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Study: Simple Temperature Checks And Question Screening Not Very Effective Catching COVID-19 Spreaders

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The United States continues to set frightening COVID-19 records -- in new cases and hospitals near, at or over capacity across the country.

This while the most common ways that are being used to screen for the virus may not be effective, CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported Wednesday.

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Because we do not yet have rapid, abundant testing, one strategy to allow the economy to reopen has been to take people's temperature and ask them a few simple questions about symptoms and travel. It turns out that approach isn't very effective at catching asymptomatic COVID spreaders.


The discouraging news comes from a just-published study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers from the Navy and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai tested, followed and quarantined under close supervision nearly 2,000 new Marine Corps recruits before and at the start of basic training.

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Few infected recruits had symptoms before a nasal swab test diagnosed them with coronavirus, despite daily temperature and symptom screening.

"This suggests that relying on symptom screening and temperature checks alone, it's not very effective in finding infected individuals. All of the infected individuals were found by scheduled tests that were done independent of the presence of symptoms or elevated temperature," said Dr. Stuart Sealfon of the Icahn School of Medicine.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This while COVID cases and hospitalizations are skyrocketing across the country. However, the death rate in the Tri-State Area has been surprisingly low compared to our first massive outbreak back in the spring.

Experts attribute that partly to experience, leading to better medical care and medications. Also older, more vulnerable people are taking greater precautions, so infected populations are trending younger.

The bad news is that death rates generally lag two to three weeks behind hospitalizations, so we may yet see mortality numbers rise. Dr. Sealfon said our best defense right now is masks, social distancing and massively increased testing.


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