Coronavirus Chronicles — Drivers, Temps, and Tech

Previously, in discussing the resumption of in-person education, this page looked at the idea of appointing parents to be in charge of temperature-taking. It has also been suggested that school bus drivers should take temperatures. But a lot of schools tend to not receive all their students via school system buses. Often there is a mixture. Some kids might travel by city bus, or be dropped off by parents. A school bus driver might think, “As long as I can’t take all their temperatures anyway, why don’t we just have me not take any temperatures?”

Such an attitude would be reasonable. These days, municipal bus drivers are likely to be protected by keeping the frontmost door locked, and constructing a plastic shield between the driver’s seat and the passenger compartment. It would not be fair to subject school bus drivers to more dangerous conditions. They should be free to concentrate on matters having to do with the vehicle, the traffic, and their riders’ behavior.

Suppose school bus drivers are armed with thermometer guns and given the responsibility to make sure nobody goes to school with a fever. What happens when a child registers a temperature that is over the line? Obviously, the driver would have to kick them off the bus. Is there a duty to notify a parent? What if the parent/s already left for work, or the call goes to voicemail? What if the parent doesn’t have a phone — an increasingly real possibility as people lose work, and norms disintegrate.

The same question obtains if temperature-checking does not happen until the child reaches the school building. If the authority figure says “go home,” is the school system responsible to return that child back home safely?

Technology grows apace

The handheld device mostly in use now measures the infrared energy that radiates from a person’s forehead. Most public places apparently go by the Centers for Disease Control limit, which turns people away if their temperature tops 100.4 degrees.

There are other fever detection systems. Kate Morgan, via, reports that Las Vegas casino employees use “smart rings” equipped with miniature sensors. In Houston, Texas, scanners posted at doorways are popular. A person has only to look at the thing, and if their body heat is above 99.5 degrees, it will alert. Maybe that aspect of the pandemic will become easier for everyone to deal with, when the world is more plentifully supplied with these devices.

Siva Vaidhyanathan wrote for The Guardian,

Teachers in Fairfax county, Virginia, have already pledged not to teach in person this fall because their district has not planned adequately for safety and educational quality.

Fairfax, like many counties proximal to the nation’s capital, is one of the wealthiest in America. When Fairfax County does not loosen its purse-strings enough to provide measures — fancy thermometers, masks, and whatever else they need, to assure the safety of its teachers, other workers, and students — then what might we expect from other jurisdictions?

On the school-opening question, of course it behooves us to worry about the kids. But it should be remembered that along with teachers and bus drivers, quite a large number of other adults are likely to be involved in running the institution. To take a random example, an online commenter who works in a three-grade elementary school noted that there might be as many as 85 adults on the premises daily. Even if it were true that children never catch or transmit COVID-19 (which it is not!), that’s a lot of adults to be potential carriers and victims.

And, returning to the subject of monitoring temperatures, it must not be forgotten what an unreliable indictor that is. A person is capable of transmitting the virus long before their temperature rises, and the latest research seems to indicate that less than half the positive-testing people ever even spike a fever at all. As a useful means to diagnose the presence or absence of COVID-19, apparently the thermometer gun is about on a par with a coin toss.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Get Ready to Have Your Temperature Taken — a Lot,”, 07/23/20
Source: “America is not prepared for schools opening this fall. This will be bad,”, 07/13/20
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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