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Florida university trains dogs to detect COVID-19

The dogs will be used on campus and at the state emergency operations center in Tallahassee.
Credit: AP
Police handlers pet their COVID-19 sniffer dogs after a demonstration to the press at the Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport in Santiago, Chile, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. Coronavirus sniffer dogs will start working on Tuesday at the airport, according to the Interior Minister's office. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

MIAMI — One Florida university says it's trained and will use dogs to detect COVID-19 on campus and at the state Capitol. 

According to a release, the dogs were trained by Florida International University's International Forensic Research Institute (IFRI). 

The school says the dogs will work on campus during the spring semester to try to control the spread of coronavirus at the school. 

The dogs will also sweep the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee next week, the school said. 

Two of the four dogs that are trained to detect COVID-19 were previously trained to identify the smell of a specific fungus that killed a lot of avocado trees in South Florida, according to the school. 

“COVID-19 produces unique odor chemicals and also causes metabolic changes in those infected with the virus, resulting in odors that dogs can detect,” said IFRI Director DeEtta Mills in a release. 

The COVID-19 detecting team is made up of a Belgian Malinois, a Dutch Shepherd and two small rescue dogs, according to the school. The school says the dogs were trained to detect coronavirus odors first in a lab and now in larger spaces such as auditoriums, computer labs and libraries. 

FIU says the size difference of the dogs helps the team detect the virus in "hard-to-reach spaces" such as between and under chairs. According to the school, the dogs are still continuing their training and hope the dogs will be able to detect the virus with upwards of 90-percent accuracy. 

Also in Florida, COVID dogs will be used to screen fans for the virus ahead of Miami Heat games, according to CBS News. According to CBS, fans will be brought to a screening area and the dogs will walk past them. If they detect the coronavirus, they'll sit down, and the guest won't be allowed to attend the game, the news outlet reports. 

That's in addition to other COVID-19 safety protocols in place for the game including the limited capacity of 2,000 fans, a health screening questionnaire, mask mandate and cashless transactions at AmericanAirlines Arena, CBS says. 

In contrast, other sports teams in Florida have either stopped or have yet to admit fans to games. Here in Tampa, Amalie Arena was originally open to a limited number of fans for the Toronto Raptors games while the team utilizes the facility as its home base. However, because of rising COVID-19 cases across the state, Amalie revised its plan and stopped allowing fans for the time being. 

That also means the reigning Stanley Cup Champs Tampa Bay Lightning won't have fans cheering them on during home games. 

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