Should Apple and other stores require shopper temperature checks?
A number of retailers have begun checking the temperatures of employees before shifts. Apple last week, however, became the first major retailer to require customers to have their temperature checked before entry.
Requiring customer checks is still rare but is being considered by retailers and food establishments as a safety step as the country reopens. Stores are using a non-contact forehead thermometer similar to testing that has been adopted in some Asian countries.
Checking employees’ temperatures has become more common but is not standard practice. Walmart, Amazon and Kroger check employees at the start of each shift. Starbucks’ stores have been equipped with thermometers so employees can monitor themselves and Home Depot is providing staffers thermometers to take their temperatures at home before reporting to work. In most cases, any employee with a temperature over 100 degrees is sent home.
Fever is one of the key symptoms of the novel coronavirus, but temperature screening is not always reliable. Many infected individuals are asymptomatic and in some cases a fever never develops. Higher than normal body temperatures can also occur in those not sick.
Public health experts have said, while enhanced testing is positive, the use of thermometer guns or thermal cameras can give a false sense of security so that people do not feel the need to wear masks or practice other social-distancing measures. The American Civil Liberties Union issued a report warning that screenings could pave the way for new permanent forms of surveillance and social control.
A regional German data protection office has already launched a probe into whether customer temperature checks at Apple Stores “violates EU privacy rules.” Temperature checks would also come at a time when requests to wear masks have led to altercations over personal freedoms in the U.S.
Canada’s T&T Supermarket grocery store chain in April started voluntary customer checks. CEO Tina Lee said in an email to the Toronto Star, “Anyone with a fever will be kindly asked to rest at home and contact their health-care provider.”
- Apple begins reopening some stores with temperature checks and other safeguards in place – TechCrunch
- Temperature Screening and Civil Liberties During an Epidemic – American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
- Temperature screening not always reliable to mitigate coronavirus risk, experts say – Global News
- Employers Rush to Adopt Virus Screening. The Tools May Not Help Much – The New York Times
- T&T grocery chain starts temperature checks on customers — those who don’t pass will be asked to go home – Toronto Star
- What Is the Point of Temperature Checks? – Slate
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers perform temperature checks on associates and customers before they enter stores? Does the testing of customers pose any more or less of a challenge versus employees?