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Status as of May 2021
Some researchers voluntarily began working in their laboratories in a phased approach past summer. All returning researchers follow Environmental Health and Safety protocols and follow the mandates in place such as face coverings, social and temporal distancing, hygiene, personal health assessments, and enhanced lab management.
Only research that requires the use of campus facilities is currently being conducted on campus, which includes undergraduates and graduate students. General office activities, data analysis, and writing continue to be done remotely in order to minimize the number of active researchers in the research buildings at any time.
Operations Guidelines and Framework on COVID-19
Guiding a phased approach to restarting university research activity.
The purpose of this document is to help faculty, trainees, and other researchers make plans for the partial resumption of research at Wright State University in the coming weeks. These guidelines and agreements are only for research work, and do not address the use of classrooms, teaching labs, or other instructional spaces, including the use of labs for remote teaching.
Overarching Goal: To keep everyone safe, while increasing research activity in a phased approach as safety becomes easier to maintain.
Our framework is informed by the following principles and observations.
Principle #1: Follow the cognizant local, state, and national public health authority directives to stay at home and stay safe, and implement physical distancing.
A return to normal activity is unlikely for many months. We must understand that the practice of laboratory research will not be the same as it was, and that we need to develop new ways of reducing physical interactions until this pandemic has ceased. Wright State will follow local, state, and national public health authority directives to stay at home/stay safe and maintain physical distancing. Wright State will NOT conduct a full return to business as usual until the public health situation allows. Until state and federal restrictions are lifted, Wright State will limit campus access to university-approved individuals whose activities cannot be completed remotely. For the research reopen, Step 1 was a pilot of a small group of labs in a few buildings, and operations were monitored for one week. When all issues from Step 1 were resolved, we proceeded with Step 2; four departments and eight buildings opened, followed by Step 3, 10 departments, and 12 buildings.
Principle #2: Protect the health and safety of the research workforce
- All employees are expected to work from home if their duties can be fulfilled from home. Researchers whose work is primarily computational, archival and/or theoretical should continue to work remotely.
- Wright State will ramp up research activities in a manner that ensures the safety of all employees. We will re-establish activities in accordance in stages. Access in situations where the activity relies on access to laboratory/studio/greenhouse space that cannot be duplicated remotely, i.e. dedicated instrumentation, specialized facilities, will be prioritized in the sequence of opening.
- No researcher should feel they are being coerced to work on campus or in the field during periods of broad stay at home or stay safe directives. Returning to work in the facilities at Wright State is voluntary. Individuals who feel pressured to return to campus when it is not in their best interests to do so, should contact your Departmental Chair or make an anonymous report using EthicsPoint website.
- Safety within laboratories must be rigorously maintained, with adequate access to PPE and other safety related supplies. Campus Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) must be made aware of all research activities within university spaces.
- Wright State will allow field research to continue, on a case-by-case basis and given rigorous social distancing plans.
- Researchers should plan as best they can for the inherent uncertainty about when a return to research spaces will be safe.
- We must be prepared to return to lower levels of lab activity with new waves of infection likely in the coming months and particularly in the Fall.
- Undergraduates: Currently, undergraduate students will NOT be allowed in our laboratories.
- Lab personnel should report any concerns to their supervisors, department, or the university.
Considerations before returning to work:
- Stay at home and seek medical advice if you are currently experiencing a cough, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, vomiting, a loss of appetite, body aches, abdominal pain, weakness or dizziness, altered smell or taste sensations, tingling in the hands or feet (use the Health Self-Assessment form daily to facilitate your health check)
- Stay at home if you have had close exposure to a person with fever, symptoms, or a positive test for COVID-19.
- Individuals who are themselves or living with family members who are immune-compromised or at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 should NOT return to campus. Supervisors are asked to create fully remote work assignments for those individuals.
- Stay at home if you are at elevated risk due to immune deficiency, asthma, lung or heart disease, age greater than 60 years, or have a household member at high risk. Please contact the Office of Disability Services for more information.
- Any staff (graduate student, postdoc, faculty member) returning to campus from out of state should adhere to a 14-day self-quarantine if arriving from a COVID-19 hot spot or traveling by airplane, before returning to any campus space.
- Regularly visit Wright State’s COVID-19 website, for the most up to date information.
Protocols for returning to work:
- Physical distancing: A minimum of six feet of separation should be maintained at all times. according to current federal/state guidelines. Only one person per elevator at a time.
- There will be NO access to conference rooms. When possible, research meetings, routine discussions between supervisors and graduate students and postdocs are still to be conducted remotely.
- Visiting other labs is discouraged. Business should be conducted by phone or emails whenever possible.
- Facilities recommends that visual aids be put on floors (painter’s tape) to help occupants with social distancing requirements.
- Mandatory face covering: Unless health condition prohibits otherwise, all researchers, staff and students are required to wear a face covering in campus buildings unless entirely alone in a room. The CDC has recommended the use of cloth face coverings in public settings to conserve surgical masks for medical personnel. More information is available at CDC Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings. Exceptions to use of face coverings must be documented.
- All returning persons must take the Environmental Health and Safety training specific to COVID-19, on Pilot, Continuous Year
- All returning laboratory researchers should follow the Research Summary List, found at https://bit.ly/WSU-Covid19
- Complete a daily health assessment prior to coming to laboratory, found at https://bit.ly/WSU-Covid19
- Stay home if you are sick. Individuals with active symptoms will not be allowed on campus
- Workplace hygiene (PI Guideline Appendix: Laboratory Housekeeping (Cleaning and Disinfection Guidance):
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
- Develop a list of high-touch locations and equipment in the laboratory. Special attention should be given to those areas that will have continued use.
- Clean and disinfect identified locations on a routine basis. At a minimum, it is recommended that this be when an individual enters the laboratory to begin work and then before leaving the laboratory when work is completed.
- Routinely and regularly disinfect common contact sites (keyboards, door handles, multi-user equipment, etc.).
- Use an EPA-approved disinfectant that is effective against COVID-19. The list of EPA-approved disinfectants can be found at the following link: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2. One minute of contact time with bleach diluted to at least 1000 ppm (1/3 cup per gallon water) is sufficient to disinfect hard surfaces. Spray surfaces that cannot be bleached (e.g. touch screens) with 70% alcohol and allow to air dry. Never spray cleaner directly on the electronics; use a soft, lint-free cloth as a wipe (no abrasive cloths or paper towels), and ensure that moisture does not get into any opening. Alcohol is also used as “rinse” after using a stronger disinfectant containing bleach or quaternary ammonias on other hard surfaces.
- In order to verify a disinfectant is on the list, you can locate the EPA-ID number on the cleaning chemical label. Then do a quick search for that EPA-ID number in the list by using CTRL+F and entering the EPA-ID number.
- Pay attention to disinfectant contact times, also listed on the EPA-approved list. Do not assume that a disinfectant works on contact.
- Wear appropriate PPE when using cleaning/disinfectant products. This includes ANSI-approved safety glasses and chemical-compatible impervious gloves. Reference the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for further information on PPE or any other hazard information. Contact Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), online help form at https://wright.edu/ehs-service or EHS main office 937-775-2215 at any time with questions.
- Housekeeping: To minimize the need for janitorial staff, selected restrooms (every other floor) are indicated and the remainder marked for no-entry.
- Trash: should be placed outside laboratory doors as there will be no janitorial service inside offices or labs.
- NOTE: Campus custodial staff will continue to clean and disinfect public and common areas such as hallways and restrooms with their disinfection protocols.
- In order to limit interactions, Facilities is recommending lab owners perform their own eye wash and fire extinguisher inspections. The necessary training will be provided at https://bit.ly/WSU-Covid19.
- Scheduling and coordination of work hours: To allow multiple people to work in shifts or on alternating days, laboratories should develop calendar systems to schedule work shifts throughout the day and on weekends, bearing in mind that safety is a concern for people working late at night. The structure of these schedules and the length of shifts can be flexible, depending on the type of experiment and the needs of the lab. Another option is for specific people to reserve certain days of the week. Lab staff should understand that their time in the lab is limited and they and they should maximize efficiency to decrease the total time on campus. The Laboratory PI will be responsible for making these decisions. It is highly encouraged for lab members to communicate openly and often (by text or other messaging systems) to coordinate and adjust schedules as necessary and to be sure that they avoid each other. Everyone should complete work within their shift and not work during others’ shifts.
- Lab members should plan ahead to maximize the use of their limited bench time
- Lab members should be encouraged to help their labmates by doing minor tasks and experiments that will reduce the need for others to come into the lab.
- Each lab member’s bench and desk space is private and should not be used by other lab members so that it can be viewed as a safe space free of contamination.
Other Safety Considerations: As with any laboratory work, individuals must be trained in performing critical tasks and should have access to any personal protective equipment necessary to perform these tasks. All pre-existing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements for the lab/research environment remain in place. While it is imperative during this time that individuals practice social distancing, high-risk tasks should not be performed alone in a laboratory. When an individual is working alone in a laboratory, other colleagues, supervisors, and/or University Police should be aware and provide check-ins as necessary.
Principle #3: Protect the careers of early-stage researchers.
- To the extent that it is possible under the public health authority directives, as access restrictions are relaxed, priority to return to research spaces should be given to those researchers who cannot work remotely and are under time constraints to complete degrees, term appointments (e.g., postdoctoral researchers), or for tenure and other career reviews.
- Tenure clock for the pre-tenure faculty has been extended by one year at Wright State since reduced access to research spaces, including on-campus offices, has had a dramatic impact on research progress, particularly harmful to early career researchers.
Principle #4: Implement a fair and transparent process for granting access
The conditions and priorities for granting access to researchers is rational, and non-arbitrary. A questionnaire developed by the COVID research taskforce, vetted by faculty from different colleges and University chair’s council made of chairs from all the departments at the university has been sent to the department chairs to circulate to their faculty.
- Monitoring compliance: Wright State is confident that faculty and staff understand the importance of adhering to the stated policies and will operate their labs accordingly. Enforcement will be by periodic inspection of authorized spaces by EHS and facilities management, and the engagement of Deans and Department Chairs applying discipline to abusers.
- Supervisors should be advised that laboratory/studio/greenhouse access may be rescinded on short notice, thus activities that are resumed should be selected so that they can be shut down quickly. Do not commence long term projects or those that cannot be paused without significant disruption. Emphasis should be on projects that result in a near term deliverable being met, data essential for a pending grant, data for a thesis/dissertation for a student scheduled to graduate.
All the responses from the faculty for their research needs have been evaluated and approved by the department chairs to ensure the protocols for return to work as shown below are rigorously addressed and followed.
- Access restrictions: Access to buildings and interior spaces will occur via designated entrances to the extent possible.
- Access to offices should be reserved for activities immediately related to the laboratory work being conducted; do not move back into offices for computer-based work but continue to do the bulk of that work remotely.
- Be advised that any person on campus may be stopped and questioned by Wright State Police. Carry WSU ID at all times.
- Enter campus at any of the following street-level locations:
- Allyn Hall
- University Hall
- White Hall
Access to other building entrances will be on a limited basis and will be communicated via email.
- Use of core facilities must be communicated to core facility directors. Core facility directors will institute processes to preserve social distancing
- Use by appointment only
- Adequate time between appointments to prevent close contact and to clean and disinfect high touch areas
- Marking of areas to identify adequate space separation
- Only 1 person at a time in a small, enclosed space
Shipping and Receiving
All mail and packages can be picked up in shipping and receiving, 031 Allyn Hall. Large packages will be delivered.
Departments will communicate with shipping and receiving to provide a point of contact for package delivery.
Additional information on COVID-19 precautions is available as follows: