COVID-19 Practical Guidelines

COVID-19 Practical Guidelines

Fall 2020: A Guide for Researchers and Labs

As we welcome faculty, staff, and students back to campus, we will be adjusting our guidances to users of research laboratory spaces on campus. Researchers who were already approved to return to their research facilities in Summer 2020 and do not have any changes to room density do not need to complete any additional procedures as listed below. 

For employed and student researchers entering facilities for the first time in Fall 2020, the procedure to be completed using is shown in the below table. If you are both an employee AND a student researcher, please follow the employee process. It is the Principal Investigator’s (PIs) or Laboratory Director's responsibility to disseminate these instructions to their students doing lab work. All PIs must have plans in place for social distancing in their labs on file; more information about those plans can be found in the table linked above. Contact your dean's office for additional information. All researchers must comply with university policies per the below Fall 2020: A Guide for Researchers and Labs​ including social distancing, wearing masks, cooperating with contact tracing, screenings, and training.

Research-for-credit: In-person instruction is permitted for curricula involving labs, clinical rotations, technical and other hands-on instruction. Computational work can be completed remotely, but is permitted to be offered in-person. Research that results in the awarding of academic credit is curricular.

Credit-bearing research falls under instruction. Students do not have to submit the Restarting Research application form and no waiver is needed as these are Category 1 classes. Schools and colleges should be aware that a documented plan that complies with the State-approved Restart Guidelines that differentiates between the Governor’s Stage 2 and Stage 3 is required. Please refer to Academic Affairs and your dean's office for additional guidance.

Student research activities in laboratory settings are subject to the same health and safety protocols as any research activities. In the case of COVID-19, best practices for researchers will be applicable to student researchers.

Complaint Process: Researchers who have concerns about their safety or the safety of others, are experiencing coercion, or otherwise suspect non-compliance of any nature to should report their concerns using an established grievance and complaint procedure here: COVID-19 Research, Creative and Scholarly Works Grievance and Compliance online formAll identifying information will be kept confidential. The complaints will be vetted and investigated by a committee of faculty, staff, and students.  In some cases, colleges/schools will have a local complaint committee who will help to confidentially resolve the grievance. 

Step

Process/Routing Pathway
(where forms must be delivered to)

Completed By: Fall 2020 Location of Documentation/Form
1

Rowan University Critical On-Campus Research | COVID-19 (undergraduate students, graduate students, medical students, post-doctoral trainees, and staff should be named on the form of the Principal Investigator, PI)

PI

Deans, Associate Deans and/or faculty must maintain documentation for density in the room, including mask wearing, and other safety protocols. *See below for more info regarding plan requirements.

New individuals using animal facilities as of Fall 2020 must undergo training and accomodation. Please contact Dr. Nedeljka Bajalo at bajalo@rowan.edu 

2

Complete and sign the Professional Ethics Agreement Form

All on-campus researchers

Employees: Employees will complete HR Personal Responsibility form distributed by Divisional VP/equivalent (contact unit head for additional information).

Students: Student should have completed the Student Acknowledment of Risk and Responsibility and Waiver for All Students as a requirement for returning to campus.

3

Complete the EH&S Rowan University Research Restart Checklist located in BioRAFT

PIs (ONLY those with Research Laboratory Space) BioRaft
4

Complete the Employee Training SARs COVID-19 created and administered by EH&S

All on-campus researchers

Employees and Students: Review EH&S PowerPoint downloaded here. This PowerPoint is also available to all employees and students as a Banner action item.

5

Cooperate with contact tracing

Maintain records and make available if requested (do not hand in to any office unless requested)

All on-campus researchers

Each individual maintains list of contacts; these are made available only upon request. For more details, review EH&S PowerPoint downloaded here.

6

Students and postdoctoral trainees will receive an informational e-mail from the Dean and/or Associate Dean prior to returning to the laboratory.

Deans' offices

-
7

Check whether your unit (college/school/department) has developed local plans for restarting research and follow the guidelines within that document

PIs -

*Plans require a description on how personnel would be staggered and/or managed so as to not exceed room density (6ft-to-10ft distances between personnel at all times). If alternating days or shifts will be implemented, please maintain a table to describe the days of the week and shifts that each researcher will be working. Please include PPE plans, what steps you will put in place to ensure social distancing, and how regular cleaning will be addressed to ensure safety of research personnel. Please keep these plans on file in case requested by the Director of the Wellness Center.

 

Restart 2020: A Guide for Researchers and Labs (Summer 2020) 

This document has important information about how to access campus research space in a restarting phase formally initiated by the University. Anyone requesting access, including their lab members, must read this document carefully prior to requesting access to ensure they can meet the requirements laid out to conduct research in university space and whether they can abide by the rules at all times. It has been adopted from “ReOpening Research”  prepared by the University of Houston (UH) Division of Research.

Jump to section:

The Committee to Restart Research developed a plan for how to open our research facilities and operations in stages.  The Committee is co-chaired by Dr. Tabbetha Dobbins, Interim Vice President for Research, and Dr. Stephanie Lezotte, Director of Strategic Research Initiatives and Outreach. The Committee developed the Guiding Principles for Reopening, an overall Framework for Restarting Research, a Professional Ethics Agreement Form, and the Rowan University Critical On-Campus Research Continuity Request Form | COVID-19.  Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) developed the EH&S Rowan University Research Restart Checklist and the training: Employee Training SARs COVID-19.

Specific Units also developed plans for restarting research. You are responsible to follow the guidance of this document as well as those plans developed by the specific unit where your research will be performed/housed in.

You can read more details about each of these documents in the “Framework to Restart Research” Document.  

Guidance provided in the Restarting Research Plan is consistent with N.J. Governor Murphy’s The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health and the University’s Guidance for Rowan Researchers document issued on March 19, 2020. The overarching goal is to protect the health and well-being of students, staff, and faculty who conduct research in university research. Below, Principal Investigators (PI) refers to the person who leads a lab or research group.

These guidelines apply to research that is conducted within university research spaces and laboratories (such as the university research spaces and laboratories located on the Glassboro campus, at CMSRU, at Rowan-SOM, and the SJTP), other core research facilities, on-campus clinical sites, research offices, field stations, and Rowan University human subject research (involving direct contact with human research subjects) within and outside the University. Essential employees who are currently working on Rowan University campuses must follow the same processes outlined in these documents for gaining access to research spaces (primarily for record keeping purposes). Principal investigators or other researchers who intend to work in university research spaces and laboratories without staff or students accompanying them must also follow this process to gain access to research spaces.

These guidelines also cover research that is done at other facilities involving Rowan University faculty, staff, and students on projects led by Rowan affiliated principal investigators. Researchers performing work at national laboratories or state laboratories should follow the guidance of those laboratories (while recognizing this document as guidance for recommended best practices in cases where this guidance is deemed more cogent for safe practices). University research space also includes physical presence intended for the purpose of research such as campus libraries, archives, campus laboratories including computer laboratories, laboratories and workshops where visual arts, artistic and theatrical performance and exhibits are prepared and museums, and having  access to any University facilities, materials, and equipment that cannot be accessed remotely.  

There are altogether four phases in the restart (see Framework for Restarting Research for full description of the Four (4) Phases). Among them, Phases 2 and 3 are intended to bring research groups back on campus in cases for which the research cannot be conducted remotely. For example, research which requires access to facilities or databases that can only be accessed when on campus. Access requests are carefully vetted by the Vice Deans/Associate Deans of the PI.

To the greatest extent possible, research personnel should continue to work from home; in particular, all vulnerable individuals with comorbidity and compromised immune function are encouraged to continue to work from home.

While the library is closed, in order to access collections in the Libraries that are not available online, check the National Emergency Digital Library which has digitized some books often found in print in libraries. The library administrators, with input from librarians and staff, have begun planning for how re-opening the library this summer might work.

Researchers should be aware that another outbreak of COVID-19 or the issue of ‘Stay Home’ executive orders, research may have to be ramped down again with very short notice.  Follow guidance from the Division of University Research for ‘Ramp Down’ procedures  found in the document titled “Guidance for researchers on COVID-19 preparation (dated March 11th, 2020).”  This “Ramp Down” guidance will be provided on the University’s COVID-19 Dedicated page. Accessing your files (including Rowan drives) from off-campus is possible by following the instructions on this page.

Consequences for faculty and staff who do not follow these guidelines could be revocation of on-site access to facilities (or remote facilities if applicable) for all researchers on the project for at least a one week period. Faculty and staff identified as the PI in the Rowan University Critical On-Campus Research Continuity Request Form | COVID-19 are held responsible for non-compliance of faculty collaborators, staff, postdoctoral trainees, and students found under their approval in the form.  Therefore, it is imperative to handle shared personnel thoughtfully in the application form. Further and/or repeated non-compliance with these guidelines will be followed up with additional penalties (as determined by the Associate Deans, Deans, VP for Research, Human Resources (HR) Director, Office of Legal Counsel, and Provosts’ Office). Non-compliance may be discovered by random laboratory checks or by complaints and grievances reported to the university using the COVID-19 Research, Creative and Scholarly Works Grievance and Compliance online form. Complaints are anonymous and all identifying information about the reporter will be kept confidential.

Steps Prior to Restarting On-Site Research
(Summer 2020 only)

Anyone (PI, students, faculty, and staff) working in a university research space will be required to complete the following steps. If you are NOT a Rowan affiliate but will conduct research in a Rowan lab, please contact research@rowan.edu for paper-based forms.

Step

Process/Routing Pathway
(where forms must be delivered to)

Completed By: Summer 2020 Location of Documentation/Form
1

Rowan University Critical On-Campus Research Continuity Request Form | COVID-19 (undergraduate students, graduate students, medical students, post-doctoral trainees, and staff should be named on the form of the Principal Investigator, PI)

Form automatically goes to Deans’ offices within 1 day of completion
PI*

Google Form

2

Complete and sign the Professional Ethics Agreement Form

Deans will have access to a completion report

All on-campus researchers Banner
3

Complete the EH&S Rowan University Research Restart Checklist located in BioRAFT

Form automatically gets reviewed by EH&S in BioRaft
PIs (ONLY those with Research Laboratory Space) BioRaft
4

Complete the Employee Training SARs COVID-19 created and administered by EH&S

Deans will have access to a completion report
All on-campus researchers Banner
5

Cooperate with contact tracing

Maintain records and make available if requested (do not hand in to any office unless requested)

All on-campus researchers Each Individual Maintains List; Makes available only upon request
6

Students and Postdoctoral Trainees will receive an informational e-mail from the Associate Dean and/or Dean prior to returning to the laboratory.

Deans' offices will receive names of those who should attend from Request Form and will record attendance.  No routing or forms needed.

Undergraduate Students;

Graduate Students; Medical Students; Postdoctoral Trainees
N/A
7

Check whether your Specific Unit (College/School/Department) has developed local plans for restarting research and follow the guidelines within that document

Check with unit to learn about specific guidance or any forms needed.
PIs College/School Specific guidelines may apply

*PI = Principal Investigator of the research group requesting access
**ALL = every researcher who will have on-site access. Essential employees who currently have lab access must still follow (applicable) steps 1-8 for recordkeeping purposes.

PIs must submit the Rowan University Critical On-Campus Research Continuity Request Form | COVID-19, (at least one for each college/school which houses the facility to which access is requested).  This form includes a space where the list of personnel for the specified building location (including room numbers) of research activities will be conducted. The PI must receive approval from the college/school and EH&S (via the Restart of Research Notification Form located in BioRAFT) prior to commencing any research activities in university research space.  

If approval is not granted, research cannot commence. Contact your Department Head (Department Chair if your Department does not have a Department Head) and the Associate/Assistant Dean for further discussion if this occurs. Any changes in personnel or spaces (after request has been made) must be submitted through the same process. The form is collected by the Division of University Research and will be routed first to the College/School of the PI for approval.  The College/School may share the information with the Department Head (and Chair with Departments with no Head). The Deans (or Associate/Vice Deans) of the College/School renders a decision on approval. If approval is granted, the Deans (or Associate/Vice Deans) must share that information with Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) via email to ehs@rowan.edu. Instead, PIs may also forward the Deans  (or Associate/Vice Deans) approval letters to ehs@rowan.eduEH&S will coordinate with the Division of University Research, HR, Office of the Provost, Facilities Services, Building Coordinators, Campus Police, the Libraries on building access.  If approval is denied, Deans (or Associate/Vice Deans) will contact the faculty member directly. PIs are responsible for confirming adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is available for your short-term research needs. If you do not have enough PPE, you cannot start laboratory operations.

The EH&S Rowan University Research Restart Checklist is guidance for reactivating paused research laboratory activities. Please complete the document prior to commencing research. The document is a self inspection checklist that will be assigned by EH&S to PIs with research laboratory space. Note that a Rowan ID card is required for building access at all times. Because buildings will be closed, the PI must check that adequate arrangements are made for deliveries.

The PI is required to obtain verbal or written consent from students and employees listed on the form to work in university research space prior to submitting the form. PI should document time and date of all verbal approvals in a single location— and have those available upon request for up to two years after the date of verbal approval. Students, faculty, and staff who have concerns about their safety, or the safety of others, regarding the implementation of a restarting research plan should report their concerns to COVID-19 Research, Creative and Scholarly Works Grievance and Compliance online formIf they have concerns, are experiencing coercion, or otherwise suspect non-compliance of any nature, they should utilize established grievance and complaint procedures, including the COVID-19 Research, Creative and Scholarly Works Grievance and Compliance online form. All identifying information will be kept confidential. The complaints will be vetted and investigated by a committee of faculty, staff, and students. In some cases, Colleges/Schools will have a local complaint committee who will help to confidentially resolve the grievance. Reminders highlighting this grievance process will be issued via the Rowan Daily Mail regularly to better publicize it.

Colleges/Schools/Departments may also develop plans for restarting research. The College/School/Departments plans must comply with the University’s restart plan. You are responsible to follow the guidance of the Restarting Research - Practical Guidance (this document) as well as those plans developed by the specific unit your research will be performed/housed in.  

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Dean's Guidelines

The Deans' offices approval process flow diagram is here:

Dean Flowchart

General Guidelines

Regardless of the type of research/scholarship performed, the following guidelines must be followed at all times.

  • Protect Yourself and Others: CDC guidelines of social distancing of 6 feet or greater, hand-washing (minimum of 20 seconds with soap), covering mouth and nose, cough etiquette, cleanliness, and sanitation should be rigorously practiced.
  • Face Coverings/Masks: Effective April 8th, Governor Murphy, via executive order #122 required workers and customers to wear cloth face coverings while on the premises; face coverings/masks for those faculty and staff working on-campus in situations where they are in close proximity (within 6 feet) of others should wear similar cloth face coverings. This is also directed to all who are visiting campus, including students, contractors and visitors (10 years of age or older). 
  • Protective Equipment: It is the PI’s responsibility to determine what kind of protective equipment is needed and to ensure their availability to members of their research group while they work in university research spaces.
  • Health Checks:  Prior to coming to work, individuals must self-screen for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or known close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19. If you have any of the symptoms on any work day, do not come on campus. Contact your immediate supervisor as soon as reasonably possible. Follow the guidelines in the EH&S Rowan University Research Restart Checklist. In the case of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 and contact Health Services at the Wellness Center (856-256-4333) so that we can work with Facilities to arrange for professional sanitation of the offices and lab if needed.
  • Travel: Travel restrictions and self-quarantine rules continue to apply and are posted on the Rowan University COVID-19 page under Guidance on International Travel issued on Feb. 27, 2020 and COVID-19 FAQ-Domestic Travel for Employees Issued on March 3, 2020.   
  • Contact Tracing: Every individual must agree to participate in contact tracing-- which means that they will maintain and regularly update a list of substantive and known face-to-face contacts that they have had during the preceding two weeks (i.e., lab members with whom they interact, visitors to the lab, outside funding representatives, trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, etc. by time and date). They may be required to provide the names of human subjects with whom they came in direct contact during study procedures. In the case of a coronavirus infection, they also agree to provide Rowan University with this list and understand that they shall be responsible to take any necessary steps in accordance with the IRB to protect human subjects' information. This information will be made available to the Wellness Center (856-256-4333) to facilitate contact tracing and shall be used for public health purposes only.
  • Common Areas: People are discouraged from eating together or gathering in common areas, such as kitchens or break rooms. These areas, including appliances, must be cleaned regularly.
  • Closed Workspaces: Closed workspaces that are open to users in libraries, archives, etc. must be disinfected regularly. Single-occupancy workspaces that are small and enclosed should not be occupied by more than one person per work period.

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Research in Shared Spaces

Shared Spaces are defined as research spaces where members of a research group routinely interact with each other in the same space, such as science and engineering labs, core facilities, shared spaces in institutes or centers. These guidelines apply:

  • Spacing: The following guidelines must be adopted for shared research spaces: researchers must maintain a social distance of 6 to 10 feet apart during the course of their work unless a different density is justified and approved. The PI is responsible for ensuring that this rule is followed at all times. Space out desks and workstations: desks in common areas must be arranged so that individuals occupying desks at the same time are at least 10 ft apart (consider temporary walls between workstations if this spacing cannot be achieved). If a space is designed for single occupancy, the space should not be occupied by more than one individual during the same work period. Spaces should be disinfected between users. Any exceptions to this social distancing of 6 to 10 feet apart must be undergo approval and be documented by use of the Rowan University Critical On-Campus Research Continuity Request Form | COVID-19 in order for the researchers and laboratory to be compliant with these guidelines. Random inspections will be performed and noncompliant labs will be shut down. 
  • Work Schedule: Consider implementing a staggered work schedule that minimizes the number of people who are in the lab or other shared research areas at the same time. Work shifts, including work during non-regular business hours, should be considered. The work schedule must be posted inside the shared research space in an easily accessible place. Allow for at least 15-minute buffers between shifts to avoid contact of individuals during transition. Minimize rotating individuals among shifts to reduce the number of unique contacts. Work spaces should be disinfected between users.
  • Protective Equipment: Face coverings/masks and gloves must be available and used at all times in shared research spaces. Obtaining these items is the responsibility of the PI. Face coverings/Masks must be worn at all times in spaces that involve close proximity with other people and when other people are present. Gloves must be worn and removed properly when individuals interact with human subjects in close proximity or share devices or equipment. Face coverings/Masks and gloves must be made available to human subjects and visitors prior to entering lab spaces. Human subjects and visitors must wear face coverings/masks and must be given the option to wear gloves. If other protective equipment is needed, the PI must ensure their availability. If any of these are needed and not available to the lab, the lab is not allowed to remain open.
  • Visitors: No visitors (including maintenance people and vendors) are allowed in shared research spaces except for the purpose of delivery, maintenance, repairs, or research collaboration that cannot be conducted remotely. Deliveries should be left outside the lab, if possible. Visitors must adhere to the same rules as lab members if they enter the lab. If visitors come to university research spaces repeatedly (more than once a month), they should be included in the Critical On-Campus Research Continuity Request Form | COVID-19Visitors, collaborators, maintenance personnel and vendors must complete occupational health training provided by EH&S prior to entry into vivariums.
  • Volunteer Researchers: Research is a tremendously valuable experience for students. However, the risk associated with COVID-19 makes it challenging to host volunteers in the labs. Volunteer student researchers are not permitted to conduct on-campus research until Rowan enters stage 3. We understand research enriches students’ experiences and helps to develop their professional identity. Therefore, we encourage faculty to work with student volunteer researchers on projects that can be conducted remotely.
  • Meetings: Routine lab/research group meetings should not be conducted face-to-face. If a face-to-face meeting is necessary, limit the number of participants and hold the meeting in a larger space to allow for appropriate spacing.
  • Safety: If research is conducted by a single individual in a lab setting where under normal circumstances, two or more individuals are present, notify at least one other person outside the lab as a safety precaution prior to entering the lab and upon leaving.
  • Disinfecting Labs: Disinfect common research areas and frequently touched surfaces (lab benches, doorknobs, sink handles, freezer doors, fume hood sashes, keyboards, microscopes, etc.) at the end of each shift prior to the next shift arriving at the workplace. Designate one or more individuals responsible for cleaning and disinfecting and have them initial on the daily work schedule that they completed the cleaning.
  • Disinfecting Equipment: Minimize the sharing of equipment and devices. If they need to be shared, thoroughly disinfect the device between uses by different individuals.

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Human Subject Research

Only a restricted set of human subject research should be conducted face-to-face at this time (i.e. Phase 2 or 3). Visitors must adhere to the same rules as lab members if they enter the campus (i.e. Glassboro, CMSRU, or RU-SOM) facilities. Continue to conduct human subject research online as much as possible. If face-to-face research with human subjects cannot be conducted remotely, minimize the risk by not conducting research on individuals in higher risk groups or minors. Practice sanitation and hygiene processes at all times, as explained on this page. Research areas must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected in between visits and best practices dictate that appointments are scheduled at least 20 minutes apart to facilitate the cleaning and disinfecting. Social distancing (6 ft or more) must be maintained at all times, which may eliminate some research requiring closer contact with subjects.

If face-to-face research with human subjects is conducted, subjects must verbally confirmed (and documented by the researcher at the time of verbal confirmation) that they have not received a diagnosis of COVID-19 in the past fourteen days, do not exhibit any of the COVID-19 symptoms, and, to the best of their knowledge, have not come in close contact with a person who is lab-tested and confirmed to have COVID-19 prior to coming on campus for research-related activities.

Expectations for human subject research at this phase of re-opening are categorized below. While required sanitization, verbal COVID-19 screening, use of personal protective equipment, and other safety precautions do not have to be added to the IRB protocol, should research procedures be modified for COVID-19 (ex: conducting activities online instead of in-person, or individually instead of in a group format). A modification to the protocol must be submitted and approved prior to implementing any changes to the protocol or procedures due to COVID-19 guidance and restrictions. Additionally, read carefully the section on “Working with Biohazards and Human Specimens” below if this applies to the research protocol. When possible, screening of prospective subjects must be done remotely. Likewise, consenting could be done verbally or electronically after receiving approval from the IRB. 

The following are guidelines to promote a safe environment.

Online interviews, surveys or focus groups

Social, behavioral, educational and some clinical research often involves record reviews, interviewing, psychological and cognitive testing can be done without face-to-face meetings. These and other focus group meetings can also be conducted in a virtual environment or using mailed surveys or on-line surveys and interviews and use of telecommunication methods or technology. Remote data collection using technology can be performed without restrictions. However, any modifications to an approved study require IRB review and approval prior to implementing changes.

Individual (non-clinical) on-campus research visits:

In person research may be conducted when the exposure risk is low and when the following criteria are met:

  • Schedule appointments to not overlap with those of other subjects
  • Sanitize research area and equipment between subjects
  • Use face coverings/masks and gloves for both research subjects and investigators or their study personnel at all times.
  • Social distancing must be maintained at all times.
  • Frequently sanitize hands during visits.

Individual (non-clinical) off-campus interviews:

If you are planning to modify off campus interviews, surveys, screening, verbal or electronic consent, please submit a modification to the IRB and the modified procedures must be approved by the IRB before implementing changes to the study.

In Person Research in Clinical Settings

This can be broadly divided into two parts. One in which risks may be mitigated through physical distancing or use of appropriate PPE. Second in which risks cannot be mitigated. Clinical research in which research cannot be mitigated in general, these studies are not permitted until the COVID-19 risk is naturally reduced to manageable levels post COVID-19 pandemics. In the event that an emergency intervention is needed to circumvent adverse events, such circumstances must undergo IRB review and approval by the IRB and the Vice President for Research.  

In each of the above circumstances, the policies of the clinic/health care provider apply, regardless whether the clinical setting is at Rowan University or external.

Research in established, non-clinical institutions (schools, prisons, etc.)

The policies of the external institution and federal regulations apply, especially in the case of prisoner population.

Research in non-institutional community settings (farmer’s market, on the street, parks, homeless shelters, etc.)

This requires prior IRB approval. If modifications are made to an approved and active protocol, such modifications must be approved by the IRB prior to implementing changes.

Face-to-face focus groups, regardless of location 

Face to face focus groups with minimal risk can be conducted if physical distancing and wearing face coverings/masks are strictly followed. A prefered method is to use telecommunication methods like Webex to conduct focus group sessions.

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Animal Research

The Animal Care Facilities (ACF) teams will allow face-to-face interactions between ACF staff and individual researchers who are not on the ACF staff. Both, the ACF staff and the animal users (researchers), must wear appropriate face covers. ACF staff will continue to communicate with researchers via phone and  through email or other electronic communication methods such as Skype, Webex, Zoom, Google Meets, or Microsoft Teams meetings, if needed.

Restricting entrance to the animal facilities. ACF’s goal is to safely meet the needs of staff and investigators.  To limit staff exposure, ACF is restricting all investigators, maintenance personnel, collaborators and vendors from entering the animal facilities until 10:30am at CMSRU. Anyone not on ACF staff who wishes to enter before 10:30 am must arrange the arrival with the Vivarium staff via e-mail to bajalo@rowan.edu. The SOM investigators, due to the nature of their studies can enter the ACF as usual, following the guidance for social distancing. This will allow the ACF staff to complete the duties within the animal facility prior to the investigators entering the facility. Before returning to work in ACF, the attending veterinarian will host workshops to train investigators on entrance procedures (dates and times to be determined). This training is mandatory to enter the ACF. Every person will be trained on entrance procedures. The researchers will come to the ACF wearing the proper face cover. The face covers and gloves will be worn all the time during the work in ACF. To allow a proper social distance, facilitate an earlier start for the researchers and to ensure that only one person works in an animal holding and/or procedure room, ACF will share the calendars/schedules with the researchers. The researchers who only need to retrieve the animals from the holding room and take them to their laboratory during the cage change days are encouraged to e-mail the vivarium staff their needs a day before and include the cage number or the positions of the cage on the rack and the time they would like to take the animals. The Vivarium staff will collect the cages and place them on the cart in front of the animal holding room so the PI can take them without entering the room. Communication between the researchers and Vivarium staff is essential for smooth operations. For more details regarding this process please see the section “Additional Information”  below.

Some animal holding rooms have a large enough space and two BSL cabinets to allow the presence of two persons at the time. To avoid unnecessary traffic, personal contact and waste of PPE, the researchers are required to make a list of procedures and items that are essential to perform an experiment. It is hoped that with this guidance in place, there will be limited numbers of entries to the ACF by the same person or group. Every person entering ACF  has to use their own access card.

By entering the facility, individual researchers certify that they do not exhibit any of the symptoms at the time of entering the facility: new or worsening cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, or feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit.  If an individual tests positive for COVID-19 or if they have COVID-like symptoms, they are not permitted in the animal facility.

Researchers not abiding by the social distancing guidelines or use of a proper PPE will have their animal facility access removed. 

Animal ordering will be gradual, over the course of five weeks.  

Prepare for supply changes. ACF currently has enough inventory of PPE and cleaning agents to cover current needs within the animal facility. The situation, however, may change rapidly. Researchers are prohibited from removing PPE and cleaning supplies from the animal facility. Failure to adhere to this policy may result in denial of future access to the animal facility during the pandemic.  

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval. If any modifications to the animal protocol are required due to the COVID-19 situation (for example, shortening procedure durations or ordering animals over the number approved by the IACUC), please ensure a modification is submitted and approved through the IACUC office in writing via the website.

Additional Q&A Information Related to the ACF is found in Appendix I.

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Working with Biohazardous Agents and Human Specimens

Working with Biohazardous agents

Require approval from the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC). If modifications are needed to change the protocol, such changes must be approved by the IBC prior to implementing changes.

Working with Human Specimens 

The transportation or use of biospecimens requires prior IBC approval. Venipunctures and fingersticks must be conducted by experienced individuals. The collection of saliva and urine samples also require approval by the IBC. If biospecimen are collected with subject’s consent, the use of existing biospecimen must be consistent with subject’s consent unless the subject has agreed  to use the specimen without any restrictions for other research.

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General FAQs

1: Can the Principle Investigator (PI) require students to come to campus for research?
A: No.

2: Is the PI liable if a research student gets infected while in the lab? Is the PI liable if a research student gets infected while on campus conducting research?
A: If the PI is following protocols established in our guidance and working within the scope of the PI’s responsibilities, liability is highly unlikely. That being said, the PI could be named in a lawsuit.

3: Are students liable if they infect another research student while in the lab? Are students liable if another student gets infected while on campus because of research duties?
A: Likely not. It is very hard to demonstrate that a student was the cause of another student’s infection. Our focus must be to follow the guidelines in place and reduce likelihood of infection. 

4: What is the PI’s liability if non-COVID-19 incidents occur in the lab due to lack of supervision caused by social distancing (i.e. PI cannot be in same room as student during experimentation)?
A: The PI must have adequate supervision in place even with social distancing. If adequate supervision is not possible, then the student should not be in the lab. However, if a PI is following appropriate safeguards outlined in the Restart Plan as well as in the Laboratory Safety Policy, risk of incident and liability are reduced.

5. Can the PI require student researchers to be tested for COVID-19?
A: No. Testing cannot be required by individual faculty members. Testing is not recommended by the CDC for all asymptomatic students. Testing will be based on public health recommendations in accordance with Rowan University policy. 

6. If a student researcher is tested, is the PI entitled to know the result?
Q: Test results will be considered confidential information. Individuals will be notified of COVID-19 exposure in accordance with public health recommendations.

7. If the PI tests positive, are student researchers communicated the result? If someone in my building tests positive, are the PIs in that building communicated the results?
A: Test results will be considered confidential information. Individuals will be notified of COVID-19 exposure in accordance with public health recommendations.

8. Is it the PI’s responsibility to communicate test results to members of the lab?
A: Test results will be considered confidential information. Individuals will be notified of COVID-19 exposure in accordance with public health recommendations.

9. In case of positive testing of any lab member or anyone on the floor or in the building, can research continue?
A: Generally, yes. You will be informed if the lab must be shut down but due to frequency of cleanings and precautions, we are hoping to avoid shutdowns based on one positive test. 

10. My lab research experiments cannot easily be interrupted and restarted. What are the conditions that will lead to stopping on-site research again? Is there a specific number of cases per building metric?
A: There is not a clear guidance relating to number of cases leading to shutdown of on-site research. We must keep in mind that another executive order could result in shutdown. We are taking the recommended public health precautions in an effort to avoid shutdown.

11. What will be the frequency of cleaning/decontamination of common areas in labs and buildings (hallways, bathrooms, all doors, etc.)?
A: All academic spaces will have bathrooms thoroughly cleaned and disinfected twice per day, at least Monday through Friday. We are awaiting confirmation on the weekend use of academic spaces to determine the cleaning frequency required. All other common spaces will be cleaned once per day, normally during the overnight shift. Items such as door handles, elevator buttons, etc. will get cleaned once per day.

12. What precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of janitorial personnel, and ensure that they do not contribute to spread of virus between different labs in the same building?
A: Janitorial personnel have been trained relating to cleaning and disinfecting and are wearing appropriate masks and gloves to facilitate cleaning. 

13. Will used Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) used in labs such as masks and gloves be considered as potential biohazard?
A: Face coverings and gloves that are not specific to research are not considered biohazardous waste.  The OSHA document COVID-19 Control and Prevention Solid Waste and Wastewater Management Workers and Employees provides the following:

"Workers and employers should manage municipal (e.g., household, business) solid waste with potential or known SARS-CoV-2 contamination like any other non-contaminated municipal waste."

Personal protective equipment (PPE) for research at biosafety level 2 is considered biohazardous and must be disposed of through the regulated medical waste stream. Questions can be directed to Environmental Health & Safety at ehs@rowan.edu.

14. How will buildings be monitored to know when occupancy capacity is reached?
A: We will be working with the Deans’ offices to ensure rotation of staff to prevent overcrowding.

15. Will there be temperature testing to allow personnel and students in labs and buildings?
A: All staff, faculty, and students will be required to check their temperatures on a daily basis and complete a daily check-in verifying that they are free from symptoms. If they are not, they should not come to campus or work in labs.

16. When will PIs and research students be given special instructions relative to building occupancy (e.g. one-way hallways, bathroom usage, common sitting areas, etc.)?
A: Signs will be posted in the building relating to common areas, hallways, and other areas in the building. Please review the Return to Rowan documents relating to building density. 

17. Do students taking research for course credits have to adhere to the Return to Research plan described here?
A: Credit-bearing research falls under instruction. These students do not have to submit the Restarting Research application form and no waiver is needed as these are Category 1 classes. Schools and colleges should be aware that a documented plan that complies with the State-approved Restart Guidelines that differentiates between the Governor’s Stage 2 and Stage 3 is required. Please refer to Academic Affairs for additional guidance.

18. What happens to perishable items in case Rowan is shut down again? Will delivery and storage of perishable materials be insured?
A: Items will not be insured. However, after a researcher solicits a vendor, this document can be used asking the vendor to certify that they will not drop, ship, or leave perishable items unattended. Someone in the lab will have to sign for the shipment, confirming delivery. If no one is available to sign, the item will be put back on the truck and returned to the vendor. The researcher bears the responsibility of informing vendors of the new delivery protocol, as they have knowledge of which items are perishable and their delivery statuses.

Please have a look at the University plan for return to campus found here for answers to additional questions you may have.

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Appendix I - Additional Q&A Related to the ACF

1: Is the target June 8?
A: Yes

2: Would Spark or other researchers be able to begin ordering sooner? 
A: Only if a study is not strictly age related so if we do not reopen on target day, the animals can still be used in the following weeks.

3: For Procedure spaces or work that cannot be performed with 6 ft distancing would a PAPR or Half face respirator allow this work to be completed. We would provide this elevated PPE. For example our ocular injections require 2 people that would not be able to follow the 6 foot distancing rules.  
A: Yes, provided that the protocol is amended for the use of mandatory, elevated PPE.

4: Would new employees be allowed to go through vivarium training to allow them to work in the facility?
A: No new employees at this time or at the time of reopening. The decision will be revisited at the appropriate time.

5: For animals bred in house can we begin planning studies to start immediately with approved staff?   
A: Yes.

6: If the stay at home is lifted on June 8th would all employees be allowed back in the facility without the need for a travel letter from Dr. Mazurek? 
A:  All guidances of Rowan University and those specific to CMSRU would need to be followed (even if the governor lifts stay at home orders on June 8th). Our guidances protect those using Rowan University facilities for research. Other places (e.g. beaches, grocery stores, restaurants, etc.), will likely have their own guidances even with lifting the order. 

7: We would need to add 2-3 people to the current approved list at CMSRU?
A: No new people at this time. The decision will be revisited at the appropriate time

8: Can the Spark employees be in the office area (not in the Vivarium) before 10:30 am?
A: Yes, as long as they follow the appropriate social distance rule and wear a face cover.

9: Does this rule of starting at 10:30 am at CMSRU only apply to the animal rooms being changed or the entire vivarium? 
A: No. The employees can start working in the rooms that are not changed that day, starting at 8 am. This will allow veterinary staff to do a daily routine check of animal.

10: Is there a heightened cleaning protocol for the office/bathrooms/break areas?
A: Yes.

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