Research Continuity and Planning for COVID-19
This is intended to provide guidance and resources for the UH Research Community, to assist in planning for potential impacts and ensuring research continuity during the COVID-19 outbreak. We will continue to update as appropriate. [Updated: 3/24/2020]
UH continues to closely monitor the outbreak of coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, and plan for its potential impact on campus operations.
UH is following guidance from the Hawai‘i Department of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control, and is coordinating closely with the cities and counties and State of Hawai‘i. There are no confirmed cases on our campuses at this time. However, we believe the best course of action is not to wait for such an occurrence, but instead to proactively take steps that will help protect our community.
Individual labs and research facilities are best positioned to create a continuity plan that will meet their unique needs. On 3/16/2020, the Office of the VP for Research and Innovation Office asked all campus laboratories and research facilities to put in place specific measures now to reduce potential transmission of the disease within campus facilities, and also to begin to plan for the possibility of a significant disruption to normal operations, should large numbers of employees become ill or have to self-isolate. The guidance below is provided to facilitate the development of those plans.
UH Planning Information
Research Unit Support Status
- Office of Research Services (ORS) continues to operate per normal schedule.
NOTE: For updates on federal sponsor policies in response to COVID-19, ORS directs you to the Council on Governmental Relations COVID-19 web page. In cases where the sponsor defers to institutional policies and procedures, you may contact Dawn Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org or ORS Financial Compliance at email@example.com for additional guidance. Inquiries will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
- Office of Research Compliance (ORC) continues to operate per normal schedule.
- Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC) and Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) continues to operate per normal schedule.
- Environmental, Health & Safety Office (EHSO) continues to operate per normal schedule. (“New”)
NOTE: In case of a mandatory shut down, EHSO has prepared a laboratory ramp-down checklist.
- Animal and Veterinary Services (AVS) continues to operate per normal schedule.
NOTE: Researchers are encouraged not to start experiments, surgeries, or order animals, that involve long term care of animals. If AVS staff are available, they may assist researchers who are not able to come in to complete their animal research treatments or tend to their breeding colonies. Critical supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE) are in short supply. Therefore, AVS is currently limiting the amount of PPE and other critical supplies available within the vivariums to ensure that they are conserved for laboratory use only.
- Research Corporation of the University of Hawai‘i (RCUH) continues to operate per normal schedule. (“New”)
NOTE: Please refer to the following guidance: RCUH Advisory #2 and RCUH Advisory #1 for Project PIs During the COVID-19 Pandemic for more details.
Human Resources Guidelines
- UH Office of Human Resources (OHR) guidance (UH login required) for COVID-19 related frequently asked questions.
- OHR Point of Contact listing Please email your OHR point of contact if you have additional questions or comments.
Travel Curtailment Guidelines
- CDC Coronavirus Travel Guidance including links to current Level 2 & 3 countries
- UH guidelines for travel curtailment including the latest travel policy frequently asked questions.
Longer Term Planning for Research Continuity
- Assumptions for planning
- Steps to ensure continuity of critical functions
- Other safety considerations
- Coronavirus Research on Campus
Longer Term Planning for Research Continuity
We gratefully acknowledge our colleagues at Yale University and the UC System, specifically UC Berkeley, whose communications to their research communities influenced our statement below.
Principal Investigators and Research Managers should begin scenario planning now for the potential that research and campus operations need to continue with reduced or remote staffing, if significant numbers of research or research support personnel become ill, or large-scale self-isolation is required. Any changes to research support unit operations will be posted on this page and communicated to the campus.
Note: In no event should researchers take materials other than laptops, data storage devices, etc., offsite (e.g., to their homes) to ensure research continuity during a curtailment. All essential research must continue within the confines of appropriate laboratory space. Questions on this policy should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assumptions to use for planning, should widespread COVID-19 communal transmission require campus support operations to be delivered remotely, or with reduced staffing due to illness
- Life, safety and the good health of our research workforce and animals will remain our highest priority.
- Assume that essential research infrastructure, such as power and telecommunications, will be maintained.
- Assume that research administration units, such as the Office of Research Services (ORS), Office of Research Compliance (ORC), Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC), Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) and campus offices such as the UHM VC for Research will continue to provide services.
- Assume that the offices of Animal and Veterinary Services (AVS), Biological Safety and Environment, Health & Safety Office (EHSO) will maintain their critical oversight functions, with back-up plans should the campus go into curtailed access.
Nevertheless, PIs should plan for the following possibilities
- Be prepared for some of your laboratory workforce to fall ill or be required to self-isolate.
- Be prepared to decontaminate the work space of an ill researcher in your laboratory.
- Be prepared for core facilities and other fee-for-service resources to become unavailable.
- Be prepared for critical supply orders to be delayed. PIs should work with their unit (e.g., department, School, College) to coordinate essential deliveries.
- Be prepared for building or laboratory access to be curtailed. The campus will notify the affected communities as soon as possible. Assume that essential access for equipment maintenance and critical laboratory experiments will continue
- Be prepared that repairs performed by facilities management offices and other campus and non-campus service providers may be delayed.
- Be prepared that processing of visas by the federal government may be delayed, resulting in delayed appointments.
Steps to take now to ensure continuity of critical functions in case of a severe outbreak
- Identify procedures and processes that require regular personnel attention (e.g., cell culture maintenance, animal studies).
- Assess and prioritize critical laboratory activities. Create an accurate inventory of laboratory chemicals and sensitive laboratory instrumentation and equipment, and share this information with your Department Chair and EHSO.
- Identify any research experiments that can be ramped down, curtailed, or delayed.
- Identify key personnel able to safely perform essential activities to insure the continuity of your laboratory’s research capability.
- Ensure that you have access to up-to-date email and telephone contact information for your critical staff.
- Cross-train research staff to substitute for others who may be out sick or unable to come to work.
- Ensure staff have the appropriate, up-to-date training.
- Document critical step-by-step instructions for laboratory procedures.
- Encourage all researchers to be familiar with each other’s work if an absence would threaten the loss of experiments (such as which cells need transferring to new media, etc.)
- Coordinate with colleagues who have similar research activities to identify ways to ensure mutual support and coverage of critical activities.
- Review contingency plans and emergency procedures with researchers and staff.
- Maintain a sufficient inventory of critical supplies that may be impacted by global shipping delays. Inform your laboratory manager or Department Chair if your lab relies on regularly-scheduled supplies such as liquid nitrogen, dry ice or helium. Coordinate those deliveries with building management.
- Consider installing remote control monitoring devices for critical equipment (e.g., -80C freezers, liquid nitrogen storage dewars, incubators).
- Communicate significant planned absences and/or lab closures to your EHSO Safety Advisors, business offices, and other key administrative units.
- Contact your departmental and unit leadership (Department Chair, Dean, Director) and EHSO staff if you need assistance in reviewing your continuity plans.
Other safety considerations
- Ensure that individuals working in the laboratories adhere to the provisions of the OSHA Laboratory Standard, the University’s Chemical Hygiene Plan, and other pertinent UH research guidance documents.
- Ensure that individuals performing critical tasks have been adequately trained and understand whom to contact with technical or safety questions.
- Avoid performing high-risk procedures alone. When working alone is necessary, exercise extreme caution.
- Ensure that research team members notify colleagues of their schedule when working alone for an extended period of time.
- Ensure that high-risk materials (radioactive, biohazards, chemicals) are properly secured.
Coronavirus research on campus
Note that all PIs must consult with EHSO and ORC to receive the appropriate approvals prior to performing any coronavirus research or work on campus (including to help state and federal agencies to screen patient samples). This includes requesting or accepting COVID-19 samples (patient or otherwise).