NASCAR Testing COVID-19-Screening Dogs at Atlanta Race

NASCAR is heading to Atlanta this weekend for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Racing's sanctioning body will incorporate a new screening process before the Cup Series race. Track officials will use COVID-19-screening dogs.

According to NASCAR, the new screening method will debut on a trial basis before Sunday's race. The dogs will screen essential personnel and assess in less than 30 seconds whether the coronavirus is present. The dogs will then alert their handlers after detecting the disease. The 360 K9 Group — which has facilities in Anniston, Alabama, and New Smyrna Beach, Florida — will work with NASCAR to make the screening possible.

"We think that these dogs and this capability is going to allow us to rapidly confirm that all of those people entering the essential footprint on Sunday — that's race teams, that's NASCAR officials, that's the vendors that work inside the garage — all those folks are COVID-free or not," said Tom Bryant, NASCAR managing director of racing operations. "The ability to do that has kind of been the math problem that we have continuously tried to solve since March of last year."

Once the dogs alert their handlers, individuals with coronavirus will go into isolation. They will undergo additional screening by the American Medical Response (AMR) Safety Team's lead physicians to determine their status for the race. However, the K9 unit will not screen Cup Series drivers or the limited number of fans present at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"They are amazing," Bryant added. "This gives us essentially an ability to test that essential population on race day and know right away that those folks who have cleared this enhanced screening process with a very high degree of confidence are COVID-free. We'll learn from what we do Sunday, and we'll figure the ways to best employ this capability moving forward to ensure that we're keeping the population as safe as we can, keeping the least amount of risk in the environment."

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NASCAR is not the first sport to test out the screening dogs. The Miami Heat also began incorporating the canines into the screening process to detect infected fans in January. Matthew Jafarian, the Heat's executive vice president for business strategy, explained at the time that the organization had used dogs at the arena for years to detect bombs.

CBS News reported 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.