The Miami Heat will welcome a limited number of fans (1,500) when the Los Angeles Clippers visit AmericanAirlines Arena on January 28th. The reigning Eastern Conference champs are taking an unusual step to ensure fans’ safety, stationing COVID-sniffing dogs—yes, you read that right—at stadium entry points.
According to Des Bieler of the Washington Post, the dogs are trained to detect the virus in under 10 seconds. Though this is the first instance of a sports team relying on dogs for COVID screening, canine units have been deployed elsewhere around the world including at airports in Chile, Finland and the United Arab Emirates.
“Alternate testing” without dogs will be available, though fans who opt for this method will go through a more rigorous process that could take up to 45 minutes. If any guest within a given group is flagged, the entire party will be denied entry. Arena safety guidelines mandate all fans two years and older are required to wear masks.
“We’re taking a little bit of a leap forward,” admitted executive VP of business strategy Matthew Jafarian. “But like with anything new, somebody’s got to take the first step.”
As of now, only a handful of home venues throughout the league remain open to the public with the Cavaliers, Hawks, Jazz, Magic, Pelicans and Rockets among teams accommodating fans in a limited capacity. The Raptors, who have taken up residence in Tampa as a result of travel restrictions, had initially allowed for fans, but have since paused fan attendance until further notice due to a recent COVID spike in Central Florida.