2021-04-13

NYT: ‘Colleges That Require Coronavirus Screening Tech Struggle to Say Whether It Works’

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Natasha Singer and Kellen Browning, reporting for The New York Times:

Before the University of Idaho welcomed students back to campus
last fall, it made a big bet on new virus-screening technology.
The university spent $90,000 installing temperature-scanning
stations, which look like airport metal detectors, in front of its
dining and athletic facilities in Moscow, Idaho. When the system
clocks a student walking through with an unusually high
temperature, the student is asked to leave and go get tested for
Covid-19.

But so far the fever scanners, which detect skin temperature, have
caught fewer than 10 people out of the 9,000 students living on or
near campus. Even then, university administrators could not say
whether the technology had been effective because they have not
tracked students flagged with fevers to see if they went on to get
tested for the virus. […]

“So why are we bothering?” said Bruce Schneier, a prominent
security technologist who has described such screening systems as
“security theater” — that is, tools that make people feel better
without actually improving their safety. “Why spend the money?”

Maybe “COVID theater” instead of “security theater”, but these technology purchases look like a whole lot of bullshit, just like the exposure notification apps for phones. We don’t need any of this. What we need are vaccinations, a few months of patience until more of those vaccinations are administered, and good serious plans for future outbreaks. If institutions like colleges want to spend money in the short term, they should spend the money on widespread COVID testing.