COVID-19 Practical Guidelines

COVID-19 Practical Guidelines

Pandemic Management Guide for On-Campus Research and Experiential Learning Activities

Updated September 13, 2021 for the Fall 2021 semester:

All researchers must comply with university policies including wearing masks, cooperating with contact tracing, testing (if necesary), screenings, and training. In compliance with university policies, we will operate at the normal (pre-pandemic) density of people in labs and creative inquiry spaces unless otherwise specified by local regulations. For General Lab Safety guidelines and best practices during COVID-19, click here. For updated information about human subjects research, click here. 

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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 including social distancing of 6 feet or greater, hand-washing, covering mouth and nose, cough etiquette, cleanliness, and sanitation should be rigorously practiced.
  • Face Coverings/Masks: As of August 13, 2021, Rowan is following CDC and state guidance and is requiring all students, faculty and staff, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks in all classrooms, lecture halls, and laboratories for at least the first two weeks of the fall semester, Sept. 1 through Sept. 14. Because both medical school employees and students regularly come in contact with people and/or patients who are in clinical settings, all medical school employees and students must wear a mask when indoors in public spaces, whether they are vaccinated or not. Rowan Medicine employees must continue to mask in all clinical spaces. After the first two weeks of classes, University leadership will review infection rates for the Rowan community and determine if the broader mask mandate should remain or be modified. 
  • 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:  Individuals must conduct a self-screen before coming to campus or when accessing their Rowan computers for the first time 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. 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 are posted on the Return to Rowan page. 
  • Contact Tracing: Every on-site researcher must agree to participate in Rowan's contact tracing procedures, 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:

  • Protective Equipment: Face coverings/masks and gloves must be available and used in accordance to university policy. Obtaining these items is the responsibility of the PI. 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: All visitors, including vendors, must adhere to the university's COVID-19 safety protocols including face covering and social distancing policies. To reduce risk and exposure, Rowan employees who host visitors must inform their guests of all public health policies and limit visits to the minimum time and locations necessary to conduct business. On the Stratford campus (RowanSOM, RowanGSBS and Rowan Medicine), all patients, visitors and vendors must follow COVID-19 safety protocols, including face covering and social distancing polices, during their scheduled appointments. Vendors should limit their visits to essential business and those visits must be scheduled in advance. Deliveries of bulk items can be taken directly to the loading dock, located in the Science Center.
  • 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

As campus begins to open to more in-person activities, we have assessed the ability for continuation of research with human subjects. As of July 1, 2021, face-to-face research with human subjects may continue with the following guidance:
 
  1. COVID safe plans must be maintained according to campus specific standards or Rowan University standards, whichever is more stringent.

  2. Human subjects coming to campus must comply with campus visitor registration guidelines found here, including completing the health assessment form found here. 

  3. All research performed with human subjects must have an active IRB protocol.

  4. For research with saliva collection, participants’ self-administration of saliva collection is preferred.  For researchers, PPE of lab coats, face shield, face mask, and gloves are required.  Sick participants or sick researchers are not permitted to engage in the research activity.  The same level of PPE is required by researchers during the processing, handling, and managing of these samples.  If there is a risk of splatter— then gowns must also be worn as necessary PPE during collection and/or sample processing.

  5. For research with blood collection, PPE of lab coats, face shield, surgical mask, and gloves are required.  Sick participants or sick researchers are not permitted to engage in the research activity.  The same level of PPE is required by researchers during the processing, handling, and managing of these samples.  If there is a risk of splatter— then gowns must also be worn as necessary PPE during collection and/or sample processing.

  6. EHS and IBC approvals must be gained prior to collection of saliva and blood samples. 

  7. Researchers resuming research activities must have all applicable training requirements completed.

  8. Modifications/amendments to IRB and/or IBC approved research must be submitted for review and approval if any researchers will be added and/or removed.    

  9. The appropriate committee (IRB and/or IBC) must be notified that research with human subjects will resume (by at least one week prior to resumption of work).  The notification must provide the PI name(s), protocol title and approval number.
Contact the Director of the Office of Research Compliance, Eric Gregory (gregorye@rowan.edu), regarding questions and concerns.

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Animal Research (updated August 26, 2021)

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 masks. ACF staff will continue to communicate with researchers in person, following Rowan recommendations, and via phone and through email or other electronic communication methods such as Skype, WebEx, Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams meetings, if needed. All individuals must comply with the current university policies for wearing the masks and other PPE, cooperate with contact tracing, screening and training.

Restricting entrance to the animal facilities. ACF team’s goal is to safely meet the needs of staff and investigators. The SOM and CMSRU investigators, due to the nature of their studies can enter the ACF as usual. Every new person will be trained on entrance procedures. The researchers will come to the ACF wearing the proper face mask. The face masks and gloves will be worn all the time during the work in ACF. ACF will share the calendars/schedules with the researchers to facilitate an earlier start for the researchers and to ensure smooth work flow. 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.

To avoid unnecessary traffic, personal contact and waste of PPE, the researchers are encouraged 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.

The researchers must abide by COVID-19 restrictions set by CMSRU and SOM. Researchers not abiding by the social distancing or use of a proper PPE guidelines as set by Rowan University or will have their animal facility access privileges revoked.

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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