Infrared/Noncontact Temperature Screening for COVID-19: Cost-Effective Ways to Fulfill State or Local Mandates

September 23, 2020 | Evaluations & Guidance


In the absence of effective test strategies, vaccines, and treatments, temperature screening programs have become a common component of reopening strategies and COVID-19 mitigation efforts by many organizations to identify people with potential COVID-19 infection. The idea is to prevent transmission by screening the general public as they enter (and in some scenarios leave) workplaces, stores, event venues, transportation hubs, and healthcare facilities.

However, the available evidence indicates that temperature screening is not useful for preventing COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 infection because most people who have the virus are infectious long before they show a fever. What's more, many infected individuals never get a fever. ECRI's evidence assessment shows that mass temperature screening of the general population is ineffective for detecting and preventing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (or other coronaviruses). In addition, FDA states: "Temperature-based screening, such as thermal imaging, is not effective at determining if someone definitively has COVID-19 because, among other things, a person with COVID-19 may not have a fever. A diagnostic test must be performed to determine if someone has COVID-19."

Instead of temperature screening, ECRI recommends using measures proven to work, such as wearing a mask, social distancing in places where people congregate, aggressive hand hygiene, contact tracing, 14-day quarantine of people with known exposure, and travel restrictions to and from high-risk areas.

However, ECRI recognizes that state or facility regulations may require organizations to put screening measures in place. This article is aimed at facilities that have to implement temperature screenings to fulfill these mandates. To allow them to do so with minimal risk and expense, we detail available methods...

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