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To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Sanford Underground Research Facility follows the guidelines as laid out by the Centers for Disease Control.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Sanford Underground Research Facility follows the guidelines as laid out by the Centers for Disease Control. The site offers recommendations for how to prevent and limit exposure the virus, as well as information on when you should seek medical attention.

Q. How will SURF respond if an employee is being tested for COVID-19? How will the results play out?

A. Anyone who is being tested for possible COVID-19 infection is asked to report their status to SURF’s Occupational Nurse then instructed to self-quarantine. SURF will investigate and initiate an on-site tracing exercise. This includes:

  • Identifying locations in which the employee worked
  • Identifying employees with whom the individual has been in contact.

Based on the tracing exercise finding, we can then identify similar exposure groups, as well as the risk profile of each exposure group, and implement the appropriate safety controls.

  • Those who have worked in close proximity to the individual being tested will be instructed to self-quarantine until results of the test are known.
  •  SURF will initiate a deep cleaning, utilizing a professional cleaning service certified in COVID-19 deep-cleaning processes.

Work can resume when the cleaning is completed.

Q. How will a confirmed case of Covid-19 at SURF affect those employees working on site?

A. Should there be a confirmed case of COVID-19, SURF will require the individual and all those who worked in close proximity, to self-quarantine. A professional deep cleaning will follow before any work can resume.

Q. What protocols do we follow at Sanford Lab regarding Personal Protective Equipment? Are we requiring masks to be worn in addition to physical distancing of six feet?

A. SURF has implemented social distancing protocols for all employees working on site. Steps we have taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 include:

  • All onsite personnel shall carry a face covering (cloth or surgical mask or gaiter) with them at all times to ensure ready access to a face covering for planned and unplanned interactions.
  • When working outside, masks are not required unless working within six feet of others for a sustained period of time.
  • Personnel shall stay at least six feet from other people, whenever possible. When this cannot be achieved, personnel shall wear a face covering for even short duration interactions. A half-mask respirator can also be used to meet this requirement, and its use should be addressed in the Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) for the work activity.
  • Personnel working in any SDSTA-owned enclosed building space or operational laboratory space (surface and underground) shall wear a face covering (cloth or surgical mask or gaiter) 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.
  • Personnel shall avoid congregating in common spaces for meals or breaks.
  • Personnel are reminded to discard used disposable masks in a trash receptacle.
  • Meeting attendance shall not exceed 10 people and the combination of meeting attendance and room size should be able to accommodate the required six feet of physical distancing.
  • Telecommuting may be utilized whenever feasible.
  • All are encouraged to use electronic communications tools whenever possible.
  • No unnecessary mixing of onsite personnel; all persons onsite must plan to minimize unnecessary interactions.

Q. What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands often and for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Maintain social distancing—minimum of six feet from another person.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing—if a tissue is not available, cough into your sleeve.
  • Wear a facemask to cover your mouth and nose when around others.
  • Obtain a vaccination for COVID-19. Further information on vaccine locations can be obtained at or from the site Occupational Health Nurse.

SURF continues to place disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers sitewide.

Q. I think I have COVID-19. How do I get tested?

A. COVID-19 testing differs by location and commercial tests are also available. The CDC recommends contacting your medical provider if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested. You can also visit South Dakota Department of Health website to look for the latest local information on testing.

Q. How do I get a vaccine?

A. Vaccines are available through Monument Health and through several pharmacies. Please talk to your health care provider if you are uncertain which vaccine is best for you or where you should go to receive the vaccine.

SURF encourages all employees and contractors to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Q. Does SURF have travel restrictions in place?

A. SURF has implemented travel restrictions, which include:

  • All SDSTA staff international work travel is suspended until further notice.
  • All SDSTA staff domestic work travel will be limited to essential functions only and requires approval in advance from the Executive Director.
  • Travel by vehicle is preferred over air travel.
  • All personnel traveling to SURF are encouraged to follow CDC recommendations for travel including hygiene during travel.
  • All personnel coming to SURF should be alert to COVID-19 symptoms including coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell. 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.

Q. How does COVID-19 spread?

A. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

Q. When should I seek medical help?

A.  If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include*:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a cloth face covering before medical help arrives.

Q. Is the COVID-19 antibody test available in the local area?
A. A COVID-19 antibody test is available via drive-through the Deadwood, Spearfish, and Rapid City Monument Health locations. However, you need an order from your doctor to obtain the test. PLEASE direct all questions regarding the test to your healthcare provider. 

Q. When is it safe for a recovered person to return to work?

A. The CDC recommends that in all cases, you should follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and local health department. The decision to stop home isolation should be made in consultation with your healthcare provider and state and local health departments. Local decisions depend on local circumstances.