Even though the trend across the country is for businesses and local governments to now be in the process of dropping pandemic restrictions, Guilford County government this week added a new requirement for anyone attending a Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting.

In addition to the bag search, the walk through a metal detector – and, of course, a wand search (since the metal detector seems to beep every time) – now there’s another layer of surveillance.  Members of the public attending a Guilford County commissioners meeting now have to stand and face a high-tech infra-red heat-sensitive camera that will, on a monitor, display a red or green dot on your head.  Green means your temperature is acceptable and you can go in; red means leave the building immediately before you infect everyone. 

The thermal detection cameras were first put in use in selected places in county-owned buildings last fall, and now, with the Board of Commissioners opening up their meetings to a limited number of members of the general public for the first time in over a year, there’s a camera mounted at the public entrance to the building.

The cameras are said to be accurate to .1 degree and, under ideal conditions, can take a temperature reading in about one second.

Two county employees at the Thursday, May 20 county commissioners meeting said that now county employees have to constantly have their temperature taken remotely.

“It’s every time we go out and come back in a building,” one employee said.

 If they are walking too fast for an accurate read, or if they, say, bring a hot cup of coffee up to their face while the camera is taking their temperature, they’ll be delayed by security and made to stand and face the camera to get an accurate reading.

The first phase of implementation of the system included 21 cameras and smart “Artificial-Intelligence” software at a cost of about $420,000. In addition to the cost of the actual system, there are other costs as well – such as that of training county employees or hiring new ones – and paying them to monitor the images of people entering buildings.

Some county commissioners asked last year if the expensive cameras were necessary since the pandemic will likely be over one day.  County staff who supported making the purchase stated that the cameras are also very good security cameras and they therefore increase safety in Guilford County buildings.

One county employee said that the new camera surveillance is certainly going to keep dedicated employees from trying to show up for work when they’re running a fever.

“No more days of coming to work with a 105-degree temperature because something has to get done,” he said.