Want to watch basketball? Gotta get sniffed first.
dog at airport
Credit: Naypong Studio / Adobe Stock

COVID-19 detection dogs will screen Miami Heat fans who return to watch their NBA team play this week, making sure the limited number of patrons are free of the coronavirus before they enter the arena.

Beginning Thursday, under 2,000 Heat fans—about 10 percent of the normal amount—will be able to watch their basketball team play at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Associated Press reports. But before they get in, they'll have to get permission from the detection dogs, who are being used for their coronavirus-sniffing smarts increasingly around the globe.

Last spring, Finnish scientists found that dogs can "reliably" identify a human who has COVID-19. Researchers then deployed several detection dogs at the Helsinki airport, where they sniff passengers' sweat samples. The dogs take only 10 seconds to determine whether a person has the virus, so they don't slow the passengers down. 

The Washington Post reported that coronavirus detection dogs in the United Arab Emirates had recorded an accuracy rate of more than 90 percent when testing airline passengers. 

In Miami, the Heat will use a similar process. According to the team website, fans attending the games will stand in socially distant lines as the COVID-19 detection dog walks by each of them. If the dog doesn't "signal," then the group of fans may enter the arena. On the flip side, if the dog signals by sitting down next to a fan, then that person can't go inside. Additionally, if that person is with a group, the entire group can't go in for the game. 

Fans can opt out of being sniffed, but the only other option is a COVID-19 test that will take up to 45 minutes to yield results, the team says. Without either on-site test, fans can't get into the game, and that includes people who've already received a vaccine for COVID-19.

Inside the arena, fans over the age of 2 will be required to wear masks and maintain distance between their group and others.