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Check this page for ongoing Sanford Lab updates regarding COVID-19

This page provides the latest updates from Sanford Lab regarding COVID-19, including information on operations and cancelations. For public resources on COVID-19, please refer to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the South Dakota Department of Health.

See our complete list of COVID-19 resources and information for employees.

Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about our response to COVID-19.

May 6, 2020, COVID-19 Update

Beginning May 6, SURF will implement additional COVID-related controls and transition to day and night shift underground operations and day shift operations for science and surface projects. More details.

April 14, 2020, COVID-19 Update

Due to continued health and safety concerns during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Level 3 minimal essential operations period at SURF has been extended through May 1, 2020.

April 3, 2020, COVID-19 Update

According to the South Dakota Department of Health, Lawrence County is classified as having substantial community spread of COVID-19. As a result, we have extended our Level 3 minimal essential operations mode through April 15, 2020. Fortunately, we continue to have zero COVID-19 cases at SURF.

The following controls are in place for all SURF activities to protect the health and safety of personnel working at SURF:

  • For SDSTA staff, work-related travel is suspended. Any exceptions require Executive Director approval.
  • For all personnel requiring access to SURF, they must report any travel outside a 100-mile radius of Lead, SD. Travelers coming from outside the 100-mile radius must self-quarantine for 14 days and be symptom free prior to being allowed access to SURF. Travel should be reported to SURF’s occupational nurse, Laura Baatz (, x258, 605-722-5041).
  • In person meeting attendance is limited to 10 people. Use of electronic communications should be used whenever possible.
  • Physical distancing should be utilized in all settings. Staff are required to remain at least 6 feet apart. Precautions associated with personnel transportation via the cages remain in effect including reduced maximum headcount and use of PPE.
  • SURF will continue to support very limited site access for critical experiment maintenance and monitoring.

We continue to place additional disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer sitewide. If you need additional supplies in your work area, please notify your supervisor.

March 25, 2020, COVID-19 Update

As of March 25, 2020, there are no reported cases of COVID-19 at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to advance in South Dakota, the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) will temporarily transition activities at SURF to a Level 3 minimal essential operations mode for a period of at least two weeks.

This transition is necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19 and preserve the health and safety of SDSTA staff, researchers, contractors and the surrounding public.

Level 3 minimal essential operations mode is defined as continuing only those operations and maintenance activities necessary to preserve critical facility infrastructure and maintain existing science experiments. During this period, construction activities will be halted.

Until recently, a large majority of COVID-19 cases detected in South Dakota were traced back to persons who had recently traveled out of state. The experimental and construction activities currently underway at Sanford Lab involve significant numbers of persons coming from outside South Dakota on a steady basis, including some persons coming from areas with significant numbers of COVID-19 cases, thus increasing the risk of spreading the virus.

Given the nature of these activities, we believe the best course of action is to temporarily reduce operations at Sanford Lab to Level 3 minimum essential level, thereby decreasing the risk of spreading the disease to our staff and partners.

“I am convinced we are taking the right steps to ensure the safety of our team and partners,” said Casey Peterson, chair of the SDSTA Board during an emergency Board Meeting March 25, 2020. “I am also convinced that the steps we are taking will sustain us in the future without adversely impacting operations at Sanford Lab.”

Sanford Lab is following the lead of numerous governmental entities and business organizations in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. The City of Rapid City, the Butte County Commission, and the Deadwood Gaming Association, have mandated or adopted recommendations for business closure, travel restrictions, and other practices intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

SURF’s transition to Level 3 operations is directly aligned with South Dakota Governor Noem’s Executive Order dated March 23, 2020. This order encourages employers to “implement the recommended CDC hygiene practices and other business strategies designed to reduce the likelihood of spreading [COVID-19].”


March 18, 2020, COVID-19 Update

With the evolving COVID-19 response and to protect onsite personnel, the SDSTA is adding the following new controls for work activities at SURF:

  • The maximum headcount for Yates Shaft cages has been decreased from 30 to 10. Additional cage runs have been established. Please see the Trip Action Plan database for details.
  • Everyone is highly encouraged to limit meeting attendance to 10 or fewer people. Social distancing should be utilized in all settings.

The following existing controls remain in place:

  • For SDSTA staff, international travel and non-essential US business travel is suspended.
  • SDSTA staff must self-report personal domestic (more than 100-mile radius) or international travel to SURF’s occupational nurse, Laura Baatz (, x258, 605-722-5041).
  • Travelers from CDC Level 3 countries must be symptom free for 14 days before being allowed access at SURF.
  • Use of electronic communications is highly encouraged whenever possible.
  • Large group meetings, events, non-essential site visits, and public and K-12 outreach activities have been cancelled for the foreseeable future to reduce exposure.
  • Custodial services have been expanded to include additional sanitizing of frequently touched surface areas.
  • Additional disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer have been made available sitewide. If you need additional supplies in your work area, please notify your supervisor.


March 16, 2020, COVID-19 Update

In an effort to protect our staff, researchers, contractors and visitors during the COVID-19 outbreak, Sanford Lab will transition to reduced-staff operations mode on Tuesday, March 17.

We will continue to operate two shifts per day but are implementing an increased level of  telecommuting to reduce the number of personnel onsite. Additionally, we have extended the cancelation of public events and school field trips until further notice. Our operations mode is subject to change as the national and statewide situation develops. 

March 11, 2020, COVID-19 Update

As of March 11, 2020, five COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases have been confirmed in South Dakota. It is important to take this seriously, but there is no reason to panic. If we do our part to prevent the spread of viruses like COVID-19 and the flu, we all have a better chance of staying healthy.

In an effort to slow the spread of and limit exposure to COVID-19, SURF-sponsored events, gatherings and large meetings, including student field trips and group site visits have been canceled.

Everyone is encouraged to access the resources provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn more about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself.