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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

Nov. 22, 2021 (This report is updated weekly)

Confirmed Cases

  • Current: SDSTA—0; non-SDSTA—0
  • Total: SDSTA—37; non-SDSTA—28

Quarantined Individuals

  • Current: SDSTA—0; non-SDSTA—0
  • Total: SDSTA—102; non-SDSTA—72

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: August 31, 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 COVID-19 plans that:

  • Follow current CDC hygiene guidance and basic precautions,
  • establish cleaning procedures for work areas,
  • develop and maintain a mechanism for ensuring compliance with these COVID-19 protocols,
  • utilize a risk-based approach supported by associated risk analysis,
  • 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 remain discontinued. Anyone having
COVID-19 like symptoms (
symptoms.html) shall not attempt to enter SURF property.
Face Coverings

  • Mask requirements will be based on the transmission rate in Lawrence County according to CDC definitions that use metrics based on the number of weekly per capita cases and the positivity rate.
  • All on-site personnel shall carry a CDC compliant face covering (surgical or cloth mask) with them at all times.
  • When working outside on the surface, or in unfinished areas underground, all personnel shall stay at least a minimum of six (6) feet from other people, whenever possible. If personnel are required to work at a distance of six feet or less around others for more than a total of 15 minutes in 24 hours, they shall wear a face covering.
  • All personnel working in any SDSTA-owned enclosed building space or operational laboratory space (surface and underground) shall wear a CDC compliant 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.
  • All personnel are required to wear a CDC compliant face covering while on the Ross and Yates Shaft conveyances (including shaft cages).
  • An N-95 or half mask respirator can be worn in lieu of a surgical or cloth mask at any time but is not required. If a respirator is worn, respirator fit testing is required.
  • When 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 CFR1910.134.
  • Personnel shall avoid congregating in common spaces for meals or breaks and can remove their mask when eating as long as a minimum of a six-foot distance from others is maintained.
  • Personnel are reminded to discard used disposable masks in a trash receptacle.

Personal 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 against COVID-19 or why they may or may not be vaccinated.

On-Site Work and Meetings

  • Telecommuting is encouraged when it is compatible with the assigned work.
  • All are encouraged to use electronic communications tools whenever possible.
  • In the event a conference room is required, the table below defines the maximum occupancy.
  • 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 53 persons
E&O Classroom

6 persons

ROC Main Floor Break/Training Room 5 persons
ROC Upper Floor Large Meeting Room 6 persons
ROC Upper Floor Collaboration/Breakroom 4 persons

Travel Controls

  • All SDSTA personnel work travel will be limited to essential functions 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 at
    • 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. Unvaccinated 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.

Fully vaccinated personnel who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 or someone who is symptomatic
can safely refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic. However, fully vaccinated
people should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms. Fully vaccinated
personnel still must self-monitor for any COVID-19 like symptoms. If vaccinated personnel have
symptoms, they must isolate away from the site.

SDSTA no longer provides administrative leave for SDSTA employees quarantined due to COVID-19. If a
SDSTA employee becomes ill for any reason or is required to quarantine, they will be required to take
accrued sick leave or vacation.

SURF requires employers 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 close 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. These controls will be
updated as needed to address the current COVID-19 risk profile. 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.