A Staged Approach for Restarting UO Research Activity

Currently active recovery phases/stages:

  • UO Phase 0
  • UO Phase 0.5
    • We are no longer accepting new plans for Phase 0 or Phase 0.5.  If you would like to initiate new activities, please follow UO Stage 1 or Stage 2 guidance.
  • UO Stage 1 (process updated March 15, 2021)
  • UO Stage 2

Note: This webpage will be updated regularly to address new guidance.  Changes will be date stamped to highlight new information or policies. 

Updated April 6, 2021

Overarching Goal: To ensure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff while increasing research activity in a phased approach as public health guidance and safety conditions permit. The purpose of this document is to lay out a framework for staged re-engagement of on-campus research activities. Further planning for later UO re-opening stages is still to come. Recovery will be a long-term transition with a restart process that is scaled gradually and aligned with public health conditions.  Our framework is informed by the following principles and observations: 

Core Principles: 

  • We must support and protect the safety, physical, and emotional health of the research workforce.
    • Practical and safety considerations will dictate which activities are allowed in any given UO stage, space, or site.
    • Plans must be designed to protect research personnel from transmission of COVID-19 from research personnel, other UO employees and human subjects involved in research programs.
    • Maximizing opportunities and engagement via remote work is critical and is expected to remain critical.
  • We must support and protect the wellbeing of human subjects research participants
    • Practical and safety considerations will dictate which activities are allowed in any given UO stage and space or site. 
    • Plans must be designed to minimize risks to human subjects including minimizing exposure to and transmission of COVID-19 while maximizing the benefits to human subjects
    • Plans for protecting at-risk populations, including those deemed higher risk for the impacts of COVID-19, must be strongly justified.
  • Planning and execution of fair, transparent, and accountable processes for access should engage the research community to identify needs and to find solutions that support our research mission.
    • Research groups and PIs will need to prioritize their on-campus activities, focusing especially on those that enable further remote work.
    • We must protect the careers of early stage faculty and researchers about to enter the job market.
    • We must also protect significant investments among our research community, including prioritizing ongoing longitudinal studies, cohorts, and associated data and prioritize efforts where clinical/direct public health services are benefiting the public. 
  • We will engage with leadership and health authorities regarding the best practices and will continue to comply with executive orders and health authority guidance from national, state, local, and university authorities.
    • Plans to re-engage research activities must anticipate changes in guidance and have provisions to adapt to new guidance, including the possibility that we may have to retreat to more conservative access to campus.
    • Plans will also need to describe procedures to ensure compliance with external orders/guidance and provide a mechanism for monitoring compliance internally.

Process for Reengagement in On-Campus Research Activities 

We understand that the disruptions to different types of on-campus research vary significantly across research areas. All plans are required to enable strict adherence to governmental physical distancing orders.  All research activities must comply with OVPRI enhanced cleaning and distancing guidance. All human subjects activities must follow Guidance on Engaging in Human Subject Research during OVPRI COVID-19 Recovery Stages. All research involving travel must seek approval from Travel IMT.

PIs should review the decision tree below (updated 3/15/21) to determine the guidelines and stage that applies to their intended activities. 

COVID19 Recovery Decision Tree Final

Note: PIs with approved Phase 0.5 activities may continue to proceed as outlined in their approved research recovery plan.  However, we will no longer review new Phase 0.5 plans.  PIs seeking to conduct new research that will not create close contacts should submit the Stage 1 Research Registration Form.

Stages and Permitted Research Activities 

Movement between phases/stages is tied to public health directives and the current state of the health care response to COVID-19. Details of distancing requirements, appropriate work attire, and PPE usage will adapt to public health directives as they evolve. 

UO PHASE 0: LIMITED ESSENTIAL MAINTENANCE ACTIVITIES (Initiated March 23, 2020) 

Lab-based activities:

Essential maintenance/research activities include:

  • Activities required to maintain lab safety, gas supply and equipment that cannot be safely powered off for extended periods of time
  • Care for animals, plants, and other living organisms 
  • Research related to COVID-19

Prior to each visit to campus to perform these activities, researchers must complete the On-Campus Research Form

Field-based activities:

  • UO travel is banned, and travel to field sites is suspended. Exceptions for essential activities such as remote equipment maintenance or COVID-19 related sample collection require approval from the IMT travel group.

Human subjects research:

  • Human subjects research that can be done remotely can continue
  • Research studies of COVID-19
  • Groups performing human subject research may come to campus to collect mail, incoming samples, etc. as part of their work from home process.

Prior to each visit to campus to perform these activities, researchers must complete the On-Campus Research Form.

UO PHASE 0.5:  ESSENTIAL LIMITED RESEARCH ACTIVITIES (Initiated May 13, 2020)

  • UO phase 0 activities are permitted

Lab-based activities:

  • Prioritize experiments that:
    • Utilize research animals that would otherwise need to be euthanized
    • Create work to enable to be done at home to limit time on campus
    • Can be done with minimal occupancy of research spaces, not to exceed 2 people per research group per day
    • Use research core facilities to conduct activities, especially when these activities create additional remote work
    • Require significant prep/lead time to prepare for subsequent UO phase activations
    • Protect research investments that would be lost without campus activity

Field-based activities:

  • Prioritize experiments that include seasonal data collection and local fieldwork that does not require travel
  • No non-essential travel. Travel, including local travel, continues to require approval from the IMT travel group.

Human subjects research:

  • Same as UO phase 0

RULES FOR UO PHASE 0 and 0.5: Updated 07/25/2020

Applies in all cases: 

  • Any UO phase 0.5 activities must be able to be shut down quickly if a return to UO phase 0 is required
  • Encourage symptom checklist monitoring for all researchers coming to campus or working in the field. Researchers should not come to campus or interact with other employees if sick.
  • Limit time on campus/in field to only critical activities
    • Do not conduct work on campus that could be done at home
    • Planning and prep work must be done remotely when feasible
    • Ensure physical distancing at all times and in all spaces according to most recent guidance (currently at least 6ft. per person)
  • All people engaging in on campus or fieldwork research activities are required to wear face coverings following UO policy.
  • NEW: All individuals conducting Phase 0 or Phase 0.5 work must complete the New Personnel Registration Form.

Specifics for on campus and lab-based activities: 

  • Please be aware that campus-support services are much more limited than normal, including on-campus staffing of incident response specialists.  Please implement additional non-routine lab-based precautions whenever conducting work with physical or health hazards.
  • Increased physical distancing:
    • Under Phase 0 or Phase 0.5, research groups are permitted to have up to 2 persons working in an on-campus space per day. It is preferable for work to be performed during normal work hours. If members of your team need to conduct work outside of regular hours, please include how you will ensure lab and personal safety during off-hours work.
    • Shift working that exceeds 2 people per day is not permitted.
      • No in-person research group meetings and no use of on-campus space for activities that can be performed at home
    • Implement coordinated workflow that includes logs of all entries & usage of shared research spaces
  • Increased cleanliness:
  • Spot checks of on-campus compliance will occur. These checks will focus on compliance assistance and will be staffed by departments, institutes, and UO EHS. Governmental authorities are also engaging Oregon businesses with compliance enforcement.

Additional specifics for field-based activities: 

  • All field-based activities that involve travel must be approved through the IMT travel group 
    • Note: For fieldwork involving travel, please submit your recovery plan at least 1 week before the date of travel
  • Break rooms and offices remain closed   
  • Thorough hand washing must occur upon entry and exit of work spaces 
  • Disinfection of all handled equipment or tools before and after use by each researcher 

*To avoid confusion with county stages, going forward we will refer to ‘stages’ for our approach to re-opening*

UO STAGE 1: Updated April 6, 2021

Please refer to the decision tree above for action required to conduct Stage 1 research activities. Note that researchers conducting work remotely, such as theoretical and computational work, or non-face-to-face human subjects research (surveys, mailings, etc.) do not need to take any action.

Note that Stage 1 considerations for generating close contacts apply only to the proposed research activities. If all of your research complies with Stage 1 guidance, but your mode of travel could create close contacts (i.e. traveling in the same vehicle), please submit a Stage 1 Research Registration Form. Your travel safety/plans should follow UO travel guidance.

The following outlines Stage 1 Research Protocols. Download the PDF here.

Protocols for Stage 1 Research Activities

RESEARCH TEAM, ACTIVITIES, AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS

Research Team

  • Research activities will primarily be conducted by fully trained research staff (e.g. graduate students, postdocs, staff scientists).  Training activities for new research staff, or research staff learning new skills/techniques, will follow the following guidance: 
  • Training of new personnel or existing personnel on new activities will only be done in a manner that does not create close contacts as defined by the CDC: > 15 minutes of cumulative time within 6ft of a COVID-positive individual over a 24-hour period (starting 48 hours prior to positive test or symptom onset). Face coverings do not preclude one from being considered a close contact. 
  •  At least 6ft of distance will be maintained when performing training. If distance must be close to within 6ft to demonstrate a specific training element, the cumulative duration of all such elements will be less than 15 minutes over a 24hr period between those two individuals.
  • Training of new personnel with limited experience will occur only during normal business hours (8am-5pm, M-F).
  • All members of our research team will complete the weekly “Commitment to Public Health and Research Safety” Form

Research Activities

  • Only critical research activities that require access to or use of University resources consistent with those outlined in the UO Stage 1 allowances on the Research Recovery website will be conducted.
  • These activities will not create close contacts as defined by the CDC: > 15 minutes of cumulative time within 6ft of a COVID-positive individual over a 24-hour period (starting 48 hours prior to positive test or symptom onset). Face coverings do not preclude one from being considered a close contact.
  • We will consider transparency and equity issues when determining who is accessing University resources (including building access), when, and why. Factors such as necessity of the task to the overall project, employee or staff preference, and preferred work hours will be taken into consideration. All research team members will work collaboratively through regularly scheduled meetings to resolve issues around coordination and access.

Safety Protocols:

  • Maintain at least 6ft of physical distance during research activities.
  • Follow all applicable federal, state, local, and/or UO policies on face-coverings/mask wearing, social distancing and other COVID-19 infection prevention guidance (whichever is most protective).
    1. CDC Mask Guidance
    2. UO Mask Policy
    3. UO COVID guidelines and resources for infection prevention
  • Implement best practices for infection control as recommended by the CDC and OHA.  As part of these precautions, all team members must practice good hand hygiene as it is one of the most effective means for reducing the spread of the virus. All members of the team must frequently wash their hands, including on arrival and departure if accessing campus, after removing gloves, and after touching communal surfaces with ungloved hands.

ON-CAMPUS RESEARCH (if applicable)

Physical Distancing and Density in Research Spaces

  • To help maintain physical distancing and reduce campus density, 75% (rounding up to the nearest person) of our personnel are allowed on campus at a given time.  Work that can be done at home will be conducted remotely.
  • Research spaces will provide at least 100 ft2 per person for simultaneous occupancy in a lab space (i.e. for 2 people to share one space, it must be greater than 200 ft2 and be of a layout to support appropriate physical distancing) and 150 ft2 for office spaces. 
  • For tracking and coordination of space usage purposes, all personnel will be required to use a shared online calendar to sign-up and reserve shared spaces. Our safety coordinator will regularly monitor space and sign-up sheets to check compliance.
  • Signage similar to that provided by OVPRI will be posted throughout all non-private offices in our research spaces to encourage distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene and disinfecting. All personnel will be required to record their name, date, time of entry, and time of departure on a sign-in sheet posted on the door to shared space. This sign will be visible for inspection. Personnel will be required to post a sign on the door to the space indicating that the room is occupied when needed.
  • If our group requires shift work, we will coordinate that activity using online calendars and/or messaging and will never exceed 75% of our group on campus at any time.
  • Whenever possible, on-campus work will be conducted during normal business hours (8-5 Monday through Friday) when EHS and UOPD have the most active presence on campus.  If members of our team need to conduct work outside of regular hours, they will have a contact (either the PI or lab-buddy) to check-in both before and after engaging in the off-hour activity to ensure safety.
  • Research activities involving highest risk (i.e. chemicals, physical hazards) will occur only during normal business hours.

Disinfecting Research Spaces

  • Lab spaces will be sanitized/disinfected twice daily (entry and exit). We will use a detailed cleaning checklist (examples available here) for all high-touch surfaces using Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov, 2020) recommended cleaning products, including: door handles, light switches, sink faucet handles, cabinet handles, computer keyboards and mice, desktops and chair armrests. Personnel will record their name, date, time of entry, and time of departure on a sign-in sheet posted on the door to each non-private office space. This sign will be visible for inspection by the safety officer and other lab members.
  • The lab safety coordinator will procure and maintain all necessary PPE and disinfectants for our group to execute our research activities. Lab staff will be responsible for their own face coverings.
  • All personnel will be required to use a sign-up sheet to reserve shared equipment. This sign-up sheet will be monitored by the safety coordinator. Shared equipment will be sanitized between uses following CDC guidelines
  • We will follow all University and unit guidance for using any necessary on-campus services, including research core facilities, and will consult with unit-leaders before engaging in those activities.

FIELDWORK (if applicable)

  • We recognize that some individuals may be fully vaccinated but that a majority of the population has not been yet and there is limited guidance on best practice in regards to vaccinated individuals. As such, we will continue to conduct activities in a manner consistent with existing guidelines for minimizing spread of CoVid-19.
  • We will follow UO travel rules and guidance and seek pre-approved via the Travel IMT for all field work.
  • We will follow best practice guidance and any recommendations from Travel IMT to maximize physical distancing in transit, lodging, and at the field site in compliance with current recommendations (CDC). 
  • We will encourage regular CoVid-19 testing (e.g. UO MAP) in line with CDC guidance pre- and post-travel.
  • We will follow guidance from any remote/fieldwork site affiliated entity (e.g. other school, institute, or location) to the extent such guidance is not inconsistent with guidance issued by the CDC, Oregon Health Authority, or UO policies.
  • The PI and safety coordinator will monitor compliance amongst our team through both expectation setting meetings up-front as well as checking in during and after trips to make sure individuals continue to maintain vigilance.
  • We will follow all federal, state and local guidelines for self-isolation/quarantine before and after trips, and will ensure that masks are worn whenever traveling.
  • Everyone will be encouraged to reduce potential close contacts prior to and after trips. To the extent feasible, travelers will work remotely from campus for at least 7 days after return to Oregon. 

FACE-TO-FACE HUMAN SUBJECTS RESEARCH (if applicable)

  • We will not create close contacts in our face-to-face human subjects research protocols. As per the CDC, close contact is defined as >15 minutes of cumulative time within 6ft over a 24hr period. Face coverings do not preclude one from being considered a close contact.
  • We will use enhanced PPE when interacting with human participants, including face shields if we need to briefly be within 6ft and gloves if direct contact may occur.
  • If distance must be close to within 6ft to demonstrate a specific element, the cumulative duration of all such elements will be less than 15 minutes over a 24hr period between those two individuals.
  • We will use online/electronic scheduling and tracking systems for research visits that minimize overlap before and after different participants within our group.
  • We will coordinate with PIs in nearby spaces to minimize interaction between participants across research groups. We will avoid sharing waiting rooms or having individuals wait in the same space.
  • We will inform participants about the rules/guidance/activities allowed during UO Stage 1 before their research visit. Participants coming to campus will be required to wear face coverings and we will have extra disposable face coverings if needed. Participants will also be reminded that campus is closed to the public, and that their invitation to access campus is strictly limited to the designated research function and location.
  • We will prepare to ramp down these activities on short notice.
  • We have read and will follow the HSR guidance provided here regarding responsibilities, contact tracing, inclusion/exclusion criteria, and necessary documentation for the IRB.

Submit Stage 1 Research Registration Form

Stage 2: Updated April 6, 2021

UO stage 2 activities will generate potential close contacts within our research community (defined by the CDC as > 15 minutes of cumulative time within 6ft of a COVID-positive individual over a 24-hour period).  We aim to provide a path forward for researchers to conduct important research that has yet to be permitted under research recovery planning while also not overwhelming the University of Oregon Case Management Team and Lane County Public Health contact tracing efforts.  Only those activities that cannot be conducted except with the expanded UO stage 2 allowances permitting extended close contact should submit a plan for this stage of recovery. 

Lab-based activities:

  • Conducting research protocols requiring work in close proximity for > 15 minutes (e.g. animal surgery, fish cryo) in OVPRI research core facilities.

Field-based activities:

  • Expanded field research on case-by-case basis
    • Dependent on local, domestic, and international conditions/restrictions at field sites
    • Dependent on travel restrictions, ability to travel safely, and physical distance at field sites

Human subjects research (HSR) activities:

  • Expanded duration of face-to-face HSR activities conducted in close proximity
  • Expanded enrollment for vaccinated individuals at higher risk for COVID-19

RULES FOR UO STAGE 2

All rules from previous phases apply, with the following modifications:

Applies in all cases:

  • Any UO stage 2 activities must be able to be shut down quickly if return to an earlier UO phase/stage is required
  • Please note that Approval of UO stage 2 plan, completion of the “Acknowledgement of Risk Form” by all named stage 2 personnel, and transition of the university to UO stage 2 is required before research teams can begin conducting work described in your plan. 
  • Weekly submission of Commitment to Research Safety and Public Health form by all individuals named on Stage 2 recovery plans (e-mailed directly to all personnel named on recovery plans)
  • Activities that can be done at a distance should still be done accordingly. All groups are encouraged to stay in UO stage 1 unless UO stage 2 allowances are essential for their work.  PIs should limit the number of their research personnel engaged in UO stage 2 activities to only the essential staff.
  • Strong justification for the need for the activity under UO stage 2 and acknowledgement of the accompanying risk
  • Research personnel are strongly encouraged to eliminate close contacts outside of their household for 7 days prior to initiation and 7 days after completion of the activity
  • PPE that creates a physical barrier, including surgical masks and gloves, as appropriate, is required for UO personnel during the activity

Additional specifics for on campus and lab-based activities:

  • Research protocols in UO research spaces that require UO faculty, staff, or students to be in close contact for greater than 15 minutes is permissible

Additional specifics for face to face HSR activities:

  • Researchers may enroll vaccinated individuals who have a single increased CoVid-19 risk category (e.g. elderly or obese)
  • HSR participants should also be encouraged to minimize new close contacts outside of their household for 7 days prior to initiation and 7 days after completion of their visit and to having all household members present for a given activity wear a mask.
  • Only one such activity per week per study team (but research groups can have multiple independent teams – i.e. research personnel cohorts).
  • Research personnel should immediately discontinue human subjects research activities if participants and/or environment does not align with current OHA guidance for safety and distancing (i.e. mask compliance, maintenance of at least 6ft of distance, etc.)
  • Other individuals may be present (i.e. staff recording activities), provided they maintain distance and do not violate occupancy constraints
  • Home visits for durations up to 2 hrs are permissible provided this additional condition is met: It does not create any new close contacts (i.e. research personnel and research participants are not closer than 6 ft for more than 15 minutes).

It has been demonstrated that talking is one of the easiest ways to spread the virus, so please minimize talking when physical distancing of at least 6 ft cannot be maintained (e.g. describe while at a distance and then demonstrate in closer proximity without talking).

Future Stages

We expect that Stage 1 and Stage 2 activities will continue until the UO resumes normal operations. Modifications and updates will be made to both stages independently as future guidance becomes available.