Fluctuating readings leave students unsure

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationwide, places everywhere — including schools — have had to adapt to the guidelines and precautions with temperature checks and a mask mandate for entering the building. 

While the temperature checks work to ensure safety, the thermometers can create inaccurate readings depending on the quality of the thermometer and the use of the thermometer in relation to distance from the subject and the temperature of the environment.

“The temperatures were inconsistent at best. However, as I have gotten more comfortable with the thermometer, I have more confidence in the readings. I am getting more consistent temperature readings, and I believe it is largely due to me using the thermometer correctly,” said Adam DePriest, math teacher and morning temperature taker. 

The Booster staff tested the Simzo thermometer, the thermometer used by the school, and an infrared thermometer model, the YHKY-2000. Both are non-touch thermometers used to keep safe distance. 

On the infrared model when a person is too far, the thermometer will not even give a reading. However, on the Simzo model, it will give you a reading regardless of distance. With this being said, many temperature takers try to keep their distance to keep safe for personal health reasons, disregarding the notice of how close one needs to be to get an accurate measurement. The closer the person using the thermometer moves toward the subject, the more accurate the reading becomes. 

“The thermal scans sometimes are not really accurate. They’re just an indicator. We use oral to make sure you really have a temperature,” said Karen Anderson, Scott County School District 2 health coordinator and registered nurse at SHS.

The designated temperature takers, who consist of teachers and staff members, received training before the first student day in August, Principal Chris Routt said.

“If [the student] is good, they’re good. If they’re 100.0 degrees or above, what’s the next step? We have a process where you fill out a form that alerts administrators… With contact tracing, the family connection is important, so we have a system set up where it alerts all buildings,” Routt said. 

If a student has either a high temperature or an inaccurate temperature, the first step is to test it on a different thermometer. If they still register as high or inaccurate, they call the nurse to the scene, Routt said. 

Students must have a temperature check before entering the building each morning. (Photo by Totem)

Many students have had mixed experiences when it comes to their temperatures in the mornings. 

“My temperature has been accurate a majority of the time. However, probably about once a week, they are extremely inaccurate. I have been walking into school before, and they recorded me as high as 115 degrees or as low as 65 degrees,” junior Tierra Combs said. 

However, the occasional inaccuracy leaves some wondering if the thermometer checks present as helpful as hoped. 

“I have mixed feelings about whether the thermometers are keeping students safe. I definitely think it is an effective way to monitor every student before they come into the building. However, the thermometers have had a record of being inaccurate, and I’m just afraid they will send someone home or not let them into the building because they were recorded as having a fever, when in actuality, they did not,” Combs said.

The outside weather is one factor that plays into the inaccurate readings, and temperature takers have had to start considering this when checking people. 

The instruction manual included with the Simzo thermometer details the fluctuating readings and air temperature. The manufacturer recommends the thermometer be “placed indoors for about 30 minutes if ambient temperature varies a lot before using” and the thermometer should not be used in air temperatures less than 59 degrees or greater than 104 degrees. When temperatures drop below 59 degrees as the season changes taking temperatures outside might result in problems for the thermometer.

Simzo also notes in the instruction manual that “exercise, eating, or bathing” before measurement will impact the results; to fix the issue, the manufacturer recommends “staying still indoors for about 30 minutes.”

“Earlier in the school year when the sun was getting up earlier and was quite bright, I felt that consistently scanning facing the east was causing the temperature readings to gradually increase,” DePriest said. “Also, Mr. Deaton has mentioned that at football practice if the thermometer is sitting out with the sun beating on it, they will get unusually high readings. In these cases, they simply move into the shade to get more accurate readings.”

Staff writers Isabela Diaz and Deegan Cornelius contributed to this report.

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