How Infrared Images Could Be Part of Your Daily Life


In a post-quarantine world, warmth sensors may assist spot sick individuals with elevated temperatures as they enter public locations. But it’s not that easy.


Welcome to Maplewood, N.J. … in infrared.

As the nation reopens, you may begin seeing extra photographs like these: real-time warmth maps that might discover sick individuals, earlier than they know they’re sick. And in a post-quarantine world, you may begin having your temperature taken. Rather a lot.

See the cross hair under? That’s the place this digital camera is taking a temperature studying.

A fever is one indicator that somebody could also be exhibiting coronavirus signs, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends temperature screenings in a range of environments, together with schools and businesses.

As shelter-in-place restrictions vary across many cities and counties around the country, officials have begun buying technology like infrared cameras in the hopes of helping track and contain the spread of the outbreak.

I’m a video journalist at The New York Times, and last year, I was trained to use infrared cameras for an article that exposed immense methane leaks at oil and gas facilities, worsening global warming.

I got my hands on a temperature-reading infrared camera and hit the streets of Maplewood on a hot summer day last week. I wanted to understand where the camera succeeds and where the challenges are in capturing accurate temperature readings.

Maplewood is part of Essex County. There have been over 18,000 confirmed cases in the county, and over 1,700 related deaths. But like many places in the country, Maplewood is opening back up — albeit mostly outdoors. Streets once filled with cars are now partly filled with outdoor seating for restaurants.

Here’s how to understand these images: The first image above shows a woman who ordered something warm to drink. The waitress hands her a bright white cup. The second image shows a woman nearby eating ice cream. The ice cream is dark blue. It means that white = hot; dark = cold.

So, does it work? Yes, but it’s not so simple.

Even a working infrared camera system won’t detect many people who may have the virus but aren’t exhibiting symptoms.

But equally important is how the cameras are used.

A hypothetical situation goes something like this: A factory opens its doors and thousands of workers pour in. Above them, infrared cameras point to individuals in a big crowd and pick out the sick people.

This, however, would not produce accurate results, according to experts.

“The problem with crowd scanning is we know temperature measurements are impacted by the distance from camera to target, and crowds are different distances away,” said Chris Bainter, the director of global business development for FLIR, a maker of infrared technology. “The cameras don’t focus from three feet or six feet away to infinite with everything in focus.”

“Where you measure has a big impact, and studies have shown the tear duct is the best place,” he added. “If you are looking at a crowd of people, are you getting an accurate reading?”

The real version of this technology goes something like this. One camera, one subject. Here’s my wife on our stoop.

I can point the camera at her, but to get a more accurate temperature reading, the cross hair needs to be right in the subject’s eye socket. A bit to the left or a bit to the right and you’ll see a different temperature. This is important because it changes the time it takes to get someone’s reading.

  • Updated June 30, 2020

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


There are other factors to consider. “Core body temperature has slight variation from person to person,” Mr. Bainter said. “What’s normal for me might be different than you. And that can be driven by age, gender, ethnicity, diet or recent exercise. And then there’s some environmental factors. Throughout the day, your body temperature changes from the morning to the afternoon.”

The day I was filming in Maplewood, temperatures were around 95 degrees. Everyone was running hot. Some surfaces, like the bench below, were nearly 100 degrees.

The growing use of the technology has raised privacy and other concerns.

Civil liberties experts have warned about data being collected on employees and used without their permission. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have proposed bills to help protect people’s information and privacy as data like temperature readings is collected, but the legislation has so far stalled in Congress.

All of this being said, could this technology work if used correctly? Yes. Is it better than nothing? Absolutely.



Source link Nytimes.com

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