California restaurant checking people's temperatures before serving them

One chain of restaurants in the Los Angeles area is doing its part to help combat the spread of the coronavirus… sort of. If you go out for dinner at any of the three locations of Sichuan Impression, someone will take your temperature when you arrive at the door. If you’re running a fever, you will not be admitted. But if you look okay and your temperature is in the normal range, you’ll be seated as usual. Who wants to tell them any of the many flaws in this plan? (CBS Los Angeles)

A Tustin restaurant was not taking any chances Monday when it came to protecting staff and customers from exposure to coronavirus.
Before customers are allowed to sit down for a meal at Sichuan Impression, a member of the waitstaff takes their temperature using an infrared thermometer. Anyone without a fever is then taken inside to their table.

“It helps to protect people, too, because it has to be done at some point if the disease is more widely spread,” Alex He, a diner, said. “It’s good for people.”

Lily Lei, the owner of the restaurant, implemented the new policy at the end of January for all three locations — the one in Orange County as well as two in Los Angeles. The policy applies to both customers and staff.

I suppose extra precautions are a nice touch what with all of the coronavirus panic sweeping the country. And the restaurant is taking additional measures such as wiping down all tables, windows and door handles with disinfectants multiple times per day. That’s a smart move. And at least according to several of the patrons interviewed for the article, people seem to support the idea.

But taking customers’ temperatures? First of all, the temperature taking duties have fallen on the shoulders of one of the waiters or waitresses. While I have all the respect in the world for waitstaff personnel, the vast majority of them don’t possess medical degrees to the best of my knowledge. The reporter covering the story even noted that one customer registered “a slight fever,” but was retested a couple of minutes later and the result came back normal.

Um… are you sure you’re using that thing correctly? Have you had any medical training at all? Having your waiter performing coronavirus testing just doesn’t sound like the sort of approach the CDC would recommend.

Another factor to consider is the incubation period of the disease. We’ve seen reports of people being infected without displaying any symptoms for anywhere from five days to two weeks. You’re simply not going to catch everyone that may be infected this way, even if you had an actual doctor taking their temperature. Also, there are any number of other, far less serious maladies that can produce a slight fever. If you start rejecting diners after telling them they have an elevated temperature, they’re probably going to be freaking out the entire way home.

In the end, this is probably more of a feel-good measure intended to put people at ease and make them feel better about being out in a public space with a lot of other people. But that really needs to be left up to the discretion of the public. Everyone has to decide for themselves if they want to get on a plane, attend a parade or go out to eat in a crowded restaurant. Ensuring that the place is taking extra cleaning precautions is certainly a good idea, but it’s still no guarantee that you won’t bump into the wrong person at exactly the wrong time. Such activities are going to need to remain business as usual for the most part and let the diner beware.

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