The word got around last summer that Sanford Health’s mobile on-site COVID-19 testing efforts were delivering efficiency and reliability on a weekly basis for the PGA Tour.
So when the NBA began looking for ways to deliver that level of safety for its upcoming 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta, it sought out Sanford Health.
One of the three mobile testing units on the road every week reported to Atlanta where a Sanford crew played a vital role within the NBA’s robust plan to provide its players a safe environment for its annual showcase.
The NBA has its own testing protocol in place at its arenas around the country for its regular-season games but the challenge in this case was different because it would be bringing players together from all over the league at one site.
“It threw a wrench into their normal operations. They needed a solution for on-site testing,” said Rochelle Odenbrett, senior executive director of Sanford Laboratories. “We had that solution. With our experiences with the PGA it seemed like a great match.”
Sanford Health administered more than 500 tests. That’s about the same number delivered during a whole week at a PGA site. In short, it meant the staff had to prepare for a busy few days.
“That’s a lot of tests crammed into one weekend,” Odenbrett said, leading up to the event. “But I think our teams are ready for the challenge. We’re excited to be able to do it.”
The RT PCR tests, which provide results about 90 minutes after collection, began being delivered on March 5 and continued through game day on March 7. Players were tested both days they were in Atlanta, as were all others attending the game.
“It’s important to have the most sensitive type of tests available in order to pick up early infections,” Odenbrett said. “That’s what we have here. We’re able to detect the lower levels we see in asymptomatic individuals.”
The mobile unit was in Arizona the previous week for the PGA Tour Champions Cologuard Classic. Sanford had a staff of six on hand in Atlanta with duties that included testing and coordinating at the site.
Experience in delivering tests is a crucial part of making the process go as smoothly as possible. It is why Sanford maintains specific crews for all their mobile units.
Keep it smooth
“We have to make sure from beginning to end that it’s not a clunky process for the players,” Odenbrett said. “These are professional individuals who expect things like this to work well. We can’t have any hiccups in our operations. It takes a lot of behind-the-scenes planning to make sure everything is streamlined and efficient.”
Last month the NBA announced additional health and safety measures surrounding the All-Star Game. These protocols included private travel to and from Atlanta, the creation of a “mini bubble” environment, as well as the enhanced PCR testing provided by Sanford. There were no fan activities, ticketed events or hospitality functions.
“We have to follow those guidelines as well,” said Odenbrett, who was part of the Sanford team on-site. “Our team took tests to make sure we’re all negative when we get on the plane. They have some very strict requirements for the players. Once you get to the hotel you stay within the bubble. Our team is following those same requirements.”
The Sanford mobile units received another endorsement this week when the PGA Tour announced it had extended their use of Sanford testing into June. Since entering an official partnership last summer, the mobile units have administered more than 18,000 tests at PGA tournament venues.
“It’s been a fun adventure for us. I’m excited that we’re able be part of it,” Odenbrett said. “It’s great to see Sanford’s name out there providing services to some of these professional athletic organizations.”
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- COVID-19 Q&A: Inside the test lab with Rochelle Odenbrett