Scanner in action: “We could DEFINITELY use that device here. Not only will it keep us compliant with state laws, it will keep things safer by encouraging not only employees but also our incoming vendors and customers to use it on themselves. The Turing technology looks pretty cool too! Here in Vegas, it’s about having the newest, best, and sleekest toys regardless of price tag. And if just one restaurant gets this thermal scanner installed, for sure all the competing restaurants on the Strip will get it too to keep it. And if everyone is using a Turing [Body Temperature Thermal Scanner], it will help keep guests healthier, Vegas businesses open longer, and the revenue coming in for us.”