May 20, 2020
COVID-19 has impacted all of us in some way. The disruptions shut down most of our research operations in March, and I know you have been eagerly awaiting word on when you can get back. I appreciate your patience.
Since April, I have been working with a dedicated team of faculty researchers, administrators and others to put together a plan for you to return to your laboratories. The task force’s main objective was to keep everyone as safe as possible, while increasing research activity in a phased approach. We also adopted several principles to keep us focused on your needs. The phased approach enhances safety and also gives the university the flexibility to scale up or down as changes in the pandemic necessitate.
If you can conduct your research remotely, please continue to do so. For others, we will begin the phased return to laboratories tomorrow, Thursday, May 21.
There will be several things you need to do before you can walk into your lab. In addition to wearing face coverings while on campus, observing physical distancing and washing hands often, there are six steps to getting access and keeping access during this time.
Everyone in your research lab must wear face coverings while on campus. This includes getting to and from your lab, inside your lab (in addition to any face coverings your research requires that you wear) and in any shared common spaces, including elevators. If your research team includes students, they too, must wear face coverings and remain 6 feet apart from each other, while also regularly washing hands after completing each task, and after touching doors and shared surfaces.
As you can imagine, personal protective equipment is in high demand. If you have the necessary face coverings for your team and cleaning supplies to ensure your lab is disinfected, we ask that you use those supplies first.
If you do not have what you need, please call 407-882-7111. UCF’s Department of Emergency Management, with support from Resource Management, is working to source PPE, track requests and disburse items based on need.
Because safety is our priority, you may not enter your lab until you can secure these basic items. With these supplies in hand, you can move onto the six steps to access your lab.
Six Steps for Lab Access
- Receive authorization from your Associate Dean of Research to gain access to your lab. Authorization is based on the research activity tiers. Currently, limited activities in Tiers 1-4 have been authorized.
- Complete required training. This includes any outstanding EHS training, as well as new training prepared specifically for COVID-19. Log in through EHS portal.
- Plan and prepare written safety procedures for your lab, including how you will clean and disinfect areas. The procedures must be clearly displayed in the lab using the COVID-19 Laboratory Restart form.
- Schedule no more than 1 person per 200-square-feet at any given time, unless there are different safety requirements. The same is true for personnel using any office space linked to your lab.
- Keep a copy of the weekly schedule of all lab personnel to help track any potential exposure, should that become necessary.
- All people entering the lab must complete daily check-in and check-out forms.
Human Subject Research
We did not forget about all of our researchers working with human subjects. Your work is equally important, but presents additional challenges amid this pandemic.
All research involving face-to-face interaction that could not be done via a different mechanism such as phone, Skype or Zoom was halted on April 10 because of the increased risk to the researchers and subjects. The temporary IRB protocol revisions are still in effect for now.
The task force is working with the Institutional Review Board to create an approach tailored to your needs. More information about the next steps will be coming soon.
We know these requirements may seem daunting, but they are necessary to help enhance your safety and the safety of those around you.
We trust that everyone will comply with these new requirements, but we are aware that there may be a few who decide to ignore or fail to follow the rules. We also understand that some of you may be uncomfortable speaking up in those circumstances. The Integrity Line at 1-855-877-6049 or ucfintegrityline.com offers an opportunity to share your concerns anonymously.
Please continue to pay attention to your email for additional updates from the Office of Research. Additional emails about broader return to campus plans, including policies about safety during COVID-19 and enforcement, will be coming soon.
You can find all the information pertaining to this announcement for lab researchers at corona.research.ucf.edu.
Rest assured we didn’t create this system to make life difficult. Restarting research is a unique challenge for all of us, and there are bound to be hiccups. I ask you for your continued patience as we move through this process. We created this system to keep you safe and let us all get back to one of our core missions at UCF — conducting research that makes an impact. Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions.
Thanks again for your patience, understanding and cooperation during these trying times.
Vice President for Research and Dean of the College of Graduate Studies