Employees at Miami Airport Before they go to work have been put to the sniff test from a pair of specially trained service dogs that can detect COVID-19.
So far the pilot project launched last month has detected a pair of cases and will be extended until October and could be expanded to other key facilities.
Cobra, a Belgian Malinois, and One Betta, a Dutch shepherd, inspect staff at a checkpoint where employees are required to remove masks and dangle it in front of either dog. The dogs sit to signal if they detect an odor produced by volatile organic compounds common to those infected with COVID-19. The service dogs are 97.5% accurate in detecting the virus, said Dr. Kenneth Furton, provost and executive vice president of Florida International University, at a press conference last week.
Cobra and One Betta work Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. During the eight days that they’ve reported for duty, Miami-Dade Aviation Department Communications Director Greg Chin said the COVID-sniffing canines reviewed 1,093 employees, or about 136 employees per day.
Thus far, the dogs detected two cases. One employee tested positive; the other was recovering from COVID-19.
“After a successful start, the program was extended to the end of October, which gives us more time to collect valuable data on the accuracy and efficiency of the COVID-19 detector dog program,” Furton told the Miami Herald by email. “Because it seems like we’ll be living with this virus for a while, these dogs are an effective way of adding another safeguard against the coronavirus.”
If the dogs signal for COVID-19, the employee would take a rapid COVID test and, if they tested positive, they would be asked to leave and quarantine according to CDC guidelines.
The pilot launched the last week of August through a partnership between the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, Global Forensic and Justice Center, and Florida International University. Miami-Dade County Commissioner for District 9 Kionne McGhee sponsored a 30-day program early this year; the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners approved plans in March 2021. It is the first U.S. airport to use COVID-19 detector dogs, according to Chin.
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