Temperature Screening of Health Care Workers Is Ineffective

Daily temperature screening of health care professionals (HCPs) during the first year of the pandemic did not detect a single case of COVID-19, according to one hospital's experience reported in the May Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

"[O]ur results indicate that [temperature] screening of HCPs at large US hospitals has no utility in detecting COVID-19 or controlling its transmission," concludes the study by Zaw Maung, MD, MPH, and colleagues of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFGH).

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ZSFGH implemented a two-stage screening process to prevent disease transmission by infected HCPs. Before each shift, workers completed an online screening questionnaire regarding COVID-19 symptoms, recent high-risk exposures, or self-measured fever (100°F or higher).

If they passed the online screening, HCPs underwent direct temperature screening using a noncontact infrared thermal detection system (thermal camera). If screening suggested an elevated temperature, workers were referred for further examination, including temperature measurement with an oral thermometer. To evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy, Dr. Maung and colleagues analyzed logs of employee entrance temperature screenings from March 2020 to March 2021.

Of more than 6,000 HCPs screened during that time, just 1 had an elevated temperature on screening, without any symptoms or exposure that would require further evaluation and COVID-19. When that person was tested again using an oral thermometer, the temperature was normal.

Another 3 HCPs reported having a fever but had a normal temperature when referred for further evaluation. "Thus, no cases of COVID-19 were detected through direct temperature screening," the researchers write.

While routine temperature screening might encourage employee to report any symptoms or exposure, "[E]vidence indicates that such screening of HCPs at large US hospitals has no utility in detecting COVID-19 or controlling its transmission," Dr. Maung and coauthors conclude. "Our institution has discontinued this practice."
About the Author
Dr Maung may be contacted for interviews at Zaw.Maung@ucsf.edu.
ACOEM (www.acoem.org), an international society of 4,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.
About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (www.joem.org) is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.


Maung Z, Kristensen M, Hoffman B, Jacobson MA. Temperature screening of healthcare personnel is ineffective in controlling COVID-19. J Occup Environ Med. 2022;64(5):382-384.