NBC 10 I-Team: Temperature checks can offer false security- Megan Ranney, MD

In the war against COVID-19, thermal body scans and temperature checks are popping up in more and more office buildings, including NBC 10's studios in Cranston, as well as public places like Mystic Aquarium and Foxwoods Casino.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo even tweeted a photo showing that she gets her temperature taken everyday before entering the State House.

But the NBC 10 I-Team learned temperature checks aren't necessarily a good tool for detecting people infected with the virus, and may even give a false sense of security.

"Taking your temperature is important if you're going into public spaces where those daily symptom checks are required by the Department of Health," said Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital. "But lack of a fever does not mean that you don't have COVID. If you do have a fever, it's concerning. Lack of it doesn't mean you're scot-free."

That's why the CDC recently changed its recommendations for employers, telling companies on its website that "performing screening or health checks will not be completely effective. Screening and health checks are not a replacement for other protective measures such as social distancing.

This week, large airports across the U.S. stopped checking international travelers’ temperatures and other symptoms. CNN reports that out of some 675,000 passengers who underwent the screenings, fewer than 15 were red-flagged as having COVID-19.

Ranney said that's because so many people carrying the virus don’t have symptoms, and of those who do, less than half may have a fewer.

"Actually, about 40 percent of people who are infected have no symptoms at all. So lack of a fever is unfortunately not the same thing as not having the virus," she said.

Because temperature checks won't catch most COVID-19 cases, Ranney said social distancing and wearing a mask around other people is even more important, especially as we head into the fall and winter months.

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