A Heated Debate

A Heated Debate: How To Beat A Temperature Check

In response to the surge of COVID-19 cases within the United States, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission amended regulations regarding temperature checks on 17 March 2020. The abrupt change in policy has forced employees to question if the practice is effective at mitigating the spread of the virus. Additionally, performing mandated screenings within the workplace has compelled laborers to ponder if a breach of confidentiality with private health care data has occurred.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that is often accompanied by ten symptoms, chiefly fever and chills. Thus, routine temperature checks within the corporate environment were implemented on a national scale as a preventative screening measure. However, elevated body temperature is neither indicative of the disease process nor an ability to transmit subsequent infections. 

The incubation period for the virus is 2-14 days postexposure, therefore a manifestation of symptoms may not readily appear. Furthermore, several patients exhibit asymptomatic physiological reactions such as anosmia, or an acute loss of smell. In fact, one’s rate of infectiousness is highest prior to the manifestation of detectable symptoms via self-monitoring.

Non-contact infrared thermometers (NCITs) and infrared thermal cameras (IRTs) measure external temperature by detecting infrared emissions that are released from the skin in a spectrum of energy and heat. Such readings allow health care practitioners to evaluate the physical condition of their patients. The presence of abnormal thermal markers alerts medical personnel that a potential infection exists. 

If an individual has engaged in physical exercise or transitioned from a warm environment prior to arriving at the office, core body heat may present as elevated, yielding false positive test results. Conversely, if makeshift administrative areas are well ventilated and employees experience extended waiting periods, one’s body temperature may cool, presenting false negative outcomes.

“An investigation of the Impact of Infrared Sensors on Core Body Temperature” (Hsuan-Yu Chen, 2020) elucidated the various levels of inaccuracy demonstrated by tympanic and liquid crystal thermometer strips. The aforementioned devices calculate thermal heat via direct skin contact. Physical regions on the human body (i.e., mouth, forehead, ear) radiate thermal energy differently, generating extreme variations in core body temperature. Thermometer manufacturing also hinders reliable testing as sensing elements placed onto the skin lack consistency and regulation across the industry. As a result, shoddy external hardware converts test analyses at inconsistent rates.

If simplicity is the goal, over-the-counter medications present the perfect solution to beat a federally mandated screening measure. Products containing acetaminophen or ibuprofen reduce symptoms associated with illnesses, to include, wait for it, fever. The medication regulates core body heat, thereby affording symptomatic viral hosts with fabricated, yet perfectly normal temperature readings.

As of February 2020 the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) updated its statutes regarding the disclosure of confidential medical information. The organization endorses the use of protocols that require the divulgence of health data, such as temperature screenings. Specifically, in terms of mandated clinical assessments, an employee is required to provide fever analysis and nothing more. Guidelines also prohibit employers from publicly sharing health-related data without personal consent. Relevant information encompasses documents, face-to-face conversations and electronic communication that the corporation acquires, including the results of mandatory temperature checks.

Compulsory medical screenings are ineffective protocols that were haphazardly instituted to the chagrin of a growing number of staff members. Ensuring that such hastily concocted preventative measures adhere to federal mandates guarantees the safeguarding of confidential medical information for all.

1740 EDT – Author: Leanne GregoryIllustrator: Madinah Slaise

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