There’s good news for Miami Heat fans who want to attend a game in person at the AmericanAirlines Arena. Instead of having long swabs inserted up their nostrils to test for COVID-19, attendees will be checked by COVID-19 detection dogs who’ll use their own noses to get results within 10 seconds.
About 1,500 season ticket holders will be allowed into the arena for the game on Jan. 28. That is, unless a COVID-19 detection dog sniffs out the virus. In that case, the fan and everyone in their party will get a refund and be asked to leave, even if the fan has proof of a previously negative COVID test. Additional safety protocols will also be in place, such as a requirement for everyone older than 2 years old to wear a mask, physical distancing, and a ban on eating and drinking inside the arena.
Fans who are uncomfortable around dogs can be tested for COVID-19 the traditional way, but it will take about 45 minutes as opposed to several seconds.
The Miami Heat is the first NBA team to use Coronavirus-sniffing dogs this way, but it very likely won’t be the last. If all goes well, the team will increase the number of COVID-19 detection dog teams from four to at least 10 for future games.
“We’re taking a little bit of a leap forward,” Matthew Jafarian, the team’s executive vice president of business strategy, told the Washington Post. “We’re out in front on this, but like with anything new, somebody’s got to take the first step.”
The dogs are being provided by a company that trains dogs to detect COVID-19 as well as explosive devices and prohibited agriculture products at airports. When a dog sniffs out COVID-19, they alert their handler by sitting down. The dogs have been trained to sniff out the active virus and won’t signal if someone has received the vaccine.
A July 2020 study found that trained dogs could sniff out COVID-19 in human saliva and respiratory secretions with 94% accuracy. Although the dogs’ noses are very accurate, Jafarian warned that if they do sniff out COVID-19, it “is not considered a diagnostic test.”
Thanks to the Coronavirus-sniffing dogs and other safety measures, Jafarian told the Washington Post the Miami Heat believes “it’s going to be safer in our arena than getting on an airplane, sitting next to all these people who aren’t tested, or eating at a restaurant, where everybody’s not masked — it’s going to be safer than all those things.”