PGA Tour players, staff test negative for COVID-19 at RBC Heritage

The 52nd RBC Heritage is back on Hilton Head Island, but not without some precautions.

PGA Tour players, staff test negative for COVID-19 at RBC Heritage

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WTOC) - The 52nd RBC Heritage is back on Hilton Head Island, but not without some precautions.

Everyone that comes into Harbour Town Golf Links throughout the week will go through a thermal screening process. Thermal cameras can screen multiple people at once. If someone tests at 100.4 degrees or higher, they are flagged, pulled aside, and tested again five minutes later. If they have a second high reading, the person would have to leave the course.

The PGA Tour debuted this new system last week in Fort Worth, Texas at Colonial.

“A lot of people spent a lot of time developing a plan,” said Andy Levinson, Senior Vice President of Tournament Administration for the PGA Tour. “We had medical advisors, specialists in infectious diseases, and epidemiology, laboratory directors. We even had the opportunity to share our plans with the federal Coronavirus task force and get feedback from them.”

The tour now has three lab technicians, and a mobile laboratory traveling with them week-to-week. Everyone with the tour is tested for COVID-19 at each new location weekly.

“What that gives us the ability to do is first of all, we’re not using community resources for our testing, which was very important to us, and then also, we’re able to get our results back extremely quickly,” Levinson added.

The PGA Tour confirmed that 369 on-site tests were given at USCB’s Hilton Head Campus and 98 tests were given prior to the charter flight from Saturday’s final round at the Charles Schwab Challenge, to Savannah Hilton Head International Airport. For the second consecutive week, no one on the tour tested positive. It only takes about two hours for the mobile lab to get test results back, then the players can begin to prepare for the event itself.

The golfers say they’re embracing the extra steps it takes to get back onto the course.

“I think the plans that are in place are very, very good. I’m sure everyone’s doing their best,” said Rory McIlroy, the top-ranked golfer in the world currently at his Wednesday press conference. “I certainly don’t want to expose myself and test positive and put anyone else in danger, but also, selfishly, I don’t want to test positive because I want to keep playing golf, I want to keep playing in these tournaments. So I’m trying to do everything I can to limit my exposure and obviously not catch or spread the virus.”

Players and personnel began testing on Saturday and wrapped up Tuesday evening for the RBC Heritage. Across the course are signs reminding everyone to stay safe and six-feet apart, along with hand sanitizer stations.

Competition gets underway Thursday morning.

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