Effective August 3, 2020, we’ve been given approval to move to Phase 3 of research resumption across the BSD research laboratories.
Each PI should work with their department chair or designated section/research chief to update their research plans using this Amendment to RRP form, and listing any new personnel who will require access to the research buildings on this excel essential personnel template. The plan should first be approved by your department before being uploaded to the University portal.
As we move to increase the density in our laboratories, the city and state are closely monitoring the increasing numbers of positive cases in the area. As a reminder, while we certainly hope that this will not be the case, we may be asked to ramp down the level of research in our laboratories again at any point in the future. This is something to keep in mind when planning long-term experiments.
The major changes from Phase 2 to Phase 3 are listed below; all other Phase 2 guidance remains in effect.
- The number of researchers working together in the lab at any given time may not exceed 50% of maximal lab occupancy in Phase 3. Lab occupancy refers to the number of researchers a given lab can reasonably accommodate under normal conditions and is usually equivalent to the number of workstations. Faculty should amend their RRP by completing this BSD Amendment to RRP form, indicating the location of the revised Designated Research Areas (DRAs) and the maximum number of researchers at any one time.
- The 6-ft minimum physical distancing requirement between workstations remains in effect; however, there may be infrequent occasions where individuals will need to violate the 6-ft distancing guidelines in order to accomplish certain aspects of research (e.g., the training of graduate rotation students or other new laboratory personnel, special research procedures that require two people working together, etc). In such cases, the faculty member and their laboratory safety contact will need to contact the Office of Research Safety (firstname.lastname@example.org) to determine what additional measure(s) of PPE may be required for these aspects of the training, such as face shields. Please note, however, that work performed within 6-ft of each other for longer than 15 min is considered a contact in the event one of the individuals subsequently tests positive and contact tracing is initiated, regardless of the PPE that is worn. In such a case, the contact must quarantine for 2 weeks.
- Faculty may include undergraduate students in their RRPs under the following limited circumstances: (i) the undergraduate has previously worked in the PI’s laboratory for at least one academic year or has previously demonstrated the ability to work independently in the PI’s lab; (ii) undergraduate participation is deemed essential for the research program; and (iii) the undergraduate can be accounted for and accommodated under the then-applicable density threshold.
- Remote work will be encouraged and supported as much as feasible, with requests addressed in a consistent manner. Faculty and other academic appointees, students, and postdoctoral researchers who have concerns about returning to the BSD should contact their Departmental academic affairs lead, or Vicky Prince, Dean for Graduate Affairs (for graduate students) and Nancy Schwartz, Dean for Postdoctoral Affairs (for postdocs). Staff should consult with their immediate supervisor and/or their HR lead.
- The Dean will enforce a low tolerance approach to failure to comply with safety requirements. Generally, faculty and other researchers can expect to receive a warning from the Dean’s Office in the first instance, but in the case of serious or repeated instances of noncompliance, the researcher’s operations may be downgraded, access may be limited or suspended, and, if necessary, closed until otherwise approved by the Dean.
- As a reminder, each Department should coordinate twice weekly safety walkthroughs for each laboratory. These safety checks should be performed by either the Laboratory Safety Contact or Departmental Safety Officer and they must complete this online Workplace Saftey checklist Redcap form so that the records are maintained.. Please be sure to include the following information in each report: (1) total number of lab personnel at the time of inspection, and (2) maximum lab occupancy approved for Phase 3 resumption.
- With the increased density, special attention should be paid to common areas, shared equipment rooms, and dining areas. We recommend a minimum 8-ft physical separation of diners with a requirement for hand washing upon entry and exit. No lab coats. Strict adherence to sign in and sign out procedures is important for contact tracing in dining and shared equipment areas.
After your plan has been approved by your chair or section chief, please upload both the BSD Amendment to RRP form, along with the essential perssonnel excel template listing ONLY any new personnel being added in Phase 3 (NOT those already approved and included in your Phase 2 plan), to the University web-based research intake form under “Amend your approved research resumption plan” for approval. It generally takes 1-2 days for approval and for your new personnel to obtain building access once they’ve completed the safety training and attestation.
Guiding Principles for Research Return to Work:
In accordance with guidance from the Provost and the University's Research Resumption Working Group, the BSD has developed this guidance for research resumption. We are currently in UChicago's phase 3 in which laboratory-based research groups with approve research resumption plans are able to work on campus. During phase 3, a limited number of research personnel will be allowed access to the labs at any given time while we work together to ensure the safety of our researchers and our broader community and while we test and confirm the effectiveness of our safety and physical distancing practices.
During UChicago phase 3 our top priority must be to maintain the health of BSD and University personnel and to avoid a rebound in SARS CoV2 infection rates. Our plans must align with State and City Public Health authorities. Considering the high ongoing rate of COVID-19 infection in Chicago and Illinois, a return to business as usual with full research operations is not possible at this time.
The University’s new safety training is required for each member of the lab and completion is necessary before building access will be granted. This training includes two components:
- Attestation (The attestation is a “read this first” document to start the training and you must click and complete the attestation using the “click me” icon on that page.)
- “COVID-19, Controlled resumption of research activities” course for laboratory personnel OR "COVID-19 General Safety Training" course (for non-laboratory personnel working on campus)
These safety courses are available at https://ehsa.uchicago.edu/training
Detailed guidance, forms and FAQs are included here and will continue to be updated.