MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler addressed issues News 5 brought to light from research conducted by an independent organization over the 144 thermal cameras the system bought. The cameras were meant to detect students and employees with elevated temperatures and help thwart the spread of COVID-19.
The cost of getting and installing the equipment was $1m. The cameras were manufactured by a Chinese company controlled by the Chinese government—their products have been banned for use by U.S. government branches.
“We haven’t had any conversation with China–I don’t call China up, China doesn’t call me,” said Superintendent Eddie Tyler. “I know there are all kinds of conspiracy theories out there.”
IPVM is an organization that tests and reports on video surveillance equipment, and now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, they test and report on thermal imaging systems. A spokesperson for the group says they do not accept advertising or referrals.
In a report, IPVM took issue with the claims about the Hikvision cameras that they could scan the temperatures of up to thirty people a second.
“We don’t believe that it’s technically possible to take many measurements at once that at the same time are useful and accurate measurements,” said IPVM’s Conor Healy.
IPVM says doing it that way does not comply with FDA guidelines. But the school system says they weren’t aiming for FDA guidelines–just a first line of defense against spread of the virus.
The principal of Fairhope East Elementary explained the strategy. “So the second line of defense is getting that child to the nurse to get a true reading,” said Carol Broughton.
Another school system staff member said in the few days that schools have been open, he has not heard from nurses about false readings from the cameras, which IPVM also reported could happen.
Tyler said, “We purchased these to protect our students and employees and that’s exactly what it’s doing.”
Tyler also said the system depended on the vendor, Hunter Security, and that people were welcome to ask them questions. News 5 asked Hunter Security’s Scott Hunter to contact us so we could ask questions, but we have not heard back. IPVM also tried to contact Hunter Security but they have not heard back either.
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