UW Research

April 8, 2021

Mitigating Impacts to Research Activities Due to COVID-19


Current Healthy Washington status: Phase 3

[Note: All documents within this page referring to Phase 2 are currently being updated and replaced with Phase 3 content]

[Updated 3.22.2021] As of March 22, 2021, the State of Washington is in Phase 3 for Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery, in accordance with the state’s Healthy Washington plan (pdf) and its Campus Reopening Guide (pdf).  In Phase 3, physical distancing, masking, disinfection, and staying home if you are sick or experiencing symptoms are still required by the State regardless of vaccination status, and the UW must comply with those requirements.

What has changed that could impact research:

  • Virtual meetings and small gatherings are still strongly encouraged.  However, in-person work or academic and other University-related meetings and gatherings (including those for research purposes) may occur under the following conditions (all must be met):
  • Total attendees are within space capacity/occupancy limitations as dictated by health guidelines (distancing, masking, cleaning)
  • A COVID-19 Site Supervisor is available and appropriate personnel are on site to monitor compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols
  • Employees who are currently teleworking are not required to come to work in person, including for meetings, unless it is required to support critical unit operations; if you have in-person research-related meetings, a remote option must be provided
  • Units have worked with Building Coordinators to review building readiness guidelines and ensured meeting spaces can be accessed and re-occupied in a safe manner

Guidance for fully-vaccinated UW personnel working on-site: UW personnel are required to follow all COVID-19 prevention measures in the University’s COVID-19 Prevention Plan and their unit’s plan, even after getting vaccinated. All Washington residents age 16 and older will become eligible for vaccination on April 15. See EH&S, Guidance for UW personnel who are vaccinated for COVID-19.

In-person social events and gatherings: Phase 3 raises capacity limits for in-person events. The state’s requirement for six feet of distancing remains in effect and often will be the primary factor limiting the capacity of workspaces, labs, classrooms and meeting rooms. Masks continue to be required at all UW facilities, and you must stay home if you have any symptoms. These requirements all apply even if you’re fully vaccinated. Hold remote when possible.

Travel: Updated travel quarantine guidance: Anyone who has traveled should still quarantine for either 7 days if they test negative 3-5 days after returning or 10 days if they do not get tested, even if vaccinated. See this link for more updated travel-related quarantine guidance. Non-essential travel is still discouraged.

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. We have also aligned 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 currently allowed subject to a set of requirements outlined below. In addition, restrictions on research subject to human subjects restrictions, (see the section below, “What about Human Subjects Research?”), and on fieldwork (see section below and also  and , 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 issued “Healthy Washington–Roadmap to Recovery.” 

What research is allowable under Healthy Washington–Roadmap to Recovery?

Allowable research is the same that has been in place since March 2020. For more information see the sections below on human subjects research and fieldwork.

Childcare Resources

Child-care resources, including drop-in care are available on the UW HR webpage, Child and family care during COVID-19.

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 [Updated 1/25/2021]

In accordance with the Governor Inslee’s directives, OSP has moved to an entirely remote work platform. Walk-in assistance at the UW Tower has been temporarily suspended. Rest assured, during this time OSP continues to operate during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.).

If your proposal is regarding Covid-19 related research OR your proposal preparation was impacted by Covid-19, please note you can request a GIM 19 waiver.  See OSP’s homepage for more information.

Canceled Travel 

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


The recently updated COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines for In-Person Events in Phase 3 allows University units to host a conference/event up to 50% capacity of an indoor space, as long as a 6-foot distance between people can be maintained at all times. Groups of more than 100 people at any conference/event/meeting requires University approval through EH&S. A COVID-19 prevention plan must be completed prior to the event. Virtual attendance is still the safest option and should be promoted and encouraged in place of in-person attendance. If an in-person event is necessary, attendance should be limited, and in-person contact during the event should be limited in accordance with the current phase requirements. If the people attending are UW personnel only, you could consider it to be a work-related “meeting” instead of an event. In this case, you would refer to the Room Occupancy Limits Guidance, which limits the capacity of indoor meeting spaces at 50%. [Updated 3.25.2021]

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 Field Operations Safety Manual

UW Fieldwork Health and Safety Plan (COVID-19 Prevention)  [Updated 3.26.2021]

Returning to In-Person Research Involving Fieldwork: Decision Tree [Updated 3.25.2021]

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 the Resuming Some Human Subjects Research (July Information) 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 our guidance on Research work at less than 6 foot apart. 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.

Working Remotely

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Critical Personnel

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Locked Buildings

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