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Heat unveil COVID-19 protocols for returning fans, including virus-sniffing dogs

The Miami Heat will welcome a limited number of fans for the first time this season when the team hosts the Los Angeles Clippers at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Anyone hoping to attend the game should be prepared to navigate COVID-19 protocols even before getting inside the arena. These enhanced procedures will involve the novel use of COVID-19-sniffing dogs.

The Heat has laid out on its official website how the organization has “implemented a number of new COVID-19 health and safety measures to help mitigate the risk of exposure and create the safest game day experience possible.”

A video on the Heat’s site demonstrates how “all individuals will be scanned by a COVID-19 Detection Dog upon arrival.” A tweet shared by Yahoo Sports Wednesday appears to show how the dogs will be utilized ahead of Thursday’s game going forward.

Fans will be lined up in the screen area separated by socially distanced dots. The dogs will walk past each individual, sniffing them. If one of the dogs sits down next to a fan, that person will not be allowed entry into the arena.

An arena staff member will then assist fans denied entry in receiving a refund as well as provide additional health information, per wyff4.com

While the science isn’t exact with the dogs at this stage, initial studies have yielded encouraging results. The dogs can detect the scent of the coronavirus in a person’s sweat and are believed to be able to detect the virus before a person is symptomatic.

“We’re familiar with explosive detection canines, drug dogs and so forth, and in this case, the dogs are trained on the odor of the virus, or the metabolic changes of a person that produce an odor that they can be trained to alert to,” said Kenneth Furton, the provost and executive vice president of Florida International University, which developed a task force to train COVID-detecting dogs, per NBC News.

Along with the virus-sniffing dogs, fans who hope to attend upcoming Heat games will have to comply with additional extensive protocols, including filling out a questionnaire. Fans who will be seated within 30 feet of the court will also be given COVID-19 rapid tests.

Despite all the new rules and regulations, the Heat cannot wait to have up to 2,000 fans in the seats on Thursday night.

Thursday’s tipoff is at 8:00 ET. Masks are of course required.