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Heat to use coronavirus-detecting dogs when welcoming fans back to arena

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The Miami Heat are allowing fans back into American Airlines Arena for their upcoming games this season, and are implementing an interesting new approach to checking whether those fans are entering safely. The organization will have coronavirus-detecting dogs at the entrance to screen fans for the respiratory disease that has caused a global pandemic.

The Heat are allowing fans into the arena for the first time this season starting Jan. 28, and the crowd will be limited to around 1,500 holders of season tickets. 

Here’s an official statement from the team on how this policy will specifically work: “If you or anyone in your travel party is signaled by a canine, all members of the party will not be permitted to enter the arena. A staff member will notify you of the next steps regarding your ticket purchase.”

As for the purported science behind this decision, there’s apparently a study that indicates that dogs are able to be trained to sniff the virus through human sweat. There are a few caveats with that news, of course. In November, Nature Research published a report noting that “most of these findings have not yet been peer reviewed or published, making it hard for the wider scientific community to evaluate the claims,” and when a CNN report in December covered a version of these studies, it was noted that the dogs’ recognition should not be an end-all, be-all.

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“Even if trained dogs are able to correctly discriminate symptomatic COVID-19 positive individuals from asymptomatic negative ones, they should not be considered a perfect diagnostic test — but rather a complementary tool,” the study reported on by CNN said.

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The organization has offered alternatives for fans concerned about the dog scan, such as going through a 45-minute-long alternative. 

In addition to the dogs, fans that sit 30 feet from the court must take a rapid COVID-19 test on-site prior to the game. This is on top of face mask requirements that are excepted when someone is eating or drinking.


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