March 26, 2020
Research update on “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” directive (updated 3/26/2020)
Sent from the Office of Research to research administrators, associate deans for research and other research leaders.
I’m writing to provide clarity for research activities, after Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation yesterday evening. Note, this message does not apply to clinical activities, only research activities.
Let me start by stating that the University is not closed. The directive allows for all research carried out remotely to continue, and in addition, for critical in-person research to continue, with additional restrictions and important requirements noted below. In accordance with these directives, we ask that the number of people working at their usual place of work be kept to a minimum. While the Stay Home, Stay Healthy directive will add some additional and enhanced restrictions, for the most part, strict adherence to advice already in place will be sufficient to maintain critical research operations.
Note, the Stay Home, Stay Healthy directive takes effect 5:00 pm tomorrow, March 25, and will be in effect for 2 weeks, until 5:00 pm on April 8.
Please note the following:
1. Should every researcher at the University of Washington stay home?
Every researcher who can work remotely, must stay home for the next two weeks. At the same time, the Governor has noted that research is critically important to curb the pandemic and to assist in recovery afterwards. In many cases, that work can only continue with in-person effort. In addition, some critical in-person research functions must continue, such as maintaining animals, taking care of sensitive equipment, and monitoring for safety. This work must be carried out by designated critical personnel, who should already be identified in your Continuity and Recovery Plans. I encourage you to review your protocols and plan accordingly.
We expect you to provide maximum flexibility to support at home work for research personnel. At home they can conduct literature reviews, data analysis, and write papers and other documents; they can participate in lab meetings and meetings with research personnel via Zoom, conference call or other remote methods, and they can complete online training requirements for research. There must be no expectation that personnel come to campus or to their usual workplace to conduct any research activities that can be adapted to telework.
Remember, 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 your healthcare provider and then notify the Environmental Health and Safety Department’s (EH&S) Employee Health Center at email@example.com. Anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case must stay home for 14 days since their last contact with that person. If someone showing symptoms or self-isolating is designated as critical personnel, an alternate must be identified.
2. What areas of in-person research are still allowed and what restrictions are in place?
The goal of the Stay Home, Stay Healthy directive is to minimize the amount of close contact between people for the next two weeks. Some in-person research is still allowed, but only if it is possible to maintain appropriate safety standards:
- social distancing of at least 6 feet
- frequent laboratory decontamination procedures
- personal safety with appropriate personal protective equipment and frequent hand-washing
If you cannot maintain these standards, you may not continue to operate in-person research projects and must either ramp down your research efforts to a level meeting safety standards or shut down your research entirely.
Types of in-person research that are allowed, if they can meet the safety standards noted above:
- research that will help deal with the pandemic
- public health research
- research that will help the nation recover after the pandemic eases
- research that is essential to meet thesis requirements for a final defense in Spring Quarter, or requirements of a new position that has already been accepted
- 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
- facilities that support the work noted in the above bullets
The Office of Research has developed a document, “Areas of research applicable to COVID-19 and Decision Tree,” to assist researchers in determining whether their in-person research is allowed
The in-person research noted above is allowed, but no research personnel may be required or pressured to come to campus or to their usual work location or go into the field, unless they are designated critical personnel, required to maintain critical operations (see above). All other research personnel must be given the option to work remotely for the next two weeks (see point 3 below).
Three conditions must be met for you to continue in-person research:
- Your research falls under the allowable categories
- You are able to follow the required safety standards
- Personnel are available and willing to carry out the work
If your research meets these conditions for in-person work, here are guidelines:
- Minimize the number of researchers in the laboratory or other facility at any one time. The concept of a “skeleton crew” should be in place, but it could be a rotating crew. In that case, scheduling is critical.
- Maintain whatever work is essential to ensure that when restrictions are lifted, a rapid return to normal will be possible. For instance, if completely shutting down a piece of equipment will require extensive efforts to start it up again, minimal effort in maintaining such equipment is allowed.
The Office of Research is available to answer your questions. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line COVID-19 and we will reply as soon as possible. Please note in our guidance provided that you should only start new experiments or finish longer-term experiments if the above conditions are met. While we can offer no guarantees, we will be working with funding agencies on these issues in the weeks and months to come. We are optimistic that most funding agencies will be flexible given these unprecedented circumstances. It is widely understood that the research enterprise is critical to our region’s and our country’s well-being now and over the long term.
If you feel that the best course of action for your research group is to ramp down your research activities or shut them down entirely, you should do so. You are not required to keep your research activities open. If you do ramp down or shut down, please see the Research Shutdown Checklist for helpful guidance.
3. How will research personnel of any type (students, postdocs, staff, faculty) be paid if their work cannot be done remotely from home for the next two weeks?
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. In cases in which absolutely no remote work is possible, HR and Academic HR are working on guidance.
Finally, thank you. We recognize how challenging these times are, and appreciate all of the work that you do to keep this university moving forward. We will do everything we can to help you.
Vice Provost for Research