15 May 2020
Derek Fournier

Do We Really Have to Remind People? There is no Silver Bullet.

As you would expect, in the face of crisis, people are responding. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every corner of the world, both socially and economically. Not a single day passes without piles of articles covering things like:

  • Impact of COVID-19 on <insert business here>
  • Ways to mitigate risk of COVID-19
  • Why no mitigation is perfect (seems like that should be obvious based on phraseology)
  • How life will never be the same post COVID-19
  • How life should be exactly the same immediately even with COVID-19

All of these positions make sense. First, people have voracious appetites for opinion (I will not dance into the conflation of opinion and fact here, but rest assured, the layering of opinion that happens to correspond with our own is the foundation for confirmation bias and a touchy subject in most circles). Second, this is a scary time. Worldwide impact brings with it a certain weight that is hard to calculate. That said, here at DeCurtis Corporation, the industry we have served for years was ground zero of and played a significant role in this outbreak. That meant we had to take action.

In the article Infrared Cameras Can Spot a Fever, but May Not Slow Covid-19, the author does a good job walking through the approaches many businesses have taken. A few things that I took away (YMMV):

  • Thermal imaging is popular during pandemics
  • Thermal screening is not a perfect mitigation
  • Thermal screening is more complicated than simply installing thermal cameras or deploying armies of folks with light / no-contact thermography
  • There is a risk that people may feel a false sense of security with thermal screening installed
  • There are multiple implementation approaches

“You cannot expect fever and symptom screening to be any kind of foolproof measure,” says Jamie Lloyd-Smith, a professor at University of California Los Angeles who studies the spread of emerging infectious diseases. “COVID-19 seems to be spread quite effectively by people who are hard to detect this way.”

Lloyd-Smith published a study in February that built on models of how well symptom and risk-factor screening worked during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak. For COVID-19, he concluded that even in a best-case scenario, screening for symptoms like cough or fever, or asking people about possible exposure to the disease, would miss more than half of infected people.

We understand that there is still a lot we don’t understand about the way this virus behaves but we also understand math–and catching 50% of infected persons is significantly better than catching nothing by doing nothing.

Companies must respond. There is a duty of care that is extending further than ever before. It is a fair assumption for employees to make that they are safe at work. What “safe” is evolves over time. The policy, procedure and product implemented by companies to help ensure safety of their staff, guests and products must evolve as well.

We are working with a hospital in Virginia (more to come on that soon) that is leveraging our DeCurtis Shield Kiosk for thermal scanning. Shield is performing its core job–remote, accurate temperature scanning which is, in this case, complicated by non-compliant patients who are often in restraints. Hearing from a hospital that Shield is doing a great job at its core functions and increasing distance and safety was a fantastic checkpoint. The unexpected benefit is that the staff feels safer coming to work. They are not as close to the problem (read: they are able to maintain a safer distance) while still executing an edge mitigation strategy (collection of temperature) in a more compliant, safe and efficient manner.

I think what I am trying to say this morning is that I encourage you not to let perfection get in the way of progress. There are tons of quotes that call out this concept, but as a football fan, I chose:

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
Vince Lombardi

As we face this global crisis together, please take a look at a layered approach to mitigation. As the title of this article calls out, there is no “silver bullet”–whether you are looking at things like our Shield Kiosk or even procedures that enable you and your industry to take additional steps like:

  • Enhanced use of Personal Protective Equipment
  • Digital Health Screening Questionnaires
  • Integration with Secure Digital Health Passport Concepts
  • Planful and Consensual use of Contact Tracing
  • Advanced Biometrics

There. Is. No. Silver. Bullet. Until widespread testing and a vaccine become available, the silver bullet conversation is off the table. But that does not mean inaction is acceptable while we wait for those things.

We feel that your strategy should be one that targets improvement in every area where improvement can be made and sorted by your ability to implement it. Your strategy should be part of a holistic approach with measurement and tuning. If you start down that path, you will be making the situation at your business better for you, your team and your clients and, as a part of our larger ecosystem, you will be raising the bar for everyone by your example.

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