Principles and framework guiding a phased approach to restarting research and creative activities

Effective 5/15/2020

Principles and guidelines for restarting research and creative activities have been developed by VPRs/VCRs of many institutions, including members of the Association of Public Land Grant Universities (APLU), UC Berkeley, University of Washington and University of Nevada, Reno.


Goal

To ensure the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students, while ramping up the University’s research activity.


Guiding principles

Principle #1

Follow the Nevada Governor’s and NSHE Chancellor’s guidelines along with the University President’s interpretation of “essential research, critical and time-sensitive” to ramp up and ramp down research activities. Both ramping up and ramping down are expected to be gradual and incremental transitions influenced directly by COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates in the region.

Principle #2

Protect the health and the safety of both our research workforce and human research participants. No researcher should feel compelled to return to work during stay-at-home directives, and all researchers returning to work should be committed to social distancing to ensure the safety of their coworkers and the speed at which we return to “normal.”

Principle #3

Protect the careers of early stage researchers by adopting various measures, such as reasonable extension of start-ups and tenure clock. Prioritize ramping up graduate student and postdoctoral research, particularly for individuals close to completing their degrees/term of appointment.

Principle #4

Implement fair and transparent processes for ramping up research and for gaining access to facilities that ensure the safety of all employees and compliance with public health guidelines. Ramping up processes will be customized for different activities in different research and creative spaces.

Principle #5

Develop and endorse criteria for ramping up and ramping down research, ensuring the most rapid research restart permitted by public health conditions and safety considerations to honor research commitments and remain internationally competitive.

Principle #6

Prioritize research focused on finding cures and prevention for COVID-19 and on assessing the economic, political, and cultural impacts of the virus.

Principle #7

Define and enforce return-to-research rules and guidelines.


Preliminary guidelines for researchers and research laboratories

The following are guidelines for researchers and research laboratories. Guidelines are likely to change with the fluidity of our situation and the lessons we learn. Updated rules must be immediately distributed by the PI to all laboratory personnel via email and posted prominently in the laboratory. Laboratory personnel are required to check for updated rules daily.

Before returning to campus

  • Complete the University training modules on COVID-19, General Covid-19 Training For University Personnel and COVID-19 Training For Research Laboratories and Creative Activities and other research-related training resources that are available on the research continuity web page to ensure familiarity with all aspects of the emergency and research continuity plans. All supervisors are required to complete the WebCampus Supervisor’s Training for COVID-19.
  • The Principal Investigator in consultation with the Department Chair should identify the classification of research priorities (A-D) that are outlined in this document.

Researcher preparedness

  • The Principal Investigator will be responsible for ensuring that (i) all laboratory personnel are made aware of hazards in restarting laboratory equipment that may have been shut down during remote operations, (ii) all laboratory personnel receive the General COVID-19 Training For University Personnel and COVID-19 Training for Research Laboratories and Creative Activities; (iii) face coverings are required unless not advisable by a healthcare professional, against documented industry best practices, or not permitted by federal or state laws/regulations, in all areas except by an employee alone in an enclosed office space; and practice proper hygiene and social distancing when entering University buildings and research laboratories, and when working in research laboratories.
  • Do not report to work when feeling ill, particularly if symptoms include cough (excluding chronic cough due to known medical condition), shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, or at least 2 of the following symptoms:  fever of 100.4 or greater, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell.
  • Cross-train staff to fill in for each other to perform essential laboratory tasks.
  • Refrain from eating with others in close quarters. Eat outdoors when possible where there is more circulating air and space to practice social distancing. Face coverings may be removed for eating and drinking in break areas, provided six feet of distancing is maintained.
  • With the written approval of your supervisor, work from home whenever possible on tasks such as performing data analysis, writing grants and papers, etc.
  • The following must be followed in the event of COVID-19 symptoms, exposure or a positive test:
    1. Employees must stay home or leave work immediately if COVID-19-like symptoms develop. Employees are encouraged to call their health care provider for an assessment and possible COVID-19 testing.
    2. Employees are encouraged to report positive COVID-19 tests to Dr. Cheryl Hug-English, MD at the Student Health Center to assist with contact tracing.
    3. Employees who have had close contact* with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days. Employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 must stay home from work and self-quarantine as outlined in CDC guidelines.**
      *Close contact is defined as a household member, an intimate partner, an individual providing care in a household without using recommended infection control precautions, or an individual who has had close contact (<6 feet for more than 10 minutes or more)
      **CDC Guidelines for employees with suspected or confirmed COVID-19
  • Employees should be especially aware of social distancing in restrooms. When entering a restroom assess the occupancy and if social distancing of six feet cannot be achieved wait outside the restroom until other people exit.
  • Check email regularly for updates from the research supervisor about laboratory safety and social distancing practices.
  • Prior to restarting laboratory operations complete the EH&S “Checklist for Restarting Laboratory Operations.” If safety or facility problems are identified, contact EH&S or Facilities Maintenance as appropriate.

Symptomatic employees

Symptom-based strategy

  • Self-quarantine until at least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and,
  • At least ten days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

Test-based strategy

  • Self-quarantine until there is resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
  • Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath), and
  • Negative results of a COVID-19 test from at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected ≥24 hours apart (total of two negative specimens).

Asymptomatic employees with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19

Time-based strategy. Exclude from work until:

  • Ten days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since their positive test. If they develop symptoms, then the symptom-basedor test-based strategy should be used.

Test-based strategy. Exclude from work until:

  • Negative results of a COVID-19 test from at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected ≥24 hours apart (total of two negative specimens).

Research laboratories

  • All employees working on campus must complete the “Daily Health Assessment Form.”
  • Supervisor must maintain a log of people in the work area on a daily basis.
  • Handle with gloves all packages that enter a laboratory. Discard the outer packaging and gloves as soon as possible.
  • Disinfect equipment, work surfaces, and common areas before and after use.
  • The PI should restrict the number of research personnel to a maximum of one person per approximately 200 square feet with no more than two research personnel per bench with a minimum of six feet apart. This density may be reduced if the six-foot social distancing cannot be achieved due to laboratory configuration. If an essential procedure requires laboratory personnel to be within 6 feet of each other, each individual must wear a face covering.
  • Work schedules of laboratory personnel should be staggered to minimize the number of people in the laboratory at any one time. Special communication procedures should be established to reduce risk when personnel are working alone. High risk procedures should not be performed by researchers working alone.
  • The PI will be responsible for scheduling laboratory researcher personnel, such that number of researchers in a laboratory will not exceed the density guidelines stated above.
  • The laboratory must maintain sufficient inventory of critical supplies such as PPE, disinfectant, etc. Inadequate safety equipment can limit or prevent ramping up operations.
  • Ensure updated rules for safety and social distancing are posted in the laboratory.

Space and equipment for creative activities

  • Faculty, students, and staff using other University spaces for research or creative activity —such as art studios, recording studios, digital media laboratories, the CAMS research laboratory, testing centers, observation laboratories, podcasting studios, dance studios, and clinical centers both on and off campus—should follow the procedures outlined in this document.
  • Where modifications are necessary—e.g., finding alternatives to disinfecting delicate instruments or equipment—faculty should consult their department chair and dean.
  • When these spaces are used for teaching rather than research or creative activity, other guidelines apply.


Classification of research priorities (A-D)

A. Essential

Animal laboratories, protection of cell lines, fly lines, germ lines, and growth chambers, and access to vital computers and documents.

B. Critical

COVID-19 related rapid-response research activities, e.g., COVID-19 testing, 3D printing of ventilator components, and PPE making and -Omics Core Laboratories.

C. Time-sensitive

  1. Data collection or experiments close to completion in which a pause would lead to “catastrophic loss” of research results.
  2. The work of early career stage researchers, graduate student and postdoctoral researchers, particularly individuals close to completing their degrees/terms of appointment.
  3. Field research, with priority for seasonal data collection.
  4. College/School and Department Core Facilities that cannot be operated remotely.

D. All other types of on-site research, face-to-face human participant research, scholarly, and creative activities


Resumption of research and creative activities

Phase 1: Stabilize essential research operations

  1. Open research laboratories in phases for research classifications A-C.
  2. Continue COVID-19 related rapid-response research activities, e.g., COVID-19 testing, 3D printing of ventilator components, and PPE making.
  3. Allow access to research laboratories that are related to animal care, cell lines, fly lines, germ lines, and growth chambers.
  4. Allow collection of data and continuation of experiments that are near completion.
  5. Allow maintenance of critical research equipment or creative instruments for which failure will cause disruption of essential research or creative activity.

Phase 2: Expand essential research operations and creative activities

  1. Restart Core Facilities that cannot be operated remotely, e.g., machine/glass shops, imaging facilities, etc. If Core Facilities are conducting COVID-19 related work, the operation will fall under the “Critical” research classification.
  2. Prioritize access to laboratories or studios for students and postdocs close to completing their degree/term of appointment.
  3. Prioritize research for completion of grants with end dates within 3 months.
  4. By direction of the VPRI and with guidance from Deans and Department Chairs, incrementally expand all category D research activities as rapidly as public health and state guidelines permit, carefully following the above rules to ensure safety of all personnel.
  5. All departments and laboratory supervisors should make detailed plans for incremental reductions as well as an immediate return to Phase 1.
  6. In the case a laboratory member shows COVID-19 symptoms, is exposed to a COVID-19 carrier, or tests positive for COVID-19, then the supervisor in consultations with the Chair and the Dean, and EH&S should prepare for an immediate and total shut-down of the laboratory for at least two days of cleaning. Similar actions are required if a laboratory member is directed to self-isolate by public health or medical personnel due to the suspicion of COVID-19 infection. Preparations include protecting supplies and equipment that might be affected by cleaning protocols, backing up copies of important documents, and immediately releasing all Daily Health Assessment Forms to the Medical Director of the Student Health Center and EH&S to effectively track who else could have been infected.

Phase 3: Full resilience of research operations and creative activities

  1. Restart normal research and creative activity operations based on the Nevada Governor, NSHE Chancellor and the University President issuing of a back-to-work directive.