COVID-19 preparedness allows for fans at golf tournament

Expect masks and temperature checks among Sanford International safety measures

A white sandwich board sign says "Thank you for practicing social distancing. Please help us be mindful and maintain at least 6 feet distance." A graphic of two stick men with arrows adds "at least 6 ft."

Sanford International tournament director Josh Brewster said it best.

“It’s certainly an interesting time to be organizing a golf tournament.”

In its first two years, the tournament has brought thousands to the Minnehaha Country Club, all to see the biggest names in golf. The third year aims to do the same, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is different.

Mike Wilde, M.D., is the vice president medical officer at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He says takes a group effort to plan for the tournament itself, but even more so when there’s a pandemic.

“We worked with the city and state to make sure everyone was comfortable having an event. Then, we worked really closely with our medical staff here. We talked with our experts, infection preventionists, infectious disease physicians, and those that are involved with putting on the tournament.

“They bring knowledge of what resources are going to be needed,” said Wilde.

Focused on safety

So, what was needed?

First and foremost, leaders at Sanford knew they needed to prepare fans for a different experience. Brewster says spectators will notice the difference before they even get to the Minnehaha Country Club.

“We do a temperature check when fans get on the shuttle, and another temperature check when they get to the main entrance as well. Anyone with a temperature over 100.4 will be asked to go home, just to keep everyone safe.

“Then with that too, we have masks and gloves available for anybody that would choose to wear them throughout the day,” said Brewster.

Along with temperature checks, fans will notice differences in the spacing of spectator areas.

“We’ll have bleachers this year, as opposed to individual seats. So, people can find the appropriate distance between themselves and the person sitting next to them,” said Sanford Health executive vice president Micah Aberson.

Related: Setting the stage for the Sanford International

When it comes to food and beverage, organizers also worked to take away “touch points.”

“Whether you’re at a concession or one of our private tents, there’s no self-serve buffets. We’re encouraging cashless transactions as well,” said Brewster.

“We’re incorporating more pre-packaged foods,” added Aberson.

Fans aren’t allowed on the premises until Friday. But, volunteers and media members are already occupying the Minnehaha Country Club, with precautions in place.

Upon arrival, every volunteer and media member has their temperature taken.

“I’ve taken over 300 temperatures today,” said one volunteer.

Hand sanitizing stations are also placed throughout the course. Everyone is encouraged to wear a mask and social distance.

Hosting amid pandemic

Dr. Wilde says the pandemic has forced everyone to find safe ways to be in community with one another. He and other leaders at Sanford Health knew how important this tournament was to the Sioux Falls community, and how it could give people a much desired sense of normalcy.

“The pandemic can affect people directly, and also indirectly in regard to a lot of businesses and mental health. An event like this can really help some of that recovery.

“So, we were really thinking about this event for some time, but in an ever changing response to a pandemic both nationally and locally, how could we make this work? What’s the best way to do this? What’s the best way to help everyone, and keep everyone safe?”

Dr. Wilde adds that Sanford’s ability to safely host an event of this size during a pandemic “sets the bar high.”

“There’s a lot of people who look to us as experts in the field to guide how to have an event like this, knowing that we have the expertise of a health system to keep people safe, and maybe provide a blueprint nationally for events going forward.”

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Posted In Coronavirus, Golf, Innovations, Sanford International

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