Coronavirus Live Updates: ‘Thermometer Guns’ Are Known to Misfire

Here’s what you need to know:

ImagePassengers arriving at Hong Kong International Airport last week had their temperatures checked.
Credit…Hannah Mckay/Reuters

It has become an iconic image of the coronavirus outbreak in China: a masked official aiming what appears to be a small white pistol at a traveler’s forehead.

For weeks, these ominous-looking devices have been deployed at checkpoints across China — tollbooths, apartment complexes, hotels, grocery stores, train stations — as government officials and private citizens screen people for fevers in an effort to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

But experts say the “thermometer guns” are unlikely to stop the outbreak.

The thermometers determine temperature by measuring the heat emanating from the surface of a person’s body. Often, however, those wielding the tools don’t hold them close enough to the subject’s forehead, generating unusually low temperature readings, or hold them too close and get a high reading. The measurements can be imprecise in certain environments, like a dusty roadside, or when someone has taken medication to suppress a fever.

“These devices are notoriously not accurate and reliable,” said James Lawler, a medical expert at the University of Nebraska’s Global Center for Health Security. “Some of it is quite frankly for show.”

Infections and deaths continued to climb after the government this week changed the criteria by which it tracks cases. Officials early Saturday reported 2,641 new coronavirus cases and 143 additional deaths in the previous 24 hours.

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  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

Most of the new cases and deaths were reported in Hubei Province, the center of the epidemic

In all, more than 66,000 people have been infected and at least 1,523 have died worldwide. The vast majority of cases, and all but a few of the deaths, have been in mainland China, with the heaviest concentration there in Hubei, the center of the epidemic.

The tally in Hubei jumped drastically on Thursday after the authorities changed the diagnostic criteria for counting new cases. The government now takes into account cases diagnosed in clinical settings, including the use of CT scans, and not just those confirmed with specialized testing kits.

Video

transcript

A Quarantine Becomes a Violin Bootcamp

When Anthea Kreston found out that her student Kevin Tang was stuck at home because of the coronavirus, she decided to use music to improve his mood.

So tune the whole thing. It was pretty good. But only, like, 55 percent — it needed to be way more solid. All the orchestra stuff, OK, and then you go: [violin playing] If you do that bowing, make sure that your dotted 8th note is long enough. Can you have vibrato on all of your notes be exactly the same? [violin playing]

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When Anthea Kreston found out that her student Kevin Tang was stuck at home because of the coronavirus, she decided to use music to improve his mood.CreditCredit…Kevin Tang

Anthea Kreston, an acclaimed American violinist, has been giving Yunhe Tang, a talented Chinese 14-year-old, lessons via Skype once a week since last summer. But something seemed very wrong this month: He had not practiced, and he always practices.

The teenager, who prefers the name Kevin, lives in Chengdu, one of dozens of Chinese cities that are effectively on lockdown because of the coronavirus crisis. Schools are closed for the rest of the month and most businesses are struggling to reopen. Kevin’s family is healthy, but he has mostly been stuck inside.

Ms. Kreston said she couldn’t stop thinking about Kevin, and decided to help take his mind off the lockdown. She messaged his family and asked if they would like to temporarily step up Kevin’s lessons at no extra cost. As long as he was shut indoors, she wanted to have daily contact with him, and run a kind of violinist’s boot camp. The family agreed.

Kevin’s challenge would be to learn a new concerto — Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole” — in a few weeks, something she said would normally take 100 days. Ms. Kreston also gave him daily exercises to practice.

Two weeks into the boot camp, Kevin is feeling much better, though he longs for the outdoors. He now practices four hours every day, and said his technique has improved and his sound has become more beautiful.

“The virus is terrible,” Kevin said, “but music gives us the confidence to overcome.”

A man who became ill while on a vacation in Hawaii has tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials said. The man, who is in his 60s, had returned to his home in Japan, where he received the diagnosis this week.

The man, who traveled to Hawaii with his wife in late January and early February, fell ill during the second week of the vacation, while the couple were staying at a time-share in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. Before that, the couple had been in Maui, but the man showed no symptoms while he was there.

Officials said that the man began showing symptoms on Feb. 3, and wore a mask when he went outside the time-share, the Grand Waikikian. Dr. Sarah Park, the state epidemiologist, said that the man was most likely infected either before he came to Hawaii or while he was on his way to Hawaii in late January.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is an emergency physician, said in an interview on Friday that the authorities were contacting the management at the guest facilities where the man stayed, as well as those who were working there.

“The only way to do this right is to contact everyone,” he said. “We are not worried about minimal contact, but those who had extensive contact will be given whatever support is necessary.”

Reporting was contributed by David Yaffe-Bellany, Alex Marshall and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs.

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