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New protocols and screenings raise questions on detecting COVID-19

Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 10:30 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Even though coronavirus cases are dipping nationwide, protocols are still in place at many businesses before people can walk through the door.

Whether it be signing a waiver, answering questions about symptoms, or even temperature screenings. Doctors warn that none of these approaches can be absolutely foolproof.

Close to a year after businesses, restaurants, salons, and gyms shut their doors, many are now reopening with new protocols and screenings like temperature checks.

The owner of the downtown Orangetheory Fitness, Jason Moore, says people are asked a series of questions about symptoms before a temperature check is done.

“We want to make sure we are taking every precaution to keep our members safe,” said Moore.

But Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Mark Rupp doesn’t think temperature checks are an effective way to control the spread.

“Relying upon temperature screening at the door to protect us is not going to be as effective as we’d like it to be,” said Dr. Mark Rupp, UNMC.

Since people who are positive with coronavirus could either be asymptomatic or develop symptoms days after contracting the virus, Dr. Rupp says many cases are going undetected.

“They can give a false sense of security. They will catch some people with COVID-19 but will miss the majority of patients that we are concerned about,” said Dr. Rupp.

Typically, temperature screens are done after coming in from the outdoors and that can give an incorrect reading if the surface temperature is cooler or warmer.

“All of these different ways of measuring body temperature are somewhat imprecise,” said Dr. Rupp.

Doctors say even each type of thermometer could read differently.

I decided to put them to the test and used a contactless thermometer and an oral thermometer minutes apart. My temperature was off slightly with each device.

“There’s no perfect system all of them can be helpful in certain circumstances,” said Dr. Rupp.

Over at Definitive Vision, General Manager, Dan Florence says he is aware of this and that’s why he has customers wait inside for a bit before taking their temperatures.

“Many things can be factors in skewing those readings,” said Florence.

For extra precaution, two screenings are done.

“If you get a similar reading between the two spaces then you know the device is doing its job properly,” said Florence.

Even with temperature checks, Dr. Rupp stresses that other measures still need to be taken to prevent the spread. That’s why many business owners say staff and customers are also required to wear masks and sanitize.

Dr. Rupp also says thermometers should be kept at a stable temperature inside to read more accurately.

The good thing about using infrared thermometers is that they are quick, simple, and you can screen people faster. However, doctors say there is not one that is deemed better than the other.

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