Students in 24 Northwest Arkansas schools will participate in a free program offering smart thermometers to mitigate illness spread, including COVID-19.
Nationwide, schools recently received the first shipment of Kinsa QuickCare thermometers as part of the San Francisco-based startup’s FLUency health program.
Jane Putnam, director of communications for Kinsa, said program sponsor Lysol has paid for the thermometers for participating schools over the past three years. Nearly 350,000 smart thermometers will be distributed this year. Some area schools participated in the program last year and have opted to do so again this year. Others are participating for the first time. Between 2,500 and 5,000 smart thermometers will be distributed to area schools, she said.
The thermometer works with a smartphone app that provides healthcare guidance and automatically receives temperatures taken via Bluetooth. Anonymous thermometer data show atypical illness trends and whether a virus is starting to spread, she noted. The principal and nurse of participating schools have access to the data, which might help them determine whether to complete extra cleaning to mitigate illness spread, she said.
The program provides a three-week leading indicator in tracking COVID spread, she said. It has a 12- to 20-week leading indicator for influenza. Early detection has helped to reduce illness-based absences by 27%, and Putnam explained students with illness symptoms might be taken to a physician sooner and treated with antibiotics if, for example, they were diagnosed with strep throat.
Putnam noted about 40% of program participants don’t have a working thermometer at home.
The $25 thermometer has been available at retailers, such as Walmart and Amazon, for about six years. It was the first smart thermometer that was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Putnam said.
Students, faculty and staff in participating schools can contact the school nurse to receive a thermometer.