Screening for COVID-19 in Older Adults: Pulse Oximeter vs. Temperature


Catherine R. Van Son
Deborah U. Eti


Public health screening for COVID-19 and its mutations are becoming a routine activity, as
we assess the safety of resuming interactions with each another. Control efforts have included
social distancing, hygiene, masks, and lockdowns. Where available, testing can confirm exposure
to COVID-19. Prior to testing, screening is conducted, typically consisting of assessing one’s
temperature and asking questions related to symptoms and exposures. However, the efficacy
of symptom-based screening (temperature and self-report) for COVID-19 has been called into
question in recent studies for both the general population and healthcare workers (1, 2).
Older adults are another population in which symptom-based screening for COVID-19 should
be questioned.
As the pandemic unfolded, older adults have been hardest hit. The statistics are staggering, with
older adults making up 45–80% of all hospitalizations, 53% of intensive care admissions, and 80%
of deaths (3, 4). However, the media’s tone has been that this was not alarming but expected due to
age and comorbidities. This paper offers suggestions to mitigate these statistics.



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