July 15th, 2021
The Fox Business segment on a “thermal imaging COVID-19 test” is nearly over when the reporter sets off the alarm, indicating a fever. This comes only seconds after an executive at the company that manufactures the temperature-scanning device, which checks for fevers at entrances to businesses, schools and public venues, touted its accuracy.
“It is highly accurate and its accuracy lends itself to mass protection for the public,” Dubak Electrical Group Chief Operating Officer Nick Dubak said. “We need this technology to help us move forward, getting America back to work and giving us a level of certainty without slowing down the world.”
Now, the alarm is blaring and the reporter, Grady Trimble, whose temperature has been monitored by the device throughout the segment, doesn’t know why. Flustered, he signs off with the alarm still ringing inside Dubak Electrical’s corporate headquarters in La Grange, Illinois.
While the segment aired more than a year ago (during an episode of Making Money with Charles Payne), as recently as Tuesday it was being used by the public relations firm that represents Dubak Electrical to deceptively market DuThermX, along with several other clips of media appearances that distorted the device’s effectiveness.
The reality is thermal scanners like DuThermX can provide wildly inaccurate temperature readings, according to researchers at the surveillance research organization IPVM.
‘Normalizing’ temperature readings
The Washington Post summed up researchers’ findings in a report published in March (note: DuThermX was not among the thermal scanners tested):
The researchers found that seven widely used scanners attempt to compensate for the imprecisions of lower-cost sensors and the unpredictable factors of real-world tests by “normalizing” the readings of people’s temperatures.
But that “compensating algorithm,” they argue, severely undermines the devices’ medical usefulness. A feverish person with a core temperature of 100.4 degrees, their research found, could be assessed by the test devices as having a temperature of 98 degrees, well within the healthy range.
According to the Post, shortly after the paper discussed the research findings with the FDA, the agency issued a public alert warning that improper use and marketing of the devices “may lead to inaccurate temperature readings and pose a potential danger to public health,” such as allowing a person with an elevated body temperature to pass undetected and infect others.
“These risks are more likely to be present where thermal imaging systems scan multiple individuals simultaneously,” the FDA said.
Previously, the FDA warned that thermal scanners are “not effective at determining if someone definitely has COVID-19 because, among other things, a person with COVID-19 may not have a fever” and that information about the devices’ effectiveness in reducing the spread of disease has been “mixed.”
Also, the FDA has noted, thermal scanners measure skin temperature, which is usually lower than oral temperature so unless proper adjustments are made, the readings will be off.
As seen on TV (news)
After TINA.org provided links to the FDA alerts to Ripson Group, the PR firm that has booked several appearances for Dubak Electric on local and national news stations, including the one in which the DuThermX device appears to malfunction at the end, Ripson Group promptly removed clips of those segments from its YouTube channels.
In a phone interview with TINA.org, Ripson Group President Chris Comes said none of the segments were sponsored programming, despite the influence the company seemed to have in the production of the pieces.
For example, in the Making Money segment, Trimble, the reporter, claimed the DuThermX device can scan “as many as 40 people at a time,” a figure he appears to have gotten straight from a company press release. Reporting for another Fox Business program, Varney & Co., Trimble allows a Dubak Electrical representative to speak for schools that have installed DuThermX, instead of interviewing a school administrator.
“It allows for free flow movement, no bottlenecking at the door,” Nicole Drougas tells Trimble. “The students can come in, easily walk through, get their temperatures scanned and go on with their classes and whatever. It’s very easy for them to get through and it’s been great for the schools.”
In addition to the YouTube clips, which were published in May 2020 and February 2021, a DuThermX Google ad that claimed the device “scans crowds in seconds” and offers “multiple person detection” was removed following TINA.org’s inquiry.
Everyone wants to get back to normal life and devices like thermal scanners are marketed as a step in that direction. However, the truth is thermal scanners like DuThermX are unproven and may only lead to more infections if other precautions aren’t taken.
Find more of our coverage on the coronavirus here.