Coronavirus Chronicles — Who Will Be the Body Heat Monitors?

Yesterday, we noted that three types of adults have been proposed as the takers of temperatures when children return to in-person school. This is not an inconsequential detail. If eligibility for education is to be granted on a body-heat basis, the stakes for literally millions of children are high. The program needs to be solid, and the people who implement it must be reliable — or else what is the point?

Suppose a child is forbidden to attend school with a fever above a certain number. Suppose the authorities put parents in charge of keeping a child home from school. With parents as the first line of defense against the potential spread of COVID-19, some questions arise.

Households no longer are generally equipped with mercury-powered glass thermometers, which represent several kinds of safety hazard. The very large majority of households do not possess electronic temperature measurement devices. Such consumer goods are expensive. At best, they invite innocent yet destructive experimentation by kids who like to fool around with gadgets and take things apart. At worse, they invite theft. To expect to find one of these in every home is unrealistic.

An optimistic view

But suppose a family does have a nice state-of-the-art electronic thermometer. Mom or Dad takes Junior’s temp, writes the number on a piece of paper and signs it. Junior carries the document to school, where it is trustfully accepted as a valid and official record. Really?

Or, suppose the authority figure doubts the document’s veracity. To double-check, somebody has to take the child’s temperature with the school’s device. In which case, why not just go ahead and have the school take everyone’s temperatures? Why involve the parents at all?

There are many kinds of households in America, and many kinds of parents. There are hard-working parents who need to not be awakened in the morning. There are troubled and short-tempered parents, maximally stressed by money worries, family obligations, and looming problems like the threat of eviction. This brings up another point that is unpleasant to think about. Parents can have ulterior motives, reasons of their own for wanting children to either go to school, or not go to school.

Children also have their own goals and preferences. If school is the only place where breakfast and/or lunch is available, a child might fill out a “my temperature is within normal range” document and forge a parental signature With parents as the first line of defense against the potential spread of COVID-19, some questions arise — and who could blame them?

Getting there, and being there

How will children get to and from school this fall? By school bus? Public bus? Do they walk or ride their bikes? Do the parents take turns carpooling? In what vehicles, and with how many passengers? Does an older child catch a ride with a friend who owns a car? Whatever transportation method is used, it needs to be looked at carefully. If kids are going to travel back and forth crowded together with other kids, or with the general public, how much good will it do to keep them masked and distanced while in the school building?

There are questions about whether young children have the self-discipline and sheer physical coordination to keep masks properly positioned all day long. And what about eating? What about lost masks? What about mean kids who think it’s funny to steal compliant kids’ masks? If parents don’t set a good example at home, how can the school compensate for that? Optimistic grownups like to believe that children are better behaved at school than at home. Supposedly, children adapt easily and unquestioningly to new realities. Maybe.

While all this is being vigorously discussed, a large number of parents reportedly have had the opportunity to learn that homeschooling is doable, and plan to keep their kids out of public schools, no matter how many square feet of space they are allotted, or how many times per day the space is scrubbed down. While success-oriented parents have long believed in starting formal schooling as early as possible, that trend has reversed, with far fewer kindergarten registrations than would normally be expected. Everything about this crisis portends massive, disruptive changes to established systems.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Can kids spread the coronavirus? ‘Conclusively, without a doubt – yes,’ experts say,”, 07/17/20
Source: “Back to School? “No Thanks” Say Millions of New Homeschooling Parents,”, 07/08/20
Image by Phil Roeder/CC BY-SA 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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