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Sanford Health to provide COVID-19 testing for PGA TOUR

4 Min Read


Sanford Health's new mobile testing unit outside of Sanford Research on Monday, June 1, 2020 in Sioux Falls, SD.

Sanford Health's new mobile testing unit outside of Sanford Research on Monday, June 1, 2020 in Sioux Falls, SD.

    Written by Staff

    As the PGA TOUR ramped up preparations for next week’s return to competition at the Charles Schwab Challenge, it identified the implementation of a quick, reliable COVID-19 testing procedure for players, caddies and essential personnel as one of the most critical requirements, one that also could carry over to PGA TOUR Champions and the Korn Ferry Tour for the remainder of the season.

    It turns out the TOUR had to look no further than an existing partner on PGA TOUR Champions in tournament sponsor Sanford Health. Among the largest health systems in the United States, Sanford Health demonstrated the ability to deliver on-site testing with rapid results through mobile testing units staffed by several lab technicians. So, plans have been finalized whereby Sanford Health will deploy three of the units across the continental U.S., each manned with a driver and three technicians, to cover the three Tours for the remainder of the season.

    Each unit will arrive the Saturday prior to the tournament to begin processing RT PCR tests. The test itself takes less than five minutes to administer, and test results are returned within several hours. Approximately 400 individuals are expected to be tested on-site each week.

    “Our ability to provide on-site testing services for the PGA TOUR is the direct result of our early and strategic investment in expanding testing capacity for our own patients, residents and employees,” said Micah Aberson, Executive Vice President of Sanford Health. “We’re all care givers, whether that is in the hospital, long-term care facility or in a mobile testing unit. This service will help players and staff feel safe, and we can play an important part by preventing the spread of the virus and supporting a responsible return to sporting events.”

    The mobile unit will remain on site through Thursday before traveling to the next closest tournament site, regardless of Tour. The Sanford Health teams, which also will be tested each week, are prepared for extended travel schedules in order to fulfill their mission on the three Tours.

    “When you’re in health care, you go where you are called,” said Rochelle Odenbrett, Senior Executive Director for Sanford Laboratories. “These groups of Sanford ambassadors will be on the road for weeks at a time doing work that is necessary in order to bring a little normalcy back to our lives and some joy to golf fans around the world – that’s the global impact these people are making. As for planning the schedule for each team, it’s like putting together a puzzle, and every piece has to fit exactly right. Our team has done an incredible job of mapping out where the three mobile units will be utilized during the season.”

    Andy Levinson, PGA TOUR Senior Vice President Tournament Administration, stresses that health and safety are the No. 1 priority as the TOUR returns to competition. “Not only will Sanford Health’s mobile laboratories enable us to deliver test results in a matter of hours so that our athletes can properly prepare for competition,” Levinson said, “but they also will allow us to implement our testing program without utilizing critical resources from the communities in which we play, which was of upmost importance to us.”

    Familiarity between the organizations certainly helped in expanding the relationship, with Sanford Health serving as title sponsor of the Sanford International in its hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota (September 11-13). So, too, did having two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North on the Sanford Health Board of Trustees as well serving as the official tournament host.

    “A lot of credit for the foundation of this collaboration goes to Andy North,” Aberson said. “He helped bring us and the PGA TOUR together to make testing at every tournament a reality.”

    As a result, Sanford Health also becomes a marketing partner with the designation Official COVID-19 On-site Testing Provider of the PGA TOUR.

    “When we announced our partnership with Sanford Health in 2017, we knew we were going to build one of the premier events on the PGA TOUR Champions calendar, as their commitment to our sport and the Sioux Falls community has allowed the Sanford International to flourish,” said Miller Brady, President of PGA TOUR Champions. “As we look at the world today in the midst of COVID-19, it is tremendous to see Sanford Health’s determination in helping the PGA TOUR safely return to golf the week of June 8 and moving forward. They are a valued member of our PGA TOUR Champions family and it’s inspiring to see this level of leadership when we need it the most.”

    Aberson views this as another example of Sanford Health taking a leadership role during the pandemic, be it collaborating with state and local leaders to advancing groundbreaking research. Sanford Health includes 44 hospitals, 1,400 physicians and more than 200 Good Samaritan Society senior care locations in 26 states and 10 countries.

    “Our team has focused on finding answers and meeting the needs of the communities we serve in this unprecedented time,” he said. “We take great pride in taking the lead in helping ensure a safe return to play for professional golf events in the Unites States by offering this testing and are honored to help contribute to getting players back on the course for fans around the world to enjoy.”

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