Miami Heat News: Coronavirus-Sniffing Dogs to Screen Fans at Games

The NBA has struggled with COVID-19-related issues since the start of the 2020-21 season, resulting in multiple postponed games. However, the Miami Heat are taking a new approach to begin allowing fans into the building. The team will implement coronavirus-sniffing dogs to detect infected fans.

According to CBS News, the fans will have to go into a screening area before entering the arena. The coronavirus-sniffing dog will then walk past. If the canine keeps going, the fan can proceed into the game. If the dog sits, security will view the movement as a sign that the fan has the virus. The individual will be unable to attend the game.

"If you think about it, detection dogs are not new," said Matthew Jafarian, the Heat's executive vice president for business strategy. "You've seen them in airports; they've been used in mission critical situations by the police and the military. We've used them at the arena for years to detect explosives."

CBS News reports that a pilot study in Germany revealed that dogs could sniff out those carrying the virus with very little training. Eight dogs from Germany's armed forces trained for a mere five days before having the ability to identify the virus in humans. These animals sniffed the saliva of more than 1,000 people, both healthy and infected, and identified the coronavirus with a 94% success rate.

The researchers said that the dogs could use these talents to help prevent further outbreaks in various settings. They listed public areas such as airports, sporting events and borders. The researchers also said that they believe they have created a solid foundation for future testing.

The Heat will implement other guidelines to ensure the health of attendees. Fans that are afraid of or allergic to dogs will have the option of skipping the dog screening and submitting to a rapid antigen test. The team says that those tests can be processed in less than 45 minutes.

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Additionally, the Heat will also implement a mandatory health screening questionnaire for all guests at the arena. These fans must continually wear masks during the game. The arena will not sell any beverages other than soda and water. All transactions will be cashless. If a fan feels ill during a game, the arena staff will provide isolation rooms.

The first game to allow ticket holders will take place on Thursday. The Heat will host the Clippers at AmericanAirlines Arena. Monday was the first day that the ticket holders could begin securing their seats. However, the team is only allowing fewer than 2,000 people for the time being.