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Sniffing Out COVID-19: Miami Heat Will Use Dogs to Screen Fans for the Virus 


Screening individuals for illness before they enter a building or get on a plane has become common practice these days. If someone has a temperature over 100 degrees F, they are better off staying at home. You’ve probably had a temperature gun pointed at your face at some point during the pandemic, but this isn’t always fool-proof. Someone may be infected with the virus even though they don’t have a fever.

That’s why the National Basketball Association recently announced it will use coronavirus-sniffing dogs to make sure employees, players, and fans are free of the virus before entering the stadium or arena.

The next time you attend an event in-person or catch a flight, don’t be surprised if you are asked to pass the dog-sniffing test.

Bringing Fans Back on Site

The NBA made history last year for enacting the famous NBA bubble, which meant keeping players, coaches, and even members of the press in complete quarantine during the last eight games of the regular season and throughout the 2020 Playoffs. 

Now, the NBA is gearing up for another season, but this time, teams are hoping to bring some fans back to the stadium.

The Miami Heat recently announced it will use dogs trained to sniff out the coronavirus to screen incoming fans before they enter the AmericanAirlines arena later this month.

This marks the first time fans will be allowed onsite since the start of the pandemic. The team says it will allow 1,500 season ticket holders into the stadium. To further prevent the spread, everyone must wear a mask and maintain social distancing. There will also be hand sanitizer stations, and the arena is switching to all cashless transactions.

These canine disease detectives will be stationed at the entrance to the facility. Everyone will have to pass the test before entering the stadium. If one person gets flagged, the entire party will be turned away, according to NBA officials. The dogs have been trained to sniff out the virus, but they won’t react to people that have received the vaccine.

The Miami Heat will be the first team to try this approach. It’s not clear how effective it will be against the spread of COVID-19. The NBA wants to see its regular season play out without interruption, so the world can enjoy some much-needed escapism.

Matthew Jafarian, the Heat’s executive vice president of business strategy, told The Washington Post by phone, “We’re out in front on this, but like with anything new, somebody’s got to take the first step.”

Even though the number of new cases is going down across the country and the vaccine is being administered as fast as possible, the NBA isn’t waiting around for things to get back to the way they were.

Jafarian added, “We don’t want to just sit around and hope that sports returns to normal. We realized that we’ve got to be innovative, and we’ve got to have strong execution if we want to provide a safe environment.”

Does It Work?

This won’t be the first time dogs have been used to sniff out disease and illness. Coronavirus-sniffing dogs have already been deployed at airports in Chile, Finland, and the United Arab Emirates.

Dogs have a history of sniffing out some illnesses, including cancer and malaria.

Jafarian says the team is using dogs from a private company that specializes in training canines for sniffing out bombs and other hazardous items. The dogs will only need about 10 seconds to clear each individual to keep the crowd moving. This is much faster and cheaper than administering a rapid test to everyone who comes into the stadium.

Instead of barking when someone gets flagged, the dogs have been trained to sit down and signal to its owner in a quiet way, so no one gets spooked. If they are flagged, the person will get a full refund as well as information from the CDC on how to protect themselves and others.

The team admits that these dogs are not intended to be used as a diagnostic test. This isn’t the same as taking an actual coronavirus test; it’s just an extra layer of protection on top of additional safety precautions.

The team is taking a “let’s see how it goes” approach. The first game is scheduled for Jan. 28th, and the dogs will be used again in February if all goes as planned.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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