Havens Elementary Students Help with COVID-Detection Training Program

Monday, March 21st, 2022 - Posted in All District News District Communications

First-graders at Havens Elementary School were visited by two special four-legged visitors March 16, as part of a pilot program coordinated by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Early Alert Canines

Already proven to be effective at detecting COVID-19 at airports and concerts, CDPH is currently piloting a training program to understand how accurate similar testing would be in a school environment. With their powerful sense of smell, trained dogs are capable of testing a whole classroom in a matter of seconds and can help reduce anxiety regarding testing.

As part of their training, ‘Rizzo’ and ‘Scarlett’ made a quick sweep of student volunteers, sniffing for signs of COVID-19. Guided by their handlers, the two golden labs quickly sniffed the students without making contact. The dogs are trained to alert their handlers if COVID-19 is detected by sitting in place. All participating students were also tested with an antigen test to compare results. At the conclusion of testing, students were able to greet and pet their new friends. 

If proven effective, CDPH sees the dogs as a potential screening tool. Rapid antigen tests would only be done on individuals that were identified as possibly positive by the dogs. This would be a much faster and less invasive means than current testing models.

Havens first-grade families were informed of the program March 14, were sent a slideshow explaining the program, and had an opportunity to speak with CDPH representatives via Zoom. Participation required parental consent with 75% of first-grade students taking part in the program.

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