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Press Release
Controls remain in place to protect staff, contractors and community

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sanford Underground Research Facility has been operating in a minimum essential operations mode, since March 25. 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.

“We put the safety of our team members and the surrounding community first,” said Mike Headley, executive director of Sanford Lab. “Our decision to transition to this new level of operating was not made lightly. We have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation at the state and regional levels. Based on the infection rates in the region, we believe this is the right move to make. We’ve implemented a number of controls on travel, physical distancing, health checks, and protective equipment to facilitate this transition.”

The following detailed controls have been implemented to facilitate this transition:

  • All personnel coming to SURF will undergo a health screening including having their temperature taken before accessing the facility. 
  • CDC-recommended physical distancing guidelines will continue to be utilized in all settings:
    • Staff will continue to be required to remain at least six feet apart.
    • We will limit the number of personnel working underground to ensure distancing can be maintained and limit the number of personnel traveling on the cage going underground.
    • Additional personal protective equipment will be used when physical distancing requirements cannot be maintained.
  • All personnel traveling outside a 100-mile radius of Lead, South Dakota, will be required to report their recent travel to SURF. Those personnel may return to work after:
    • A self-quarantine of 14 days in accordance with CDC guidelines, or
    • Return to work on-site without quarantine if that individual is returning from an area within the United States that has a 14-day downward trend of positive COVID-19 cases.
  • In-person meeting attendance will remain limited to a maximum of 10 people; electronic communications will be used whenever possible.

The controls outlined will be followed by all personnel accessing SURF. We will continue to maintain a moratorium on public events at this time.

Sanford Lab is operated by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) with funding from the Department of Energy. Our mission is to advance compelling underground, multidisciplinary research in a safe work environment and to inspire and educate through science, technology, and engineering. Visit Sanford Lab at


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Constance Walter
Communications Director
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