Latest COVID-19 precautions amid ongoing pandemic

The nation’s top infectious disease expert believes the practice of contact-less temperature screenings should be "abandoned."

"The temperatures are notoriously inaccurate," Dr. Anthony Fauci said during virtual grand rounds with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Some airports, doctor’s offices and businesses across the country have adopted the practice during the pandemic in an effort to detect people with fevers.

Dr. Fauci said the White House has stopped doing temperature checks on entry due to the unreliable readings. The readings can be influenced by a number of factors, such as air temperature, humidity and where on the body they are pointed.

"It’s the middle of the summer. We’ve had, like, what? Fifteen days 90 degrees in a row," Dr. Fauci said. "So I went into the White House the other day and my temperature was like 103, until I took it in the air conditioned car and it was 97.4. Then when I tried to get into another facility, my temperature was 93, which means I should’ve been on a respirator! So I think we got to just abandon that and say, let’s just be prudent, ask questions, do it that way."

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Inaccurate readings are particularly problematic if they are used to turn people away.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not have official guidelines on temperature screenings but references the practice as "an optional strategy employers may use."

The CDC’s website said, "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."

Dr. Archelle Georgiou, KSTP’s health expert, echoed Dr. Fauci’s concerns over public temperature checkpoints.

"One study says they can be wrong by three degrees in either direction, so that’s not going to do us a lot of good when we’re trying to screen for somebody who’s infected," Dr. Georgiou said.

She said Dr. Fauci’s recommendation of using screening questionnaires instead of temperature checks could be more helpful.

"Use that time to ask other questions that may be more effective. Have you been exposed? Have you had any early symptoms?" Dr. Georgiou said.

Dr. Georgiou said it is understandable that recommendations regarding various precautions have evolved over the last five months.

"The information is changing every single week," Dr. Georgiou said, "so information we shared back in March is certainly edited at this point."

For instance, she said touching a contaminated surface is now considered a less likely source of transmission than person-to-person contact, even though evidence has shown the virus can live on various surfaces for hours or days.

"The question is, just because it lives there, does it mean it’s a high risk for infection?" Dr. Georgiou said. "An individual needs to get a certain amount of viral load, viral particles into their airway and into their system in order to be infected by the coronavirus. We believe, or at least we hope, that there is not enough viral load from surfaces to make it an easy transmission. Certainly possible, but it’s not as high risk as being exposed to someone."

The CDC’s website said, "It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads."

Dr. Georgiou said disinfecting surfaces is still a good practice but is best used in conjunction with other precautions.

"There is not one behavior, masks, hand-washing, social distancing, monitoring for symptoms, not any single one of them eliminates risk, but each of them together in a layered fashion can decrease risk," Dr. Georgiou explained.

Dr. Fauci also urged people to pay attention to the latest studies and guidelines regarding the coronavirus.

"It’s an evolving situation," Dr. Fauci said. "We have to be humble enough and honest enough to realize that as we gain more data, this could change."