As the SouthCoast continues to deal with a post-holiday COVID-19 wave, some local school districts are getting creative in how they are trying to curb the spread of the virus.

Back in July, we reported that the Bristol County Sheriff's Office was the first law enforcement agency in the United States to train K-9 units to sniff out COVID-19. Those dogs, both one-year-old Labrador retrievers, are now being put to work for Fairhaven Public Schools. Their names are Duke, a yellow lab, and Huntah, a black lab.

Their job? To detect COVID germs that may be brewing in classrooms or in other common areas of the schools.

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According to Jonathan Darling, spokesperson for the sheriff's office, the labs are brought to potential hot spots in the school, like the cafeteria, and are walked around the area. If one of the dogs smells COVID, they will sit down, giving a heads up to the school nurse, the cleaning staff, and the principal that the area has been exposed to the virus.

"Believe it or not, COVID has a smell," Darling said. "And anything that has a scent, the dogs can detect." However, Darling pointed out that the K-9s are not used to detect COVID on people. The program is designed as a sanitation helper.

Right now, the dogs are visiting one school each day in Fairhaven. The program has grown from the Freetown-Lakeville School District to now include Fairhaven and Norton.

"We hope to get more school districts onboard," Darling said. "We're trying to help keep people safe."

How accurate are the dogs for COVID detection?

"The researchers and scientists who led the training at Florida International University say they are 99 percent accurate," Darling said.

Darling described the labs as friendly and lovable.

"We certainly have aggressive apprehension dogs, but these aren't them," he said.

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