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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 the COVID-19 pandemic, including information on operations and cancelations. For public resources on COVID-19, please refer to the Centers 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.

COVID-19 information reported to the Sanford Underground Research Facility

June 15, 2021 (This report is updated weekly)

Confirmed Cases

  • Current: SDSTA—0; non-SDSTA—0
  • Total: SDSTA—22; non-SDSTA—22

Quarantined Individuals

  • Current: SDSTA—0; non-SDSTA—0
  • Total: SDSTA—69; non-SDSTA—53

SDSTA refers to the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, which manages the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF).

Non-SDSTA refers to individuals not employed by the SDSTA but who are doing work at SURF.

NOTE: Individual patient care information is kept confidential. 

SURF COVID-19 Response and Control Requirements

Updated: May 21, 2021                                


The Sanford Underground Research Facility’s (SURF) COVID-19 control requirements are aligned with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements and guidance for employers to implement COVID-19 preparedness, response and control plans. All employers with personnel on-site at SURF are required to have plans that:

  • Follow CDC hygiene guidance and basic precautions,
  • establish cleaning procedures for work areas,
  • develop and maintain an appropriate mechanism for ensuring compliance with these protocols by vaccinated and un-vaccinated persons, 
  • utilize a risk-based approach supported by associated risk analysis,
  • are specific to their workplace and practices,
  • include control measures to eliminate or reduce COVID-19 exposures, and
  • use the hierarchy of controls to establish best practices.

Wellness Checks

Wellness checks at the Ross and Yates Complex front gates will be discontinued as of May 24, 2021.

Un-Vaccinated Personnel

  • On-site un-vaccinated personnel shall carry a CDC compliant face covering (surgical or cloth mask) with them at all times to ensure ready access to a face covering for planned and unplanned interactions.
  • Un-vaccinated personnel shall stay at least six (6) feet from other people, whenever possible. When this cannot be achieved, personnel shall wear a face covering for even short duration interactions. A respirator can also be used to meet this requirement, and its use should be considered when assigned tasks require short duration contact (exceeding a total of 15 minutes in 24 hours) addressed in the Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) for the work activity.
  • Un-vaccinated personnel working in any SDSTA-owned enclosed building space or operational laboratory space (surface and underground) shall wear a face covering at all times except when the individual is alone in a room such as an office.
    • Hoist operators working alone on the hoist platform are exempt from this requirement due to critical communication duties. Personnel who wish to enter the hoist platform must first receive permission to do so, wear a mask and allow the hoist operator to don a mask. Un-vaccinated personnel engaged in tours of a hoistroom shall wear a face covering.
  • Un-vaccinated personnel shall avoid congregating in common spaces for meals or breaks.
  • Personnel are reminded to discard used disposable masks in a trash receptacle.
  • Mandatory respirator use is required for un-vaccinated personnel riding on conveyances. The respirator must have the protection level of an N-95 mask or greater. Also, un-vaccinated personnel riding on conveyances must wear gloves.
  • When mandatory respiratory protection is required, it is the responsibility of each employer to have an established Respiratory Protection Program that meets the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.134 ( SDSTA has a stakeholder equivalency mechanism that provides for fit-testing support as required in 29 CFR 1910.134.

Fully Vaccinated Personnel

  • According to the CDC, personnel are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • Fully vaccinated personnel are not required to wear a mask on the surface or underground. COVID-19 controls in leased space will be governed by Fermilab/Department of Energy requirements.
  • Fully vaccinated personnel are required to wear a CDC compliant face covering while on the Ross and Yates Cage (surgical or cloth mask). An N-95 or half mask respirator can be worn but is not required. If a respirator is worn, respirator fit testing is required.
  • Fully vaccinated personnel riding on the Ross or Yates Cage are not required to wear COVID-related gloves.
  • Vaccinated personnel may wear a mask if they choose.

Vaccination Reporting

  • Each employer will maintain their own vaccination self-reporting and tracking system to understand which of their employees is vaccinated.
  • It will be each organization/company’s responsibility to ensure their personnel are being truthful in reporting of their vaccination status. For example, SDSTA personnel who do not report their vaccination status truthfully will be subject to the SDSTA’s discipline policy up to and including termination.
  • SDSTA will also maintain a confidential list of science researchers working at SURF who wish to self-report their vaccination status to the SURF Occupational Health Nurse.

Personnel Privacy

  • To protect everyone’s privacy, personnel working on-site at SURF are not allowed to directly question or challenge another individual concerning whether they are vaccinated, why they may not be vaccinated, or why they may or may not be wearing a mask.
  • If an individual has a concern about another person’s mask usage, they are to report their concern to their supervisor, who will manage the concern within their company or with their counterpart from another company.

On-Site Work and Meetings

  • In the event a conference room is required, the table below defines the maximum occupancy using room size and maintaining a six-foot physical distancing. The maximum headcount shall be posted at the entrances of each room.
Conference Room Maximum meeting attendence
Admin 1st Floor Vault 6 persons
Admin 1st Floor Executive 6 persons
Admin 2nd Floor Vault 12 persons
Admin 2nd Floor Executive 4 persons
E&O Main 25 persons
E&O Classroom

6 persons

MSF Main Floor Break/Training Room 9 persons
MSF Upper Floor Large Meeting Room 8 persons
MSF Upper Floor Collaboration/Breakroom 5 persons
  • Telecommuting is encouraged when it is compatible with the assigned work.
  • All are encouraged to use electronic communications tools whenever possible.

Travel Controls

  • All SDSTA personnel work travel will be limited to essential functions only and requires approval in advance from the Executive Director.
  • All personnel traveling to SURF are encouraged to follow CDC recommendations for travel including hygiene during travel.
  • All personnel traveling to SURF from outside the United States shall provide to the SURF Occupational Health Nurse:
    • Proof of being fully vaccinated as defined by the CDC, or
    • a confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test taken 3-5 days after arrival to the United States. Un-vaccinated personnel arriving from outside the United States are therefore prohibited from coming to SURF for a minimum of 3 days.
  • All personnel coming to SURF should be alert to COVID-19 symptoms. Personnel shall follow CDC guidance including self-isolation if symptoms develop or if the individual becomes sick.
  • Personnel who appear to have COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival at work or who become sick while at SURF should:
    • Immediately be separated from other personnel and be sent home.
    • Employers shall have a procedure in place for the safe transport of an employee who becomes sick while at work.

Reporting and Quarantine Requirements 

All employers with personnel working at SURF are required to report positive COVID-19 cases along with the number of personnel quarantined within 24-hours of the positive test result to the SURF Occupational Health Nurse at All employers with COVID-19 positive personnel or personnel in quarantine shall provide an update on the number of currently active positive cases and quarantined personnel to the SURF Occupational Health Nurse by Friday at 5PM (MT) each week.

Individuals who are denied access to the SURF site due to COVID-19-related illness will be encouraged to follow CDC guidance and seek medical care as needed. Fully vaccinated personnel can safely refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic.

SURF requires the employer to perform an investigation to identify on-site personnel who may have been exposed to the virus through their interactions with a suspected individual. At a minimum, the investigation shall determine:

  • Persons with whom the suspected individual has been in contact, those with direct or prolonged interactions, and those with incidental or casual interactions. Notifications of potential transmission may be required. (Employers should seek guidance and follow the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act).
  • The locations in which the suspected individual was working and high-touch areas, i.e., doorknobs, handles, food prep equipment, office equipment such as a keyboard or mouse, etc.
  • The tools and equipment the suspected individual was using.
  • Identify the nature of interaction, including:
    • Length of time of interaction.
    • Distance of interaction.
    • Type (if any) of physical contact.
    • PPE used at the time of interaction.


We expect the COVID-19 pandemic dynamics will continue to evolve. These changing dynamics require everyone working at SURF to stay current on regulatory and CDC guidance. As the risk profile of the COVID-19 contagion changes, so may our processes. The SDSTA appreciates everyone’s cooperation as we all strive to keep SURF a safe and healthy place to work.

If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor or SDSTA point of contact.