For the select few that are willingly or unwillingly going back to working at offices after months of remote working, temperature checks await at entrances before they even step foot in their office building. But do these mandatory measurements actually make workplaces safe when it comes to the coronavirus?
No, at least not completely. They can help reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections but shouldn’t be the only safety measure employers take as temperature alone is a weak indicator of the respiratory illness – as we know now that most cases, or about 80%, are asymptomatic.
Some employers are following government guidelines to screen workers for a fever with daily temperature checks to help prevent the spread of infections. But screening for fevers alone isn't enough to eliminate risk.
As doctors have warned, people with the virus can be contagious without a fever, so it’s still important for employers to increase space between workers, have well-ventilated areas, disinfect surfaces regularly and encourage hand washing.
A person’s temperature can be taken with a no-touch infrared thermometer pointed at the forehead, and workers can use the devices to take their own temperatures, using hand sanitizer before and after.
However, the accuracy of infrared thermometers can also be thrown off by headbands or bandannas that make a person too hot, or by cosmetic wipes that cool the skin, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA says the thermometers should be used in a draft-free area and out of direct sunlight.
But what’s normal body temperature and what’s feverish? On average, people should have a body temperature between 35.5 degrees Celsius (95.9 Fahrenheit)and 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit), doctors say. Anything above that mark could be deemed suspicious. Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives 38 degrees Celsius (or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) as a guideline for fever.