Mass vaccination event could be a model in Nebraska

(AP) A mass vaccination event in Lincoln that helped Nebraska record one of its most productive days in its campaign to distribute shots could serve as a model for future events.

Health officials in Lincoln said roughly 2,400 health care workers received the vaccine Friday at the event held at the Pinnacle Bank Arena. That helped the state administer 8,701 doses of the vaccine on Friday in what was the second-busiest day of the campaign so far.

Jan. 5 — when 13,660 doses of the vaccine were administered — is the busiest day so far. The state has been averaging about 4,500 shots a day over the past two weeks as it works to speed up distribution of the vaccine.

Pat Lopez, director of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, said Friday’s mass vaccination event was successful with most people able to get their shots and get out of the arena in less than 30 minutes.

Currently, the state is receiving about 23,500 doses of coronavirus vaccines each week that are distributed statewide.

The state said 599 cases of the virus were reported Saturday. A total of 186,854 cases and 1,879 deaths have been recorded so far.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus dipped below 400 for the first time since October Saturday when 390 people were being treated.


Heat to use COVID-19-sniffing dogs to screen fans at games

1:14 PM CT on 1/24/21

(AP) The Miami Heat are bringing back some fans, with help from some dogs.

The Heat will use coronavirus-sniffing dogs at AmericanAirlines Arena to screen fans who want to attend their games. They’ve been working on the plan for months, and the highly trained dogs have been in place for some games this season where the team has allowed a handful of guests — mostly friends and family of players and staff.

Starting this week, a limited number of ticket holders will be in the seats as well, provided they get past the dogs first.

“If you think about it, detection dogs are not new,” said Matthew Jafarian, the Heat’s executive vice president for business strategy. “You’ve seen them in airports, they’ve been used in mission critical situations by the police and the military. We’ve used them at the arena for years to detect explosives.”

The first Heat game with ticket holders is set for Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers. Monday is the first day that season ticket holders will be able to start securing their seats.

The Heat have sold out 451 consecutive games, the sixth-longest streak in NBA history. Sellouts obviously aren’t happening this year. The Heat will keep attendance under 2,000 for now, or less than 10% of the arena’s typical capacity.

“Please note that seating will be very limited, as we will be observing proper physical distancing,” the team said in its letter to season ticket holders.

The coronavirus-sniffing dog idea has been put into place at airports in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Helsinki, Finland, in recent months. At Heat games, fans arriving for the game will be brought to a screening area and the detection dogs will walk past. If the dog keeps going, the fan is cleared; if the dog sits, that’s a sign it detects the virus and the fan will be denied entry.

Other protocols the Heat will use: A health screening questionnaire will be mandatory for all guests, masks must be worn continually and only soda and water will be sold. All transactions will be cashless and if a fan feels ill during a game, isolation rooms will be available.

And if a fan is allergic to or afraid of dogs, the Heat are offering an option to skip the dog screening and submit to a rapid antigen test instead. The Heat say those tests can be processed in less than 45 minutes.

The move comes at a time where some arenas in Florida — such as Amalie Arena in Tampa, home of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and temporary home of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors — are not allowing any fans, despite doing so earlier this season. The NHL’s Florida Panthers, who play about a half-hour north of Miami, have allowed fans.

It also comes during a month when the NBA has postponed 19 games because of virus-related issues such as positive tests or multiple players on a team being flagged by contact tracing.

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