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Research Restart and Lift Off: Requirements and Guidelines Related to COVID-19

Boise State University will reopen in stages, and has prepared an approach to returning to normal operations including research activities. A phased approach with a gradual lifting of limitations is critical to minimizing potential impacts to the university and surrounding communities and allows for progression to be paused or reversed if need be.

Until there is an effective vaccine, treatment, or intervention, all stages must include some preventative measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The university community must continue to follow CDC and local public health guidance including:

  • Once COVID-19 testing is available it will be required
  • Engage in physical distancing of at least six feet
  • Wear face coverings in public places, research facilities, or in the presence of others
  • Stay home if sick, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, have a confirmed case of COVID-19, or have close contact with someone with COVID-19
  • Wash hands frequently (or use hand sanitizer)
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects regularly
  • Avoid non-essential business travel

Considerations for Restarting Research Activities

Research groups must take into consideration personnel safety and willingness to participate, the ability to comply with required prevention practices, the safe restart of equipment, and necessary supplies for activities. Purchasing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectants will likely be delayed due to demand, and may hinder availability to healthcare workers. Groups must also keep in mind the situation is fluid and research activities may need to be stopped or ramped back down on short notice. Groups should consider slowly reintroducing work to the lab and creating a schedule or integrating into one for continuing work.

Special Considerations

Field Research

Field research must follow these preventive measures and staging requirements while needing to address some unique challenges such as transportation, handwashing, and potential for an individual becoming sick at a remote site. Additional guidance is available on Research Restart – Fieldwork Guidelines.

Core Facilities

Core facilities will need to establish a scheduling system (calendar) and operate on an as needed basis. The Principal Investigator for the space will need to submit a safety plan that describes how social distancing will be implemented, cleaning protocols and PPE requirements.

Stages

This guidance is organized by restriction levels with some considerations for specific areas of research.

View Individual Stages Here

All Stages

Until there is an effective vaccine, treatment, or intervention, all tiers must include some preventative measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19.  The university community must continue to:

  • Engage in physical distancing of at least six feet
  • Maximum personnel density  – 120 square feet / person in lab
  • Wear face coverings in public places, research facilities, or in the presence of others
  • Stay home if sick, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, have a confirmed case of COVID-19, or have close contact with someone with COVID-19
  • Wash hands frequently (or use hand sanitizer)
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects regularly

COOP (Continuity of Operations Plan)

Each research group needs a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) in place identifying research activities and each activity’s level of criticality. Each COOP will guide the prioritization and the phasing of research in an iterative manner. Also if restrictions must return, groups should use the levels to ramp down research activities.

Research Safety Plan

Research groups must submit their Research Safety Plan Form for research activities for review and approval by their applicable department chair, dean or vice president. The Research Safety Plan requires each group to outline:

Research groups may use a single safety plan for all phases though the scope of work may change between the phases, however controls and practices must remain consistent.

Research Safety Plan Guidance

To help with the Research Safety Plan, research groups should:

Create a schedule and adhere to it.

This schedule should minimize the number of people in each location at any one time. This may require some personnel perform work at times other than typical “business” hours.

    • Use a shared calendar, online sign-in tool, or other mechanism of controlling the number of people in the lab at the same time.
    • Distribute a list of duties to be performed by critical personnel, with location and designated time of day for such duties to occur.
    • Minimize and stagger break times to minimize contact between people.
    • Be sure to allow time for cleaning at the end and beginning of each work group shift.

Establish Work Groups

Larger research groups or shared facilities will likely need to establish work groups to facilitate scheduling, cleaning, and minimizing contact. A work group is a consistent team of individuals that can be based around a variety of principles such as:

  • Project
  • Around a project leader or faculty member

Create safe spaces to maintain at least 6 feet between personnel at all times

Personnel density cannot exceed 120 square feet per person, and in some cases, may not be feasible. Small or narrow spaces may need to be limited to one person at a time. Groups should also consider reconfiguring spaces or moving equipment to promote distancing.

Determine Task Feasibility

Research groups need to determine if tasks can be done safely including personal protective equipment needs. Groups must consult with Environmental Health, Safety and Sustainability (EHSS) on tasks requiring more than one person to determine if they can be conducted safely.

Disinfecting Surfaces and Objects

Research groups must frequently disinfect surfaces and objects with a focus on those frequently touched. Cleaning must also take place between scheduled work groups. Personnel must disinfect shared equipment, work spaces, and computers before and after use. Research groups, at a minimum, must follow campus guidelines for disinfecting surfaces and objects and may establish more detailed procedures for their spaces and equipment to meet their needs.

Work Area Entry and Exit Requirements

Personnel must wash their hands (or use hand sanitizer) upon entering or leaving the work area. Research groups should address any additional requirements in their COOP/Safety Plan.

Personnel Considerations

  • Students are permitted (not required) to participate in research activities.
  • Personnel need to develop a transportation plan that minimizes proximity to other people and should consider cycling, walking, or driving instead of public transit.
  • Personnel must minimize their time in research facilities and proximity to other people without compromising safety to conduct the work.
  • Everyone should assume everyone is infected, including themself, and use appropriate precautions. Some transmission may occur from people with no symptoms.
  • Personnel with underlying health conditions must work with HR and their supervisor to develop a work plan.

Personnel Health Self-Checks

All personnel must agree to check their temperature before coming to campus or a field site each day per CDC guidelines and MUST NOT come to campus/site with a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or greater with no fever-reducing medication taken in the past 24 hours.  Personnel must report a 100.4F (38°C) or greater measurement to their supervisor.

Personnel Experiencing Symptoms

Personnel must never come to a research facility or field site if they are experiencing any symptoms of infection/illness.  Personnel should stay home or return home if they are beginning to experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • New loss of taste or smell

Personnel experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, have a confirmed case of COVID-19, or have close contact with someone with COVID-19, must stay home, contact their healthcare provider, and notify their supervisor.

Stop Work Readiness

Due to the fluid situation, each research group must be prepared to stop or reduce activities on short notice.  Some examples to consider:

  • A spike in cases requires restrictions to return
  • PPE or appropriate disinfectants are not available so work cannot be done safely
  • An individual in the group is diagnosed with COVID-19 and potentially exposed others in their work group.

Stop Work Authority

Personnel have the authority to stop work if they feel the conditions are unsafe for them or others.  At that time, work must stop and the group must adequately address the issue before work may proceed.  Please refer to Environmental Health, Safety and Sustainability (EHSS) policy 9140.  If personnel do not feel comfortable raising a concern or call to stop work, they should seek assistance by contacting EHSS at ehs@boisestate.edu.