NASCAR is finally going to screen most of its participants for coronavirus at the track. And it's going to use dogs to do those screenings.
NASCAR announced Tuesday that team members would be sniffed by dogs trained to sniff for COVID-19 ahead of this weekend's races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Coronavirus-detecting dogs have been used at sporting events previously. The Miami Heat have screened fans with dogs ahead of home games.
“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,” NASCAR managing director of operations Tom Bryant told NASCAR's website. “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 "math problem" that Bryant refers to in his final sentence is one that has been easily solved for months by regular coronavirus testing of all participants. But while every other major sports association and league in the United States has resumed competition in part by regularly testing its participants, NASCAR has not done any regular screening outside of questionnaires and temperature checks until the pending introduction of the dogs.
While NASCAR said 10 months ago that it wasn't testing participants because of testing availability, tests quickly became easily accessible and available to sports leagues willing to pay for them as the pandemic continued through 2020.
And NASCAR's dog screening won't be used on its most recognizable personalities either. According to the article on NASCAR's website, Cup Series drivers will not be screened because they "remain apart from the garage footprint on race day." That means drivers in NASCAR's top series will remain the only major American sports participants to not be regularly screened ahead of races.
The use of the dogs, however, could have benefits for NASCAR down the road once fans come to races in bigger numbers. The sanctioning body could utilize the dogs to screen fans like the Heat does at future races.
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