NASCAR introduced plans to try out a new type of Covid-19 screening using specially trained dogs at Sunday’s Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend.
Trained canines will be used in order to check for Covid-19 among essential workers before Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500. The goal is to prevent the spread of the virus early on in the event, and the process will be used as a trial run. Nascar stated, “It’s the latest development in an evolving process and one that could present an efficient, highly accurate and cost-effective supplement to the existing procedures.”
“We think that these dogs and this capability is going to allow us to rapidly confirm that all of those people entering the essential footprint on Sunday — that’s race teams, that’s NASCAR officials, that’s the vendors that work inside the garage — all those folks are COVID-free or not,” said Tom Bryant, NASCAR managing director of racing operations. “The ability to do that has kind of been the math problem that we have continuously tried to solve since March of last year.”
The group of dogs comes from 360 K9 Group, which has training areas in Anniston, Alabama, and New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Two different groups of dogs will examine workers. In less than 30 seconds per individual, the dogs should be able to tell if Covid-19 is detected and make their handlers aware of their discovery.
If Covid-19 is detected in someone by one of the dogs, the person will be separated from other groups of people and undergo “comprehensive secondary screening” by the American Medical Response Safety Team’s top doctors in order to check if they can work at the race on Sunday. Nascar noted that the K9 screening method will not be utilized in order to check for Covid-19 in Cup Series drivers or any of the spectators that arrive.
Bryant is a 20-year U.S. Army veteran and is familiar with the capability of dogs to locate bombs and weapons in the military. With the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dogs have also been deployed in order to find citrus canker, which is a disease that can damage crops near Bryant’s home in Florida.
“They are amazing,” Bryant said. “This gives us essentially an ability to test that essential population on race day and know right away that those folks who have cleared this enhanced screening process with a very high degree of confidence are COVID-free. We’ll learn from what we do Sunday, and we’ll figure the ways to best employ this capability moving forward to ensure that we’re keeping the population as safe as we can, keeping the least amount of risk in the environment.”
The 360 K9 Group states that clinical studies prove dogs can use the same bio-detection methods that they use in order to find harmful diseases on crops in order to detect Covid-19 in human beings. They report that dogs can achieve this detection at an accuracy rate of 98%.
With Nascar fans and employees eager to get back to the track, this new method could be a way to move the community towards a sense of community more efficiently and safely.
“As much as things are getting better, it’s still very much a challenge,” Bryant said. “So this tool is going to help us as the virus evolves, we’re evolving with our approach to how we minimize exposure and create the safest possible environment to race.
“You’ve heard the drivers and everybody in the industry talk about the energy and the sense you get and the feeling you get when you’ve got all the fans right there, enjoying the action. That’s what we’re going to get back to, and I’m a big optimist that we’re much closer to getting back to that than we were. I’m really excited for the day when that comes, and this is a tool that can help us get closer to that.”
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