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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

NASCAR To Test COVID-Sniffing Dogs This Weekend

360 K9 Group

NASCAR is testing out some new, furry employees this weekend: dogs trained to sniff out COVID-19. Two Belgian Malinois breed dogs will sniff roughly 1,000 competitors and pit crew members for about 20 seconds each at Sunday’s Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“The dogs allow us to rapidly screen — and, essentially test — that essential population before they go into the garage ... in a very rapid amount of time,” said Tom Bryant, the managing director of racing operations for NASCAR. “So we can have that high degree of confidence that folks are COVID-free participating on Sunday.”

The dogs have been trained by a company called 360 K9 Group to detect a scent associated with the coronavirus. NASCAR will run a rapid test on anyone that the dogs flag, according to Bryant.

“I do see us, depending on how Sunday goes, potentially using the dogs not only for the essential population and competitors but also for certain guest areas, as well,” Bryant said.

Similar dogs are being used to screen fans at Miami Heat games for COVID-19, CNN reported, though the science isn’t yet clear whether dogs can detect coronavirus infection in people.

Dogs’ sensitive noses have long been employed for bomb-sniffing and search and rescue. A recent studyshowed that dogs can also use their heightened sense of smell to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with nearly 97% accuracy.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.