NASCAR officials plan to introduce a new COVID-19 screening process this weekend, using trained dogs to detect Coronavirus among crew members and essential personnel for Sunday’s Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
A “beta test” being deployed before the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (3 p.m. ET/ TV: FOX) has the potential to be a “first line of at-track defense intended to limit the disease’s spread.”
NASCAR teams were notified of the changes on Tuesday. To which some crew members wanted more details from the sanctioning body on how the process would be handled if an individual tested positive after sharing a charter jet with other members of the community. Also, if that entire group of people would be subject to quarantine after having exposure to the presumed positive individual.
NASCAR responded by saying after an alert, those individuals will be isolated and subject to comprehensive secondary screening by the American Medical Response (AMR) Safety Team’s lead physicians to determine their status for Sunday’s race.
However, The K-9 unit will not be used to screen NASCAR Cup Series drivers, who remain apart from the garage footprint on race day, or the limited number of fans in the grandstands during Sunday’s trial run.
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.”
NASCAR will work with 360 K-9 Group, which has training facilities in Anniston, Alabama, and New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Two teams of dogs will screen essential personnel, assessing in less than 30 seconds per person whether COVID-19 is present and then alerting their handlers if the disease is detected.
A set of similar measures has been taken by the NBA to allow fan back into arena this season. Miami Heat fans were able to watch their team for the first time in January, thanks to the COVID dogs.
“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.”
NASCAR was the first sports organization to return to work after the COVID-19 lockdown hit the US last year.