Why don’t we check temperatures in public places? Answers to your questions about COVID-19


We answer your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to [email protected] and we will reply to you as much as possible. We will post a selection of responses every day of the week online, and also ask questions of the experts during The National and on CBC News Network.

To date, we have received over 20,000 emails from across the country. Your questions surprised us, puzzled and made us think.

Why don’t we take the temperature of people in public places?

In some countries, temperature checks are performed in public places, such as grocery stores, where people are scanned with a contactless thermometer to detect fever. The idea is that if someone shows signs of fever, they are not allowed to enter, in the hopes of minimizing the spread of COVID-19.

Why don’t we do this in Canada? This is what many, including Liz C., want to know.

In fact, some places are.

The Longo’s grocery chain and Tim Hortons have both announced increased safety protocols for their staff. Employees must wear masks or face masks and have their temperature checked before starting each shift.

Other places like T&T supermarkets take precautions for their customers. T&T says it started checking the temperature of customers at all of its locations last week.

But is this approach effective in minimizing the spread of COVID-19?

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says no.

“Fever is usually not the first symptom of COVID-19 and in some cases a fever never develops, so implementing measures based solely on the detection of fever is not recommended,” a A PHAC spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News.

During the 2003 SARS epidemic, PHAC reported that more than 6.5 million screenings took place at Canadian airports, 2.3 million of which used thermal scanners. But PHAC says “despite this intensive screening effort, no cases of SARS have been detected using this method.”

Nor does it appear that the provinces will apply this measure.

“I don’t think temperature testing is particularly helpful,” said B.C. Last week, provincial health worker Dr. Bonnie Henry after T&T announced her clients’ temperature

A spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott also said that public temperature controls are not being considered “at this time”.

Other infectious disease specialists in Canada see the same thing.

“Temperature controls give a false sense of comfort,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners, as many people with COVID-19 but who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic may miss them.

“Even if someone has a fever, it is often intermittent, and they could be in the period when the fever has dropped and the temperature control will be missed,” he added.

In fact, experts now believe that the presymptomatic period for people infected with the coronavirus is the most risky in terms of transmission.

“We now believe that most transmissions occur during this presymptomatic period or in people who have no mild or no symptoms,” said Dr. Ilan Schwartz, infectious disease specialist and assistant professor at the University of Alberta. “So, realistically, temperature controls could detect some infections but only a small proportion. “

Not to mention – the possible risk of exposure to or from the screener, says Schwartz.

Is there anything we can do to strengthen our immune system?

This question comes from Judy L., but it is the one we continue to see in our inbox.

Experts say that despite what you might see online, there is no proven way to boost your immune system against COVID-19 other than ensuring a healthy lifestyle.

“You are going to see a lot of discussion on the Internet about immune boosters and the things you can do,” said Dr. Christopher Labos, epidemiologist and cardiologist in Montreal. “None of this is true. “

“There is no real way to boost your immune system other than staying generally healthy,” said Labs. He says that right now, eating right, exercising daily and taking walks is the best way to do that.

My surgery has been canceled, when will elective surgeries resume?

Melissa P. says her surgery was due to be done in Toronto, but was canceled in mid-March with all other elective surgeries. She wants to know when elective surgeries can resume.

Melissa in Victoria wonders when hospitals will resume elective surgery. – 0:26

Elliott said Monday that Ontario plans to cut back on surgeries, prioritizing cancer operations, as part of its roadmap for reopening, but did not say when. Officials acknowledge that they must see a steady reduction in new COVID-19 cases before relaxing the restrictions.

In the latest edition of the CBC health newsletter, Second Opinion, Adam Miller examined how hospitals are tackling the backlog of surgeries. ((Subscribe to Second Opinion.)

CBC News estimates that nearly 100,000 patients across Canada have had their surgery delayed due to COVID-19, Miller wrote.

This estimate is based on data provided by provincial and territorial ministries of health, cross-checked with the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) baseline data on the number of procedures performed in previous years. , when surgeries were at normal volumes.

As part of a dramatically reduced operating room activity in the midst of the pandemic, Canadian hospitals continue to perform surgery on patients at high risk of death or disability if they are not treated in days or weeks – a category that includes the most urgent cancer and cardiovascular cases.

Watch the whole story or read more from Nicole Ireland of CBC Health on the backlog of surgeries created by cancellations during the pandemic.

Should masks be mandatory?

Many people, including Dan P., ask us whether Canada should make the wearing of masks mandatory.

Earlier this month, European countries, including Austria and the Czech Republic, made it mandatory to wear the mask. And this practice is common in several East Asian countries that have managed to keep transmission low.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued a decree requiring all New Yorkers to wear masks or masks in busy public places, and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has mandated masks for workers essential businesses.

Masks are not mandatory in Canada, but Health Canada suggests that a mask will not hurt, “When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or a face covering can reduce the spread of their own droplets.” respiratory infections ”.

Earlier this month, Canada’s public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, ousted her first tips on non-medical masks, and now says they can add additional protection.

“The science is not certain, but we have to do everything we can and it makes sense,” she said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not officially advise the general public to use masks to prevent the spread of the virus, but recommends medical masks for healthcare workers and anyone sick with symptoms of COVID- 19, or caring for someone who is sick.

“Currently, there is not enough evidence for or against the use of any type of mask in healthy people in public places,” a WHO spokesperson said in a statement to CBC. News. But the WHO says it will update its guidelines once new information is released.

Not everyone agrees with the WHO recommendations on masks; you can read more about the debate here.

The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, stay at home if you are sick, and do physical distance.

Monday we answered questions about reopening schools and what to do if your parents get sick.

Keep asking your questions by writing to us at [email protected].


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