UW Research

September 1, 2020

Mitigating Impacts to Research Activities Due to COVID-19

Background

On March 23, 2020 Governor Inslee issued a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation strengthening mandates already in place to encourage social distancing, a crucial measure for slowing the spread of COVID-19. The Stay Home, Stay Healthy directive took effect on March 25. The University of Washington’s COVID-19 Safe Start Status is now Phase 2 of its COVID-19 recovery, in accordance with Washington’s Safe Start plan. Non-critical personnel may return to worksites if work can be performed safely and is absolutely necessary to maintain unit operations, or if they are unable to perform their work effectively at home. Lab and practicum courses with physical distancing and safety protocols may be offered in-person.

In-person social events and gatherings: If necessary and with no more than 5 people. Hold remote when possible.

Travel: Essential travel and limited non-essential travel to engage in Phase 1-2 activities is permitted.

Research is a core function of the University. As such, the Governor’s order allows the University to designate a critical workforce to maintain research continuity. Moving ahead, instead of implementing a “segmented” approach based on area of research, we will implement a “phased” approach for all of research. This approach will guide which employees may return to worksites and under what conditions they may return. It will also align with the Governor’s 4-phase approach, and the University’s broader “Return to Work” and “Return to School” planning. Strict requirements will remain in place to maintain the safety of the workplace, and any movement between phases will happen cautiously and gradually. We will continue to monitor public health metrics closely and, should negative indicators develop, we will dial research activity back down.

Most types of in-person* research are allowed in Phase 2, subject to a set of requirements outlined below. We expect a very gradual and thoughtful increase in the number of UW personnel carrying out in-person research during Phase 2. In addition, restrictions on research subject to human subjects restrictions, (see the section below, “What about Human Subjects Research?”), on fieldwork (see section below and also UW Fieldwork Health and Safety Plan (COVID Return: Phases 1-2) and Returning to In-Person Research Involving Fieldwork: Decision Tree), and on research requiring travel will also be in place. Be sure to consult the UW’s Novel coronavirus & COVID-19: facts and resources webpage as it contains important information for everyone in the UW community. Remember, it is still the case that no one can be pressured to carry out on-site research if they are concerned about their safety, the safety of others, or if they have home-care obligations. Your HR representative can help you with any difficult situations in that regard.

*in-person refers to an in-person, face-to-face, and/or facility-based activity

This webpage contains guidance and resources to prepare for and implement a safe return to in-person research.

Guidance for the Research Community

Guidance for Returning to In-Person Research.

This Guidance for Returning to In-Person Research webpage is a great resource with guidance and resources to prepare for, and implement a safe return to in-person research; includes a Planning and Implementation Toolkit.

Guidance Under the Governor’s Safe Start Plan: Phase 2 [Update 6.22.2020]

FAQs for Research During the Safe Start Time Period: Phase 2 for Reopening

FAQs for Research During the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Time Period

Which researchers at the University of Washington should stay home during Safe Start: Phase 2?

  • Researchers whose in-person research is allowable under the Governor’s Safe Start Plan: Phase 2 for reopening the state (see Returning to In-Person Research: Decision Tree) may spend time at their workplace once their research group’s plan is approved, but that time should be kept to a minimum, and all other research work that can be done at home (such as planning, data analysis, etc.) should be done at home. Special restrictions are still in place for certain types of research, which supersede other allowances. At this time, even if your research may be eligible based on the guidance above, it is still restricted under these human subjectstravel, and fieldwork directives (see: UW Fieldwork Health and Safety Plan (COVID Return: Phases 1-2) and Returning to In-Person Research Involving Fieldwork: Decision Tree). In general, research personnel involved in in-person work need to be designated “critical personnel,” and should be identified in your Return to In-Person Research Plans. In Phase 2, non-critical personnel may return to worksites if work can be performed safely and is absolutely necessary to maintain unit operations, or if they are unable to perform their work effectively at home. Such personnel must be noted in the Return to In-Person Research Plans and approved by the Department Chair or equivalent. In addition, some critical on-site research functions must continue, such as maintaining animals, taking care of sensitive equipment, and monitoring for safety. This work must also be carried out by designated critical personnel.
  • Anyone who is sick must stay home. In addition, anyone experiencing symptoms that may be related to COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, respiratory symptoms) should contact their healthcare provider and then notify the Environmental Health and Safety Department’s (EH&S) Employee Health Center at covidehc@uw.edu.
  • Anyone who has been in close contact (less than 6 feet for more than a few minutes) with a confirmed COVID-19 case must stay home for 14 days since their last contact with that personIf someone showing symptoms or self-isolating is designated as critical personnel, an alternate must be identified.

What in-person* research is allowable under the Governor’s Phase 2 for reopening the state directive?

*in-person refers to an in-person, face-to-face, and/or facility-based activity.

In general, all research must be carried out while maintaining social distancing of 6-feet at all times, but some exceptions are possible. It is your responsibility to ensure critical tasks not possible to be performed while maintaining the current 6-foot separation requirement are reviewed and approved by the unit head or designee, and consult on enhanced safety protocol with EH&S as needed. See information at this link and see the checklist on the University of Washington COVID-19 Prevention Plan for the Workplace on the EH&S COVID-19 Health and Safety Resources webpage. Other restrictions apply, see an approved Checklist for Developing a Return to In-Person Research Plan and the Returning to In-Person Research: Decision Tree for more information.

Note: Restrictions on research subject to human subjects restrictions, on fieldwork (see: UW Fieldwork Health and Safety Plan (COVID Return: Phases 1-2) and Returning to In-Person Research Involving Fieldwork: Decision Tree),and on research requiring travel are also in place.

1. Areas of research previously allowed (still allowed):

  • Research that will help deal with the pandemic.
  • Public health research.
  • Research that has the potential to lead to therapies to treat human health problems.
  • Research that will help the nation recover after the pandemic eases.
  • Research involving long-term experiments, or maintaining vital equipment, cell lines, animals, and other time-sensitive research items, for which a pause would cause undue harm and/or cost.
  • Some areas of research that involve human subjects, travel, or fieldwork that are already allowed. Please check the links above for more information and for additional allowable research that will be announced in the next few weeks.
  • Research involving long-term experiments, or maintaining vital equipment, cell lines, animals, and other time-sensitive research items, for which a pause would cause undue harm and/or cost.

2. Newly added areas of research as of Phase 1:

  • All areas of research that are required to meet an upcoming deadline.
  • All facilities that support research, if the support cannot be carried out remotely.

See this Office of Research document, Returning to In-Person Research: Decision Tree to assist researchers in determining whether their in-person research is allowed.

How will research personnel of any type (students, postdocs, staff, faculty) be paid if their work cannot be done remotely?

We expect those instances will be rare, given the nature of inquiry and the authority you have to exercise flexibility within the research enterprise. Our goal remains to keep as many employees working, paid and connected to UW benefits as we possibly can during this disruption.

Post Award Fiscal Compliance has published a webpage titled, “Salary Expenses – Disruptions due to COVID-19” with guidance and FAQs reflecting current UW policy on charging salaries to research awards when work cannot be conducted on the award due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This information is evolving and will be updated as necessary.

I have reviewed this guidance, including the decision tree below, and I am still not sure my research qualifies. Who can I ask?

Send your question to research@uw.edu with the subject line COVID-19 and we will reply as soon as possible.

At this point, the decision to keep a laboratory open should be made by the PI, be based on the decision tree found in the document, Returning to In-Person Research: Decision Tree, and approved by your department chair or director, College or School. Depending on your local requirements;  be certain to check those local requirements. For information about how the Decision Tree interacts with the specific criteria for continuing human subjects research, see this link.

I am unsure about my responsibilities for conducting fieldwork. What specific guidance do I need to follow?

Am I allowed to do fieldwork, or carry out work in a remote location other than my home?

Check with your unit for their advice and go over these documents: UW Fieldwork Health and Safety Plan (COVID Return: Phases 1-2), Returning to In-Person Research Involving Fieldwork: Decision Tree, and the EH&S: COVID-19 Quarantine and Testing Risk Framework for Field Work (new resource added 7/10/20) regarding guidance for carrying out field work. In general, if your research falls into one of the allowed categories, your travel is local, the travel can be carried out safely, you feel comfortable carrying out that travel, AND you can stay 6 feet away from all others both during the travel and during the fieldwork, the work would be allowed. For field work involving longer travel and/or conditions that require some time at less than 6 ft distance, more restrictions will be in place. Please refer to the guidance noted above.

Do I need to fill out every section of the Field Health and Safety Plan for my fieldwork?

It depends on your research. Not all elements of this plan are appropriate for all fieldwork. Local fieldwork with no overnight stay will not require as many elements as fieldwork with extensive travel and/or multiple overnight stays. Please consult your local unit requirements if you are unsure which apply to your fieldwork.

I need to drive to a local estuary to obtain some water samples, and I need a coworker to come with me to help.  What parts of the Field Health and Safety Plan do I need to fill out?

First, be sure there is no way the samples can be collected safely by one person. If single person work is not possible, then because the work is local, involves same day activities, and only involves one other person, the Plan can be streamlined. These sections are important: Site Information, Attestations of Health, Activities Equipment and Supplies, and Personal Protective Equipment. Be sure to look through the other sections to be certain you have thought through any relevant issues noted there. Social distancing should still be practiced. If that is not possible, you need to propose protective measures in your Field Health and Safety Plan, which must be approved by your Department Chair or equivalent. You must minimize the time spent at less than 6 feet of distance and minimize the number of people involved.  Face coverings and increased hand-washing/hand gel application is necessary. UW’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety is available to provide advice on working safely at less than 6 foot distances, as necessary.

Remember, when interacting for significant time periods with more than one person at under 6 foot distance, if anyone is diagnosed with COVID-19, the entire team will need to self-isolate for two weeks. Thus, it is important to institute a high level of protection.

Note that it is important to ensure you have permission to take samples and that you know the local COVID-19 related requirements. 

My fieldwork involves going into a local community and interacting with individuals.  Is this work allowed, and do I need to fill out the Field Health and Safety Plan?

Such work may be allowed, subject to guidance by the UW Human Subjects Division (HSD) here. Completion of HSD’s “CHECKLIST for Human Subjects Research during the COVID-19 Pandemic” is required.

My fieldwork requires me and my team to work with heavy equipment that requires multiple people to be closer than 6 feet of distance. Is this allowed?

If your work requires you to be less than 6 feet of distance, you need to propose protective measures in your Field Health and Safety Plan, which must be approved by your Department Chair or equivalent. You must minimize the time spent at less than 6 feet of distance and minimize the number of people involved.  Face coverings and increased hand-washing/hand gel application are necessary. UW’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety is available to provide advice on working safely at less than 6 foot distances, as necessary.

Remember, when interacting for significant time periods with more than one person at under 6 foot distance, if anyone is diagnosed with COVID-19, the entire team will need to self-isolate for two weeks. Thus, it is important to institute a high level of protection.

I am participating in fieldwork on a cruise, and I will be required to observe the ship-mandated protocols before, during, and after time on the ship. Do I also need to fill out the UW Field Health and Safety Plan?

No, it is sufficient to provide the ship’s protocols in writing to your Department head or equivalent for approval, if the ship’s protocol has the same information as required in the UW field safety plan. If not, supplement the ship’s protocol with any additional required information where possible. If this fieldwork involves international travel, you must apply for a waiver through the Office of Global Affairs. Such waiver requests must adequately justify why the research is critical, why it cannot be delayed, and include health and safety protocols to be followed.

I have heard that in order to carry out fieldwork on a ship, it is necessary to quarantine for 2 weeks and then be tested before boarding. Does the UW require the same?

Those embarking on a cruise with a UNOLS vessel must adhere to the UNOLS quarantine and testing requirements. For other research cruises, while UW does not require them at this time, quarantine and testing are highly recommended for any research cruise of significant duration. EH&S is in the process of developing requirements and guidance on this topic. Of course, all requirements under which the ship will be operating for the cruise, including the ship’s protocol, must be met.

Our fieldwork is carried out at a different site by personnel we hire who are already at that site. Since there is no travel involved to the site, do I need to fill out a Health and Safety Plan?

Yes, you need to consider the health and safety of those personnel. They must follow and be trained on University and all local requirements. The requirements and training must be documented. In addition, if they are UW employees, they must carry out the required daily symptom attestation in Workday or via other acceptable means as determined by HR. Information on symptom monitoring is listed on the UW Guidance for Symptom Monitoring for COVID-19 . If they are not UW employees, you must have them attest each day in a written format on paper, email or an online survey. If the field site is not their usual workplace and they must travel to the field site itself, then that travel needs to be addressed in the Health and Safety Plan. If the fieldwork involves time on a boat, additional considerations should be addressed, including the safety of the crew, cleaning and disinfection schedules, PPE, procedures for responding to illness developed after boarding, and social distancing.

I need to carry out fieldwork on day trips in a small boat. What precautions should I take?

Please see the EH&S guidance, COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines for Small Boat Operations.

Child-care Resources

Child-care resources, including drop-in care are available on the UW HR webpage, Working During COVID-19 Child Care Options and Resources. This page is updated regularly as new resources become available.

Working Remotely

[This section has been moved to our Archives]

Critical Personnel

[This section has been moved to our Archives]

Locked Buildings

[This section has been moved to our Archives]

What about Human Subjects Research?

The Human Subjects Division (HSD) website pages  COVID-19 and Human Subjects Research and  Human Subjects Research Allowed During the COVID-19 Pandemic (link added 8.17.2020) are the primary sources of information about which human subjects research involving in-person interactions is currently allowed per University policy. Restrictions and requirements described at the HSD webpage are in addition to the broader University guidance about resuming all research. It also provides specific recommendations and considerations about conducting human subjects research during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transitions from one phase to another of the University’s Resuming Research plan, including phases for resuming human subjects research, are announced on this the Office of Research webpage, the HSD COVID-19 webpage, and the HSD e-newsletter. The e-newsletter also announces new or revised information about specific issues. Please send any questions to hsdinfo@uw.edu.

Animal Research Issues

Even with all buildings being locked 24/7, your existing animal facility access remains the same. See the OAW website for current information and announcements.

Proposal Deadlines

In accordance with the Washington State “Stay-at-Home” and “Stay Home, Stay Safe” mandates, OSP and HSD have moved to an entirely remote work platform. Walk-in assistance at our offices in the UW Tower has been temporarily suspended. Rest assured, during this time both OSP and HSD continue to operate during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.). Our experience is that federal agencies are flexible about deadlines under difficult circumstances beyond our control. However, if agencies are officially closed, proposals will most likely remain in a queue, pending resumption of agency operations – as has been the case during federal budget-related shutdowns. Information will be shared via the Monthly Research Administration Meeting (MRAM) listserv and posted on the OSP website, as necessary. See more under the COVID-19 Resources and Guidance section on the right navigation of this page.

Canceled Travel 

If you have to cancel any Travel, please see the following resources for information on the allowability of non-refundable travel costs:

Conferences

Due to Governor Inslee’s directive, you must consider alternate remote technology to hold your conference, or postponing. If funded from a sponsored program, notify your sponsor if your plans are to postpone; most sponsors are implementing maximum flexibility at this time. For more information, see the right navigation of this page.

Returning to In-Person Research Involving Fieldwork

Posted below are guidelines and tools for carrying out fieldwork during the COVID-19 epidemic. Updates will be posted as local requirements change. Many thanks to Stephanie Harrington, Suzanne Hawley, Greg Miller, and Mari Ostendorf for putting this information together, and to many at EH&S for providing important input.

UW Fieldwork Health and Safety Plan (COVID Return: Phases 1-2)

Returning to In-Person Research Involving Fieldwork: Decision Tree

Fieldwork Authorization Letter

UNOLS News Coronavirus Considerations Document

COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines for Small Boat Operations

Please note that these are guidelines, not firm policy, as we expect some unique situations must be considered. These tools are designed to help PIs and their research teams think through various possibilities and be prepared. Ultimately the Dept Chair or equivalent needs to make the final decision regarding requirements for each Fieldwork Plan, as some fieldwork will be unique. We are happy to help, as is EH&S.

In general the same types of standards that would be expected on campus apply in the field. This includes: involvement of the minimum number of participants required to do the work safely, PPE/face coverings, social distancing, attestations, personal hygiene, daily cleaning of equipment/gear, willing participants.

These tools are very thorough by design. However, please note that many of the sections are not applicable when the fieldwork is local and people are working from home (i.e., day trips into the field). This extensive list should be viewed as a menu; not all items will apply to all types of fieldwork. Requirements become much more complicated when the fieldwork involves travel and overnight accommodations, as this means that specific protocols that meet the same on-campus standards must be developed for: travel, lodging, meal preparation and delivery, provisioning, etc. in addition to the work itself. Again, the same COVID-19 prevention measures must be brought into the field.

Specific challenges can include –

  • Cloth face coverings and medical/procedural masks are not effective when wet, so other PPE may need to be acquired (e.g., face shields), depending on expected environmental conditions
  • Plans must be developed for medical isolations in the field as well as emergency evacuations in the context of a pandemic
  • Not all field sites are accessible – so researchers are having to do a lot more homework on whether their travel into a region will be allowed and whether their permits will be honored
  • Lack of internet connectivity
  • Dependable access to running water
  • Establishing regular check-ins
  • Need to work at less than 6 foot distance; special precautions must be taken including face shields, frequent hand-washing and disinfection protocols. May consider 2-week isolation if the fieldwork time period is sufficiently long – see guidance, “Research Work at Less Than 6 Foot Apart
  • Special restrictions apply to multi-day ship-board fieldwork. Please see this email with link to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Considerations for Making Decisions Regarding Conducting Science Onboard S. Academic Research Fleet Vessels from UNOLS.

Remember: if one member of the team gets sick, everyone will have to self-isolate for 2 weeks!  It is common sense to take major precautions.

Also, it is important to keep an eye on conditions in a different state or county—if requirements are more stringent than King County, it will be necessary to follow requirements in place for the study site.

While some of the preparations and precautions may seem cumbersome, they will enable the safe execution of research activities in the field.  Researchers might also consider items that are not necessarily COVID-related as best practice for fieldwork even after the pandemic ends.

Undergraduate and Graduate School Research Guidance

Guidance for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows [Update 6.22.2020]

  1. Throughout each of the Governor’s Phases we encourage research group leaders to make the best decisions for all members of the research group. Your health and safety is our first priority.
  2. We encourage regularly (at least weekly) scheduled opportunities for the research group to connect (via Zoom/Microsoft Teams/etc.) where expectations and concerns are shared constructively and compassionately.
  3. At this time, most research at UW is allowed, with restrictions as noted above. We continue to note that in this emergency situation, productivity may look different than it did before and remote work continues to be encouraged if at all feasible. As mentioned in #2, it is acceptable and expected that managing expectations will be necessary as everyone evolves to the ‘new normal’ environment.
  4. If graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research staff are responsible for critical laboratory operations including carrying out approved research activities, then they should maintain access to the research space for these activities.
  5. If you are allowed to come to your usual place of work, and are required to travel there but normally rely on public transportation, the UW has opened parking at the E01 or E18 parking lots (UW main campus) and the 850 Republican Street garage (UW SLU campus) and will not ticket parkers there, as we mitigate our response to COVID-19. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.
  6. As noted above, when working remotely, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are encouraged to perform appropriate activities with their original appointment (e.g., analyzing data, writing manuscripts, progress reports and their thesis, preparing for a General Exam or final dissertation defense, etc.) unless you have been reassigned to an alternative appointment by your department or PI. Additional work may be assigned by the PI/research group leader. While the location of the work has changed, these activities should all be in support of your original appointment and/or fellowship, and as such, there is no expectation of additional compensation.
  7. We encourage international postdocs to be in contact with both the ISS and their home country for guidance, as the situation evolves.
  8. We encourage programs, faculty, and research directors to make the most appropriate and informed decisions possible to support graduate students and postdoctoral fellows; the Graduate School, Core Programs, and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs are ready to consult as necessary.

Note that some of this content may be also included in the section above, “Working Remotely.” 

Guidance for Undergraduate Researchers [Update 8.17.2020]

At this time, undergraduate researchers are under a number of restrictions. All undergraduates should consult with their mentors to determine how to proceed, and how to maintain their safety while pursuing research activities.

Certain types of human subjects research are not allowed. Be sure to check this link (updated 8.17.2020) for that information. For undergraduate research involving fieldwork, including community work, please see the statement above regarding fieldwork. Note that some Schools, Colleges, or Departments may make local decisions about undergraduate research that are more restrictive. Be sure to check with your unit head about this. For other research, undergraduates may carry out research either for credit, volunteer, or paid, if it can be done remotely. They can be encouraged to work on activities such as literature review, coding qualitative data or working on other research tasks remotely, writing up research already completed, or watching someone else working at the bench by video as they describe what they are doing. They may carry out approved on-site research, but they must follow the required safety conditions:

  • Daily symptom attestation, via Workday if an employee, via email to supervisor if not
  • Staying home if sick or experiencing even mild symptoms of illness
  • Social distancing of at least 6 feet. It is possible to provide limited training at less than 6 feet distance, by following the guidance at this link. The time spent at less than 6 feet distance should be minimized (keep to less than 15 min if at all possible), and additional PPE and precautions must be taken.  Remember that anyone who has been in close contact (less than 6 feet for more than a few minutes) with a confirmed COVID-19 case must stay home for 14 days since their last contact with that person
  • Frequent laboratory decontamination and disinfection procedures
  • Personal safety with appropriate personal protective equipment and frequent hand-washing

Environmental Health and Safety Issues

The Environmental Health & Safety Department (EH&S) much like the rest of the University, is operating with fewer staff on campus and more staff members working remotely. EH&S is collecting waste, reviewing and responding to research applications, and providing ongoing health and safety support for campus. The Institutional Safety Committees, Institutional Biosafety Committee, and Radiation Safety Committee are operational and meeting remotely.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your labs and other work spaces, please read and implement the following EH&S guidance documents and resources:

University facilities units are implementing enhanced cleaning of high touch surfaces to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, tables, computer keyboards, handrails, exercise rooms).

EH&S asks research laboratories and facilities to also implement enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of high touch surfaces. This includes switches, benchtops, commonly used hand tools, and shared PPE.

  • Disinfect hard, non-porous surfaces with an EPA-registered disinfectant, an alcohol solution with at least 70% alcohol, or a 10% bleach/water solution.
  • It is also recommended that all departments purchase single-use disinfectant wipes for touchpoints within their workspaces.
  • Please avoid putting disinfectant gels or liquids on electronics and other equipment, including elevator buttons, unless they have been indicated as safe to use on those devices.
  • Additional guidance is available in the enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.
  • Contact labcheck@uw.edu or 206.685.3993 for consultation on cleaning and disinfecting your workspace.

If you have any questions about resources for addressing health and safety issues, please contact EH&S Research & Occupational Safety at labcheck@uw.edu or 206.685.3993.

EH&S has moved some instructor-led classroom courses to an online format and delayed others to occur in July 2020 in accordance with social distancing guidelines. (For this same reason, Labor and Industries will not cite renewal expirations.) Please check the Training page for updates on instructor-led courses.