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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 PPE? 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:

  • Physical distancing—personnel stay 6 feet from others
  • Reduced the number of personnel allowed to travel on the cage
  • Required masks and face shields for those employees who cannot maintain social distancing at all times during the workday
  • Made masks available for those who may have a compromised immune system or those working on site who do not feel comfortable working without a mask.

Q. Does SURF have travel restrictions in place?

A. SURF has implemented travel restrictions, which include:

  • Work-related travel for all SDSTA employees is suspended until further notice. Any exceptions require Executive Director approval.
  • All personnel requiring access to SURF 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 discouraged; electronic communications should be used whenever possible.
  • Utilizing physical distancing in all settings. Staff are required to remain at least 6 feet apart.

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. 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.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when around others.

SURF is currently operating in essential personnel mode only. For those on site, we continue to place disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers sitewide.

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

A. COVID-19 testing differs by location. 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. While supplies of these tests are increasing, it may still be difficult to find a place to get tested.

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 will 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.