Principles and Guidelines for a Phased Ramp-Up of On-site, Laboratory-based Research Activities

This webpage summarizes guiding principles and the initial steps required for implementation of a phased ramp up of on-site, laboratory-based research activities at Wayne State University over the coming weeks and months in the context of the public health crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part A - Guiding principles

Part B - Operational logistics and framework

Part C - Guidelines for phased ramp up implementation

The initial focus of the phased ramp-up plan is to operationalize on-site, laboratory-based research activities that cannot be conducted remotely.  Additional guidance for the next phase of ramp up activities, including on-site integration of dry lab research activities and off-site research activities, will be provided as we go forward over the next few weeks in accordance with public health status and university guidelines.

The date and timeline for starting the process of implementation is basesd on a) directives from local, state and federal offices, public health considerations, and university policies, b) approval from the Governor's office and c) on-site readiness for facilty use and safety considerations. However, there are many items to coordinate in advance of approval to initiate the plan as indicated below.

Research activities that are currently functioning remotely should continue to do so until further guidance for the next phase of campus ramp up of activities.

Please realize that this is an evolving process that will require adjustments, engagement of all and additional operational guidelines for individual labs and investigators as we go forward - thus full awareness and communication is key.  Additional operational guidelines will be posted at the Resumption of Research Activities LINK.

Please refer to the https://research.wayne.edu/coronavirus link for continuous updates on research operational support, funding opportunities and relevant federal guidance for grants and contracts.

Please refer to the following CDC sites for ongoing updates related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/index.html

 

PART A: GUIDING PRINCIPLES

Wayne State University is an urban-serving public research university embedded in the City of Detroit and is an integral component of the fabric of the city with a strong commitment to the broad communities that it serves. 

We have all been touched with the COVID-19 pandemic over the last several weeks, and we have seen tremendous efforts by all of the health care workers across the city and region, as well as globally, and we are all indebted to their commitment and sacrifice during this pandemic.

As we have witnessed and addressed these issues at a local, national and global level, we must also consider ways to move forward with the next phases of transition and adjustment for the university.  Many have been working on the next steps across all aspects of our mission including research, academics and service.

During this period, there have been multiple communication platforms in place including video calls, emails, calls and two key university web links:

https://wayne.edu/coronavirus

https://research.wayne.edu/coronavirus

Now, universities and communities have begun to look forward to next steps for activities and life after the current pandemic challenge and what that might look like while following federal, local and state directives in this context.

Wayne State University has several working groups coordinating on the resumption of activities on campus with specific focus areas including research, academics, facilities, human resources, information technology and finance. These groups are working closely with a public health working group to guide and inform the process going forward, details of which are presented at the following link https://wayne.edu/coronavirus/campus-restart.  Each working group is coordinating on next steps, and this specific guidance document addresses focuses on research and discovery activities.    

As we move forward with the restart or ramp up of activities on campus, the university will continue to operate and adjust with core principles as the President has touched upon in his communications over the past several weeks. These core principles include the following elements as part of the ramp up activities going forward:

  • Coordinate and align with all public health directives at the local, state and federal level.
  • Protect the physical and emotional health and assure the safety of all employees and students at the university.
  • Recognize the impact of the pandemic on careers and training experiences for faculty and trainees and adjust to support all in this context.
  • Implement a phased research ramp up strategy to move toward the eventual return of all researchers in a safe and responsible manner.
  • Recognize the importance of adaptability and adjustment during the phased ramp up of on-site research activities, and the opportunity presented with the refresh and restart ahead of us to adopt new attitudes and practices of research operations and engagement with colleagues and peers.   
  • Recognition by department chairs and school/college leadership of the importance of targeting ramp up for a) research labs supported by extramural and intramural funding sources, b) individuals (investigators and trainees) who may have narrow timelines for completion of essential work for project development, and/or c) COVID-19 research projects with potential for near term impact.

The vice presidents for research at three Michigan research universities and across the country are coordinating to harmonize and implement a phased ramp up of research activities.

The timing of implementation of ramp-up activities is dependent upon the guidance from the Governor of the State of Michigan and informed by the Public Health Working Group as charged by President Wilson.

 

PART B: OPERATIONAL LOGISTICS AND FRAMEWORK

  1. Core framework
  • Research activities and support offices currently enabled and fully functioning remotely should continue to function remotely until further notice.
  • All individual lab directors must complete a restart plan for approved access to on-site laboratories as described below "Phased Ramp-Up of On-site, Laboratory-based Research Activities - WSU Laboratory and Core Directors"
  • Individuals approved for access will complete a daily web-based health screen before reporting to campus, which at present includes the following subject queries to address:
    • Do you have symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or diarrhea?
    • Have you had close contact in the last 14 days with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19?
    • Have you traveled via airplane internationally or domestically in the last 14 days?

If the answer is yes to any of these three subject queries, the employee should not report to work that day and the health screen survey is directed to the Campus Health Center https://health.wayne.edu/coronavirus/, which has established procedures and contact information in place to address this issue for the employee and their work space as appropriate https://wayne.edu/coronavirus/campus-restart/public-health/.

Additional daily health screening elements may be incorporated in accordance with requirements issued by the State of Michigan for restart of the on-site, lab-based research activities.

  • Upon completion and approval of the "Phased Ramp-Up of On-site, Laboratory-based Research Activities - WSU Laboratory and Core Directors," the approved individuals will receive additional specific instructions for building access.  Access to facilities will be restricted to approved individuals that have completed the daily health screen without identified health screen concerns. 
  • In accordance with current stipulations from the State of Michigan all individuals approved for facility access must wear a face mask for entrance into the facility. We will also have a supply of face masks and gloves at the facility entry site (See OEHS information on face mask use https://research.wayne.edu/oehs/guidancefacecoverings) and our goal is to provide each member of the research team with two, reusable cloth masks as they initiate their ramp-up activity plan.

Individuals may use their own face mask, and labs may also provide face masks for members of the laboratory. Individual labs are responsible for any additional PPE for specific, approved lab activities.

  • Hand sanitizer dispenser stands will be placed at access points to facilities and at traffic areas within the facilities.
  • Follow university guidelines for individuals involved with on-site activities that may be at high risk for health concerns (especially individuals working directly with patients and/or with virus samples).
  • All implementation steps involved with resumption of activities informed and guided by public health working group https://wayne.edu/coronavirus/campus-restart/public-health/

II. Types of research to consider                   

  • Lab-based on-site research activities: initial focus of ramp up of research activities with a phased approach involving funded research programs (extramural and intramural) and COVID-19 projects with potential for near term impact.
  • Clinical research: operationalized through mechanisms established through the WSU Human Research Protection Program https://research.wayne.edu/irb/coronavirus
  • Non lab-based, off-site work and dry lab activities that cannot be done remotely (e.g. field work, social sciences) will be a second phase of focus for the phased ramp up of research activities.
  • Research activities that can be performed remotely should continue to be remote until further notice.

III.  University research infrastructure 

Key platform elements for phased ramp up of research activities with consideration to risk, the nature of the research activity and facility.

  • Facilities Planning and Management confirm physical infrastructure in the research building is fully operational and cleaned before subsequent occupation. Information regarding the cleaning standards and policies for building cleaning will be posted soon.
  • Security and Public Safety is in place.
  • Procedures established and signage in place for social distancing relative to use of elevators, restrooms and break areas as appropriate.
  • All individuals are required to have face masks and practice enhanced hygiene practices for hand washing and movement within the facility.
  • Custodial staff will incorporate standard operating procedures for regular enhanced cleaning for all high touch surfaces designated research facilities, but will not be responsible for lab benches, lab equipment or other direct areas of experimental activities in accordance with current cleaning parameter in research areas. Information regarding the standard operating procedures will be posted soon.
  • Procedures and guidelines from OEHS for cleaning products and disinfection of laboratory high-touch surfaces and office areas are posted at https://research.wayne.edu/oehs/choosingdisinfectant.
  • Enhanced cleaning products will be available to laboratories as needed for additional cleaning of high touch surfaces and special needs in experimental areas.
  • Unit directors, (Deans and business administration officers) confirm research support staff and resources are in place or are operating remotely as needed (e.g. security, mail and package delivery process, facilities staff, research operations staff).

 

PART C - GUIDELINES FOR PHASED RAMP UP IMPLEMENTATION

The timing for starting implementation is based on a) directives from local, state and federal offices and university policies and b) on-site readiness for facility use and safety considerations.

Development and approval of specific laboratory, unit and college/school ramp up plans

Individual labs and cores must develop specific startup plans and provide information requested through completion of the document "Phased ramp-up plan for on-site, lab based research activities - WSU Laboratory and Core Directors" for review and approval by department chair, associate/vice dean for research and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

The individual start up plans will be directly routed to the relevant department chair and associate/vice dean for research.

The individual plans will be coordinated by the units and school/colleges and center/institutes to align with any work capacity guidelines for on-site activities as defined in guidance issued by the Governor and the MI Start Safe program elements as we go forward with implementation.

This document requests required information and steps to take for initiation of on-site, lab-based research activities. Research activities that can be done remotely should remain offsite.

Each PI and core laboratory director is responsible for the safety of each individual working within their unit. Researchers who can continue to do their job by working at home should be allowed to do so. This specific lab or core initiation plan represents a documented commitment by the lab/core director to follow posted guidelines and work responsibly in accordance with university policies and procedures. By submission of this document, the lab/core director confirms that each individual staff and/or trainees involved in the on-site activities are voluntarily engaging in this activity.

Please note that failure to comply with the established and approved parameters for the phased-ramp up of on-site research activities may result in suspension of approved activities

The plan must include the following elements and considerations.

  • List of individual lab members and their role in the ramp up activities.

Each individual must complete a defined training and awareness module relative to the COVID-19 pandemic – likely through the CITI training platform currently under development - and this information will be provided upon approved access.

1 person per 144 sq. ft. (a 12 x 12 ft. area with an equivalent 6 ft. radius); include signage indicating 6 feet distance from others in the lab.

This includes restrictions on the number of individuals at a lab bench and within small rooms such as those used for cell culture, specialized instrumentation, work in the vivarium or specialized procedures.

For labs with open bench areas, individuals cannot be positioned to work on the opposite facing side of an individual bench (e.g. "face-to-face") and cannot work "back-to-back" within the same lab bay within the 6 foot radius.

  • Establish staggered shift structure for lab personnel. Examples include establishing two shifts running during each day or staggered alternate day schedules.
  • Establish specific work schedule for work in the vivarium as described below (DLAR operational guidelines).

All lab members must be informed and have received any required training to ensure all understand lab safety and operational procedures under the current COVID-19 environment and this should be documented.

  • The ramp up operational plan should include a strategy for initiating experiments and lab activity plans that recognizes the potential for: a) research lab activity adjustment in the face of an uptick of COVID-19 infections, with reactivation of access restrictions, as per public health stipulations and guidance, and b) localized exposure of individuals in the lab that would require a quarantine or pause in accordance with public health and university stipulations.

Operational requirements and logistics

  • Any on site visits of non-approved service or construction staff and/or visiting scientists, fellows, or technical staff requires approval by the Office of the Vice President for Research in accordance with established site access restrictions.
  • Travel restrictions in place in accordance with daily health survey screen.
  • All work that can happen remotely stays remote (lab meetings, etc.).
  • Meetings of 4 or fewer individuals allowed with appropriate social distancing standards and face masks pending guidance from State of Michigan for implementation of research sector activities.
  • Common areas closed with spacing restrictions and scheduling established for break areas.
  • It is critical that consideration is given to all research and support staff that adjust to accommodate special scheduling needs for the phased ramp-up of activities (e.g. DLAR, facility operations).
  • Recognize and incorporate scheduling and logistical needs around remote and on-site activities involving individuals with higher disease risk.
  • No travel to remote sites for work, unless approved by chairs or center/institute directors and vice/associate deans for research.
  • Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars engaged in key research projects must complete a work plan with their PI/mentor and lab director for approved access.
  • Undergraduate students are not approved for on-site research activities during the ramp-up phase.

Research Cores

      • Stage 1: Genomics, Lipidomics, Proteomics and Lumigen cores (Mass spectrometry and NMR), Gradual increase in vivarium-based activities.
      • Stage 2: MRI core, the Microscopy, Imaging & Cytometry Resources core, remaining core support platforms.

DLAR practices for vivarium activities during the COVID-19 response

As the state and national response to COVID-19 continues to evolve OVPR has developed plans for an eventual return to research activities, including the use of animal resources on campus. While this will be a phased ramping-up that will be evaluated carefully as activities are gradually increased, it should be expected that laboratory personnel will be slowly returning to the DLAR spaces. It remains critically important the everyone be able to do their work safely and comfortably and we are therefore instituting the following protocols for EVERYONE in the vivarium space.

  • All individuals within the vivarium must wear a face covering at all times. Cloth coverings like a scarf, bandana, or homemade mask are acceptable, and a surgical mask or N95 is not necessary. Activities that require removal of face coverings such as lunch breaks should be done in separate spaces or staggered so that individuals are not in the same space at the same time.
  • Social distancing is required for all personnel whenever possible.  When using common areas or working in the same room it is critically important to observe 6 feet of separation, even when wearing face coverings.
  • Enhanced environmental cleaning.  All touch surfaces should be cleaned with an accelerated hydrogen peroxide product like Peroxigard at least twice daily.  These include things like doorknobs, counters/tables, faucet handles, ATS/BSCs, and light switches. The first DLAR member in each morning and the last person to leave each day must spray or wipes these surfaces. Laboratory personnel working in the viviarium will be asked, and expected, to clean surfaces in the spaces that they use as they finish their work each day as well.
  • Regular handwashing/hand sanitizing.  Hand washing or hand sanitizing should be performed immediately after entering the vivarium and repeated regularly throughout the day. Hand washing for 20 seconds is the best way to prevent transmission of the virus from contact with contaminated surfaces. Washing your hands prior to exiting and animal holding or procedure room is a best practice and soap and paper towels should be available at each sink.
  • Communication with laboratory staff to ensure safe practices.  As activities increase in the vivarium, laboratories are still being required to submit their proposed work plans for approval by OVPR. They are also expected to coordinate with DLAR technicians to ensure that they are able maintain suitable social distancing.  In addition, the practices listed here will be shared with and complied with by all laboratory personnel. If you see violations of these practices please remind the staff members of the requirements. Repeated or intentional violations of these practices will not be permitted and any approved access may be suspended. 

 

Contact Information for Questions and Additional Information

Direct line for concerns regarding safety and operational health: Research Integrity and Safety Office – Phil Cunningham, Ph.D., Associate VP for Research Integrity, philc@wayne.edu, Phone:  (313) 577-9064, FAX:  (313) 577-0384

Operational logistics:  Timothy Stemmler, Ph.D., Assistant VP for Integrative Biosciences, Timothy.Stemmler@wayne.edu, Office: (313) 577-5712, Cell: (248) 860-7244         

General questions:  Julie O'Connor, Director of Research Communications, Office of the Vice President for Research, julie.oconnor@wayne.edu, Office: (313) 577-8845, Cell: (734) 748-4207

Campus Health Center: (313) 577-5041 (accessible around the clock). Information on COVID-19 infection and symptoms may be found at https://health.wayne.edu/coronavirus/

 

Additional guidelines and considerations

Schools, colleges and center/institutes

These guidelines are only for the research work being done in laboratory spaces, and do not address the use of classrooms, teaching labs or other instructional spaces, including the use of labs for remote teaching.

  • Ensure facilities are operational before researchers are allowed into the buildings.
  • Establish effective communication strategy in place to present policy/guidelines to all researchers.
  • Ensure PPE and hand sanitizer is available and safety policies posted in research laboratories.
  • Etablish processes for lab purchases established to provide efficient ordering and receipt of materials so research can continue.
  • Emphasize the importance of restricted considerations for building access, lab density, non-lab areas, hygiene, health and compliance.
  • Assure continued monitoring and communication to operational safety.

Principal Investigator Lab Pre-Start Checklist for Safety Considerations 

  • Complete the individual investigator restart plan, "Phased Ramp-Up of On-site, Laboratory-based Research Activities - WSU Laboratory and Core Directors"
  • Complete the individual investigator restart OEHS checklist, "Re-opening of Labs After Shutdown."
  • Prior to initiating any lab activity, assess your lab space for ability to meet social distancing guidelines.
  • Determine how many people can work safely in your lab at a single time while observing appropriate social distancing.
  • For shared laboratory workspaces, you must work with the other faculty and facility representatives to establish definitive guidelines for the space.
  • Create a lab calendar to track who will work at what time and in accordance with social distancing guidelines and operational space.
  • Share this calendar with the appropriate unit representatives.
  • Post occupancy limits on the door, visible to those outside.
  • Post calendar on the door, visible to those outside.

Individual Lab Startup Checklist

  • Before you arrive: review hygiene guidance, PPE decontamination and reuse guidelines, and work alone guidance.
  • Upon first time arrival in the lab: observe laboratory for safety considerations and proceed with caution.
  • Before you begin:
    • Evaluate supplies, e.g., PPE availability and cleaning supplies, and evaluate whetheryou have sufficient supplies to complete the intended work.
    • Evaluate support services, e.g., compressed gasses, house services (compressed air, house gasses, DI water), glass wash services, hazardous chemical or biological waste pick-up, supply deliveries, other halted services (lab coats, etc.), regular custodial services.
  • Animals and other Core/Service Center Facilities:
    • Contact DLAR for any animal-related questions.
    • Contact the Core Facilities/Service Centers to ensure they are available to support lab needs.
  • Chemicals:
    • Check if there has been a chemical spill. Contact OEHS for chemical spill clean-up assistance.
    • Inspect hazardous waste storage. Request OEHS for hazardous waste pick-up as appropriate.
  • Biologicals:
    • Turn on biosafety cabinets and disinfect surfaces before conducting lab work
  • Radiation:
    • Turn on the Geiger counter and conduct a lab radiation survey if needed
  • Equipment:
    • Turn on essential equipment in the lab.
    • If cryogen fill is needed, perform it with assistance from another lab member.
    • If CO2 is needed for incubators, contact your building manager/ facility support services for gas orders.
    • Check that equipment restarts and functions appropriately.
    • Use the shutdown checklist as a guide for equipment.
    • Is calibration needed?
    • Do safety devices operate properly?