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Phased Reopening of Research at UConn and UConn Health

Consistent with Governor Lamont’s April 30th Update on Connecticut’s Coronavirus Response Efforts, phased reopening of UConn and UConn Health research programs will begin on May 20, 2020. This document provides guiding principles and processes for a phased approach to reopening research at UConn and UConn Health while addressing state and federal directives and guidelines related to COVID-19. Instituting a similar process will be established for the Arts and Humanities that reflects the specific needs and concerns of scholarly activity in those areas.

Important Documents

 

Principles

  • The health and safety of faculty, staff, students, patients, the public, and human research subjects will be protected.
    • Directives and guidance from local, state, and federal authorities to minimize disease spread and exposure will be followed, such as restrictions related to essential businesses, social distancing, reduced density, stay-at-home, and masks.
    • Principal Investigators (PIs) remain responsible for providing direction and oversight of their projects, labs, and/or research sites, and personnel including graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff.
  • Researchers must maintain plans and be prepared to halt all activities on short notice if this becomes necessary.
  • The Vice President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VPRIE) has established the Research Reopening Advisory Group to provide guidance on the reopening process. This group is comprised of senior representatives from various areas, providing a broad range of infrastructure expertise, such as Environmental Health and Safety, Public Safety, Facilities, the Graduate School, Office of the Provost, Core Facilities Directors, Human Resources, and others. This group provides guidance on the support infrastructure that is required to allow research to move forward.

Guidance on Phased Reopening of Research

All labs WILL NOT be able to reopen and resume research activities on May 20, 2020. The reactivation of labs will occur in phases beginning with those projects/labs previously submitted for pilot/limited research approval. Requests for resuming on-campus laboratory, field research, and human subjects research will be reviewed and approved contingent upon meeting conditions described below.

Researchers who already had approval under the Pilot Data/Limited Activity phase do not need to resubmit new materials. They should email cri@uconn.edu to confirm they will continue to use their approved COVID-19 Safety Plan for the reopening of research. Researchers who were approved under the Critical Research Infrastructure phase need to resubmit the above forms to resume research activity.

Labs CANNOT reopen until they obtain written OVPR approval to resume research activity.

 

Steps to Resuming Research Activities

Step 1:  How to obtain OVPR approval to resume research activity

  • All research personnel must complete the required COVID-19 Training. Documentation of safety training must be maintained by the faculty/PI and provided upon request.
  • Each lab, research program, or research area must submit a Lab and Field Research COVID-19 Safety Plan or
  • Human Subjects COVID-19 Safety Plan specific to their area/work for approval. Approval of the COVID-19 Safety Plan is required before people are allowed to return to work. Note: for research involving human subjects participants and for questions of PPE, guidance is currently under development and will be shared as soon as it is finalized.
  • Labs, research programs, or research areas must have the appropriate PPE and cleaning supplies onsite before resuming research. A process is in place to assist faculty with obtaining masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, and disinfectants needed to return to work spaces. Ordering of PPE and lab specific cleaning supplies is not sufficient to return to the labs. Research staff and personnel are not permitted to return to labs or resume research activities if the necessary PPEs and cleaning supplies are not onsite.
  • OVPR approval to resume research activities and reopening of on-campus laboratories is required. This approval will be contingent upon an approved safety plan, documentation of COVID-19 safety training, and  assurance that appropriate PPE and lab specific cleaning supplies are available and onsite. The OVPR approval to resume research activity will be communicated via email.
  • The COVID-19 UConn Research Dashboard is available to indicate the number of pending requests and approvals, estimated turnaround time, and a list of labs approved to reopen after May 20, 2020.

 

Step 2:  Open labs and research programs

  • The PI/Faculty member for the lab, research program, or research area is responsible for implementing, monitoring, and ensuring lab compliance with their COVID-19 Safety Plan and University requirements. We recommend including lab personnel and graduate students in developing lab specific safety plans as this will allow for greater flexibility and opportunity to address individual needs and concerns.
  • Review and follow the UConn Research Lab Ramp-Up Preparedness Guide, as applicable.
  • Post COVID-19 Notice signage on lab doors and area entrances. This signage is required.
  • Each lab, research program, or research area MUST maintain a daily log of employees on premise to support contact tracing. A standard log template will be used that includes the employee name, time in, time out, and affirmation that the employee is not experiencing symptoms of illness. The daily logs must be reviewed and signed off weekly by the PI/Program Director/Faculty or their designee. Electronic signatures are not permitted. Signed logs must be maintained and provided to OVPR/EHS/HR upon request.

 

Step 3:  Compliance and continued approval       

  • Faculty/PIs are responsible for ensuring their lab and lab personnel are compliant with the safety protocols and daily health monitoring logs.
  • Building safety officers/managers and EHS will monitor lab/researcher compliance with safety protocols.
  • Individuals who do not follow safety protocols will not be allowed access to labs and research spaces—No Exceptions. Labs that are noncompliant will have sanctions imposed including and up to immediate shutdown of the laboratory.
  • In response to public health concerns, labs may be required to shutdown or close.
  • All labs must be prepared to immediately ramp down or shut down research activities if instructed to do so. Labs should maintain a ramp down checklist to ensure they can safely stop/ramp down research immediately if required. The OVPR and EHS have provided a guide (Laboratory Ramp-Down Checklist: Procedures for Safely Vacating a Laboratory) to assist in this process, should it be necessary.

General guidelines for reopening:

  1. People should not return to campus if that work can be done remotely. It is expected that people will continue to telecommute if the work can be done remotely.
  2. People in high-risk groups (comorbidities) and over the age of 65 should continue to work remotely.
  3. Visitors, on-site service providers, and delivery/shipping personnel should be limited to the minimum necessary.

Related Guidance