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Academic Operational Guidelines - COVID-19 Return to Campus 

Classrooms and Teaching Laboratories

All individuals must wear face coverings while indoors in all living/learning areas. 

Library Operations

Online resources

The University Library maintains online access to all e-resources as in previous years.  Students, staff, and faculty will continue to have this access, regardless of location—on-campus or remote.

Circulation materials and Interlibrary Loan

The interlibrary loans systems are available for the campus community. Requests should be submitted via this link.  Due to library closures in the region, the University is unable to guarantee the ability to fulfill all requests.

Common spaces

Public spaces in the J.W. England Library are available for student study.

Clinical Education Sites

COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis in faculty or students

Faculty and students should not go to clinical sites if they have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19. Individuals who have been in contact with COVID-19 positive patients should follow CDC testing and quarantine protocols.  Students should contact SHAC for further directions and assessment; faculty and staff should contact their primary care provider.

All individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, test positive, or exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case need to complete the COVID-19 Screening Form and await a call from a SHAC clinician.

Direct contact with COVID-19 patients

Students who have questions regarding direct care of COVID-19 patients at clinical sites should contact their program’s clinical placement coordinator.

Students at high risk for COVID-19

Students with conditions predisposing them for severe COVID-19 infections (immunocompromised state, diabetes, severe obesity) should consider requesting accommodations from the Office of Student Accommodations. Students can email, to see if they qualify.

Research Laboratory Procedures

Initial re-entry

When re-entering the laboratory after a temporary shut-down or closure, use a sense of caution. Look through entry-door windows and/or carefully stand at doorways to determine if any materials have been released/damaged, liquids are present on floors or surfaces and unusual odors.

If you discover a hazardous condition that poses a threat to you or others, such as a hazardous material release:

  • Close the door of the laboratory/isolate the hazard
  • Notify the occupants in the area
  • Activate the appropriate incident response action
    • mitigate spills or releases that you are capable of handling
    • exit the building if required
    • call EHRS at X8925, X8843 or 267-295-3141 to report
    • call the Department of Public Safety at x7000

Preparing for research to begin

  • Before restarting a process, consider what will be necessary to safely shut it down again if necessary. Be aware of what equipment may need to be taken offline and what materials would need to be secured in order to ramp down. The potential harm caused by interrupting research must therefore be considered as a factor when determining whether a project should be resumed.
  • Assess what support services and deliveries are required when your research is re-started and determine whether those services and supplies are operational and will be available when needed. Anticipate delays.
  • Confirm there is an adequate supply of soap and paper towels for handwashing and that disinfectant is available for cleaning. Contact Facilities Services if supplies are needed.
  • Confirm that adequate PPE is available for research needs.
  • Clean-up/put away chemicals, supplies, glassware and other items left out during the shut-down.
  • Pour water down dry traps/floor drains to mitigate sewer odors.

Face coverings/masks and PPE

  • All individuals must wear masks indoors to protect themselves and others and must follow university procedures.
  • Masking recommendations in the research and teaching labs:
    • A well-fitted 3-ply surgical-style disposable mask. These masks contain a middle layer of melt-blown polypropylene to capture small particulates and they provide low breathing resistance. Follow these CDC Guidelines to help ensure a well-fitted mask and a higher level of protection to ensure no gaps occur (e.g., knot and tuck).
    • It is recommended that a cotton cloth mask be worn over a surgical-style mask. (Do not combine two disposable surgical masks, two cloth masks or wear the cloth mask under the surgical mask)
  • Although N-95 respirators can be an effective method of protection against Covid-19, they are difficult to wear for long periods and they only provide the expected protection when they fit properly and are used correctly. Therefore this alternative is not recommended for routine masking. However, if you are voluntarily using an N-95 respirator for Covid-19, it is important to review and complete the linked training document and quiz and return it to EHRS to ensure the respirator does not become a hazard to the user and to help ensure its proper use, per OSHA requirements.
    • A properly fitting respirator will provide significant breathing resistance. Not everyone is physically able to wear an N-95 respirator for a prolonged time. Employees with asthma or other respiratory impairments should speak to a healthcare practitioner before wearing an N-95. Any employee who experiences any medical signs or symptoms while wearing a respirator must discontinue use. (e.g., shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest pain, or any other symptoms related to lung or cardiovascular problems)
  • KN95/KF94 masks that do not fit tightly to your face will not provide source control and protection. An ill-fitting KN/KF mask may be less effective than a surgical mask. Choose the correct size mask and do not double-mask with a cloth face covering. Doing so may make it uncomfortable to breathe.
  • Avoid purchasing a counterfeit mask. Masks have a finite number of reuses and must be replaced when wet, soiled, or damaged (e.g. is ripped, has holes, broken ear loops or straps) or no longer fits tightly.
  • As with any other scientific materials, orders for such lab-related PPE may be placed via the Central Stockroom per usual ordering procedures.
  • Face coverings/masks should cover the nose and mouth.
  • As always, conduct a risk assessment for higher risk processes to determine proper face coverings/masks or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed. (e.g. flame-resistant masks and lab coats for work in hoods with pyrophorics and large quantities of flammables)
  • Wash hands properly before donning (putting on) and after removing masks and, as always, after removing gloves prior to exiting the laboratory. Gloves used in the laboratory should not be worn outside of the lab, except where normal lab protocol requires gloves to be worn.
  • Inspect masks prior to donning and discard if damaged or deformed. Do not use face coverings/masks that are dirty. Launder reusable face coverings daily. It is recommended to dispose of disposable surgical face masks after wearing it once.
  • Do not reuse cloth face coverings/masks worn in the lab at home. Never share your mask with someone else.
  • Do not wear a mask that contains metal near the NMR unit (e.g., flexible “metal” nose piece). There are surgical-style masks with plastic nose pieces. (Carefully check the description of the masks you are purchasing to ensure it does not contain metal.)
  • Keep a spare face covering/mask available, or know where to obtain one, in case of contamination.
  • Temporarily store a face covering/mask by placing it in a clean bag or container labeled with your name. Do not seal the bag/container while the mask is still moist.
  • Remove your gloves before removing the face covering/mask. Carefully remove the face covering/mask without touching the outside (e.g., remove from the ear loops/straps) and perform hand hygiene after handling the mask. Directions on how to safely put on, wear, and take off a  face covering/mask from the CDC are available here.
  • Masks and respirators with exhalation valves should not be used as a face covering/mask as these allow unfiltered exhaust air to be released and are not protective to others.
  • All standard lab attire and PPE, including long pants, enclosed shoes, lab coat and safety glasses must be worn in the lab.
  • CDC does not recommend using face shields as a substitute for masks. However, when combined with a mask, a face shield protects the eyes of the person wearing it. Choose a face shield that wraps around the sides of your face and extends below your chin or a hooded face shield.

Safety equipment

  • Ensure eyewashes are functioning properly. Flush all eyewashes until the water runs clear and for a minimum of 3 minutes. [Contact Facilities Services if repairs are needed.] 
  • Ensure safety showers are not obstructed. This means nothing must be under or in front of the shower to block access in an emergency.
  • Confirm chemical fume hoods and biosafety cabinets are functioning. Also, a Kimwipe or tissue placed at the face of the hood may be used to demonstrate flow into the hood.
  • Contact Facilities Services for issues with fume hoods and EHRS for issues with biosafety cabinets.
  • Do not use equipment that is not functioning properly. Place a “Do not use, Unsafe” sign on any non-functioning equipment.
  • Do not move biosafety cabinets. Once moved, these must be re-certified by the vendor before use.
  • Survey spill equipment available in your labs and contact EHRS/Central Stockroom if hallway spill kits need re-stocking.

Hazardous materials

  • Check expiration date, date received and date opened information on chemicals, especially time-sensitive and high-hazard chemicals. Dispose of or manage chemicals with a limited lifespan appropriately. Please view Chemical Stability procedures for additional information in the Lab Safety Manual.
  • Conduct a hazardous material inventory to ensure there has been no loss of material (controlled substances, radioactive materials, biologicals, chemicals, etc.).
  • Secure, check the labeling and integrity of waste containers and chemicals.
  • Check on and manage regulated medical waste (biohazard waste) appropriately. Also, make sure all chemical and biohazard waste containers are properly closed.
  • Ensure that the appropriate empty waste containers needed in the laboratory are available before beginning work. (e.g., biohazard and chemical waste containers and glassware boxes.) Please also assure supplies for inactivating biological waste (e.g., bleach, ethanol) are available.

Equipment checks

  • Review equipment and compressed gas cylinder use system manuals/SOPs for safe startup instructions. Check tubing and hoses that are attached to equipment and compressed cylinders.
  • Check equipment that could have been affected by a power disruption as soon as possible, including refrigerators and freezers. Check for leaks that may have occurred if temperature control was compromised.
  • Ensure there are two designated essential personnel in the department who can periodically check on sensitive equipment and sample storage. Additionally, they should know where there is appropriate space to place sensitive materials in case of a unit failure or emergency.
    • Designated individual’s names and emergency contact numbers must be provided to Public Safety and updated whenever there is a change. 

Cleaning and disinfecting 

  • Wash hands when entering the laboratory and at least every hour thereafter.
  • Reduce clutter so that lab benches, desk areas and other work areas can be properly disinfected at the end of the shift.
  • Wear gloves and safety glasses when disinfecting. Clean surfaces with soap and water if there is any surface dirt before disinfecting. Use EPA-registered cleaning products with an emerging viral pathogens claim for disinfection. View 6 steps for safe and effective disinfectant use from the EPA.
  • Labs may also use alcohol to disinfect surfaces. Exercise caution as even 70% ethanol is flammable and can be ignited. A best practice is to saturate a wipe and apply to the surface rather than directly spraying. This will help if ignition sources are nearby and also to decrease the potential of inhaling chemical vapors. (Don’t forget to properly label bottles.)
  • Frequently touched surfaces in the lab should be disinfected. Examples of surfaces include:
    • equipment handles and latches
    • bin and incubator lids
    • faucet handles and sprayer grips
    • equipment controls and touch pads
    • the outside of shared bottles and caps
    • micropipettors and other shared tools
    • door handles
    • knobs
    • light switches
    • hood sashes and air foils
  • When no individuals with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 are known to have been in the space, cleaning once a day is usually enough to sufficiently remove viruses that may be on surfaces and help maintain a healthy facility. However, it is recommended that some shared equipment/objects be cleaned with disinfecting wipes before and after use. (e.g., microscopes, etc.)
  • Prepared bleach solutions are effective for disinfection up to 24 hours. (e.g., 1%-5% bleach in water solutions.) Ethanol often evaporates before the required contact time of 60 seconds, so it should be reapplied if it evaporates within the 60 seconds.
  • Label all disinfectant containers with the name of the contents and instructions for use, including the required contact time. Store and use disinfectants in a responsible and appropriate manner according to the label and manufacturer instructions.
  • Never mix a product containing chlorine (such as bleach) with a product containing ammonia. The resulting release of gas can be dangerous.
  • CDC information on disinfecting surfaces is available here.

Cleaning of sensitive equipment

  • Certain equipment (e.g., computer keyboards and mice, key-style equipment touchpads, on/off switches, power tools, etc.) may be damaged by spraying disinfectants directly onto components and by harsher disinfectants such as bleach.
  • Use appropriate disinfecting wipes (quaternary-ammonium or 70 % ethanol) for these more delicate tasks.
  • If wipes are not available, these items can be disinfected by soaking a dry wipe or clean soft cloth in the disinfectant until it is wet, but not dripping, and then using it to wipe the item, being careful to avoid getting liquid into any openings.
  • The surface should be visibly wet after wiping, and the disinfectant should be left to evaporate from the surface.
  • Consider whether frequently used or hard to clean electronics should be protected with a disposable barrier. Examples of products available from Amazon: Keyboard covers, mouse covers
  • Check with the manufacturer or product manual for specific instructions on cleaning and disinfecting specialized equipment.

General guidance for cleaning computers

  • Use only a soft, lint-free cloth. Avoid abrasive cloths, paper towels, or similar items.
  • Avoid excessive or vigorous wiping, which might cause damage.
  • Unplug all external power sources, devices, and cables.
  • Don't get moisture into any openings.
  • Don't use aerosol sprays, bleaches, or abrasives.
  • Don't spray cleaners directly onto the item; spray onto a cloth as recommended above.
  • Other questions regarding cleaning of computer equipment should be directed to the Help Desk.

Central Stockroom purchasing

Circumstances to plan for include, but are not limited to: 

  • Continued global supply chain disruptions which may limit the availability of some reagents, equipment, supplies, consumables, PPE, and other materials which may affect orders placed by researchers and also the availability of some items normally stocked on the Stockroom shelves.
  • Limited sales of high demand items – purchasing limits may be set for certain items available for purchase from the Stockroom shelves.
  • If Stockroom staffing is limited for any reason, there will be no package delivery from the Stockroom to labs and, thus, lab groups MAY be responsible for pickup of their packages from the Stockroom during such periods. In this case, PIs would have to arrange for transport of items from the Stockroom to their labs using their own carts or hand-trucks; the Stockroom will not be able to lend carts as they are in use holding items awaiting pickup.

Additional information regarding Stockroom procedures, including instructions for using Calendly, will be posted on the EHRS Google site/Central Stockroom page.