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Return to Campus Update

Coronavirus (COVID-19): The latest updates about USciences return to campus: usciences.edu/coronavirus. The full plan for a phased return of employees and students: usciences.edu/campusguidelines.

Academic Operational Guidelines - COVID-19 Return to Campus 

Classrooms and Teaching Laboratories

Remote versus classroom/laboratory learning

All coursework historically delivered in a large room lecture format will be delivered virtually.  In-person classroom teaching will be limited to smaller classes AND availability of a classroom that provides adequate physical distancing with hands-on/lab classes receiving space priority.  Specific class size limitations will follow regional governmental guidance. All other didactic teaching will be delivered in an online, virtual format.

Laboratory courses will be taught in-person with appropriate physical distancing measures in place.

Space capacity limitations may require phasing of some coursework that must be delivered in-person (e.g., lab courses).  Faculty are working on modular delivery of these courses throughout the semester in order to meet curricular needs.

If local and/or state guidance becomes more restrictive, University procedures will change to meet those guidelines.  If local and state guidance becomes less restrictive, the University may choose to either retain more stringent existing processes, or may adopt new, less restrictive guidelines.  In no case will University guidelines be less restrictive than local and/or state guidance.

Physical distancing and face coverings

In all classroom or teaching laboratory settings, face coverings are mandatory for all participants, including faculty.  Amplification (microphones/speakers) will be provided in classrooms for use by faculty.

Physical distancing should be maintained at all times, including entry and exit to and from the classroom or laboratory.  Students waiting to enter an occupied classroom should wait for those exiting to leave prior to entering the room while maintaining 6 ft. distancing. 

When possible, if a space has multiple entrances, one (or more) should be designated as an entrance and one (or more) as an exit.

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

Currently, no Interlibrary Loan or other physically circulated materials are available from the library. Our goal is to make these materials available again as permitted in the future.

Common spaces

With the start of the Fall 2020 semester, public spaces in the J.W. England Library will become available for student study.  As with all other common spaces on campus, face coverings must be worn at all times, and physical distancing must be maintained.  In order to maintain social distancing, fewer seats will be available.  Ongoing assessment of need for plexiglass barriers and other measures will continue as we increase on-site operations.

Clinical Education Sites

COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis in faculty or students

Faculty and students should not go to clinical sites if they have been in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, have symptoms, or have tested positive for COVID-19. Students should contact SHAC for further directions and assessment; faculty and staff should contact their primary care provider.

Direct contact with COVID-19 patients

In locations where clinical rotations are permitted, students should not participate in direct care for patients presumed to have or diagnosed with active COVID-19.  Students may and should participate as part of the care team for these individuals while avoiding direct contact.

Clinical sites in Pennsylvania

The University continues to follow guidance of state and local public health authorities regarding clinical teaching. As of May 28, 2020, Pennsylvania permits medical students, nursing students and health professions students to participate in clinical education. As above, USciences students are not permitted to have contact with known COVID-19 infected patients.

Clinical sites in New Jersey

The University has received a waiver from the Secretary of Higher Education in New Jersey, permitting students to continue with clinical rotations.

Clinical sites in other states

The University recognizes that the risk of COVID-19 transmission is not evenly distributed across the United States.  Therefore, state and local guidance will prevail when determining whether students should participate in clinical activities.  Clinical coordinators and students should monitor local conditions and guidance.

Non-direct care settings

Non-direct-patient care settings are understood to be low risk and are permitted in all states.  Students should continue to follow general physical distancing and other hygiene guidelines at all times, regardless of location.

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 Kaitlyn Martin, Program Coordinator of Student Accommodations, at kmartin2@usciences.edu or osa@usciences.edu, to see if they qualify. 

Research Laboratory Procedures

Research operations for the University were suspended in March 2020, and will remain in this state of “hibernation” at least through June 28, 2020, and after this, at such time as local and state guidance allows for this activity to resume.  A limited number of critical laboratory personnel are permitted access to campus to maintain equipment and/or research animals.  Individuals must have prior approval of their Vice President/Provost, who will notify Public Safety and Environmental Health and Radiation Safety (EHRS), before any campus access. 

At such time as the University permits research operations to resume, the below guidance will apply. Download a printable copy of the Laboratory Pre-Occupancy Checklist covering these safety measures here.

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 a hazardous condition is discovered, such as a hazardous material release: 

  • Close the door of the laboratory/isolate the hazard
  • Notify occupants in the area
  • Activate the appropriate incident response action (e.g., mitigate spills or releases that you are capable of handling, exit the building if required, call EHRS at 215-596-8925, 215-596-8843 or 267-295-3141 to report the situation, etc. and 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 work. 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.
  • 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

  • Wash hands properly before donning (putting on) and after removing masks and, as always, after removing gloves prior to exiting the laboratory. Laboratory gloves should not be worn outside of the lab.
  • Inspect masks prior to donning and discard if damaged or deformed. Do not use face coverings/masks that are dirty. Launder face coverings daily. 
  • Do not reuse cloth face coverings/masks worn in the lab at home. Never share your mask with someone else. CDC- How to wear, remove and wash cloth face coverings. and EHRS Guidance on Face Coverings.
  • Face coverings should cover the nose and mouth.
  • Do not wear masks made from nylon or synthetic materials in the lab. In a fire, these can quickly ignite and melt against skin. This is the same guidance provided for lab coats, i.e., wearing cotton instead of synthetic materials. Also, any time flame resistant lab coats are required, flame-resistant cloth masks should be used, e.g., when working with pyrophorics, etc.) 
  • Do not wear a mask that contains metal near the NMR unit (e.g., flexible metal nosepiece).
  • Wear university-issued face coverings/masks in teaching and research labs. These are 2-ply cotton. There is elastic inside the ear loops, but the outer cotton covering would be in contact with the face and ears. 
  • As always, conduct a risk assessment for higher risk processes to determine proper face coverings or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed. 
  • 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 gloves before removing face covering. Carefully remove the 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 cloth face covering from the CDC are available here.
  • Masks and respirators with exhalation valves should not be used as a face covering as these allow unfiltered exhaust air to be released, and are not protective to others.
  • Physical distancing must still be maintained while wearing the face covering.

Other PPE and disinfection

  • In addition to the face covering/mask, all standard lab attire and PPE, including long pants, enclosed shoes, lab coat and safety glasses must be worn in the lab.
  • Confirm that adequate PPE is available for research needs
  • Confirm there is an adequate supply of soap and paper towels for handwashing and that disinfectant is available for cleaning.

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, https://docs.google.com/document/d/15AOOBId5KIpNNHcb3eTbq5iDvWqQ-YteihLIW2zAfhA.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Physical distancing

As in other locations, physical distancing will need to be maintained in the laboratory.  Depending on staffing levels and lab size, it may not be possible for all lab members to be present in the lab at the same time. General guidance for lab occupancy is 200 sf per individual; this occupancy may be lower if lab workers must move around to different locations within the lab.  Consider placing floor markings to denote 6 feet of distancing around workstations, lab benches, and tables and indicate directions of pedestrian movement.  An example of labeling products for this purpose may be found at Brady.

Consider splitting the lab group into teams that will work different shifts or on alternating days. Only lab members with required work should be on-site.

When dividing a lab group into different shifts/days: 

  • Determine which lab members will require close supervision and advisement while they are doing their lab work. Are there any tasks these individuals should be prohibited from performing while physical distancing measures are in effect?
  • Ensure that lab members who are essential for the operation of specialized equipment or lab techniques make documentation available to other lab members in case they are not present in the lab or are not available. Consider cross-training as much as possible.
  • Because the number of people in the lab may need to be reduced, when necessary, researchers must follow the working alone/after-hours procedures.
  • Avoid running unattended processes if possible, and post information about your experiment to communicate hazards to others who may be present in the lab when you are not. Always follow unattended experiment procedures.
  • Consider separating individuals by different shifts and times spent in the lab (rather than only distance), when lab workers may need to move around to different work stations within the lab.  
  • Ensure everyone has the necessary contact information for the other lab members who will not be present in case there are questions or issues with materials or equipment in their work areas.

Shared facilities and equipment 

Shared facilities and equipment will require coordination with everyone using these resources. (For example, fume hoods, biosafety cabinets, procedure rooms, instruments, etc.) When using shared equipment or working in shared laboratories: 

  • Post an hourly schedule on the equipment or room, or utilize a shared calendar or other multiuser scheduling system.
  • Disinfect equipment and touchable surfaces before and after each use. Place disinfectant supplies near the equipment. Place a sign near lab equipment to remind everyone of this procedure. (See Cleaning and Disinfecting reminders below)

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 https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-04/documents/disinfectants-onepager.pdf 
  • 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 must also be disinfected at the start of and halfway through the workday. 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, 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 

In general, prepare for supply chain disruptions, limited availability of some reagents, equipment, and supplies and, at times, slower than usual order placement and fulfillment. 

Purchases made prior to June 29th, require notification to the Central Stockroom prior to ordering. [Non-perishable/non-temperature sensitive materials may be ordered 1 week prior to being allowed to work on campus with the understanding that there must be no bulk ordering due to limited storage space. The lab group or Principal Investigator (PI) is required to pick up their packages from the Central Stockroom or Facilities Loading Dock. See below for more details.]

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

  • Limited sales of high demand items – purchasing limits may be set for certain items available for purchase from the Stockroom shelves.
  • Limited supply chain availability of items such as PPE (including N95s, face shields, gowns, over gowns, and gloves), reagents, consumables, supplies, and other materials which may affect orders placed by researchers and also the availability of some items normally stocked on the Stockroom shelves.
  • No package delivery from the Stockroom to labs – lab groups will be responsible for pickup of their packages from the Stockroom. PIs will 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. 
  • No ordering of any perishable or temperature-sensitive materials that will require cold storage at any temperature by the stockroom, prior to June 29, 2020 or prior to the start of the “Yellow Phase”, if later. These items cannot be stored for any amount of time because cold storage in the Stockroom is severely limited.
  • See below for information on ordering perishable/temperature sensitive materials for those individuals approved to be working on campus during the “Yellow Phase.”

Access to the Stockroom may be limited due to physical distancing considerations. Before coming to the Central Stockroom for any reason, please schedule an appointment using our Calendly page: https://calendly.com/centralstockroom/central-stockroom.

Order placement guidance 

  • Recognize that order placement may be slower as the volume of requests increases.
  • Please do not ‘circumvent’ ordering via the Stockroom in an attempt to receive items more quickly. Regardless of order placement method (Stockroom, PI or dept P-card, or Workday Purchase Order), packages for scientific researchers will still arrive at the Central Stockroom for processing. The more packages that have to be processed by the Stockroom, the slower the process is for everyone.
  • It is recommended that PIs purchase only the smallest necessary amounts of all items and materials, (e.g. please do not place ‘bulk’ orders for consumables such as culture dishes, racked pipette tips, etc.) This is due to limited Stockroom storage space (especially for large boxes) and/or limited capability for PIs to transport large and/or multiple packages from the Stockroom to the lab.
  • Please inform the Stockroom of all items ordered via another method. 

Ordering of perishable or temperature-sensitive materials 

  • Ordering of these materials must be coordinated in such a way that someone from the lab group will be on campus the same day the package arrives and must pick up the item that same day.
  • Regardless of order placement method, PIs must closely track these materials from time of shipment until arrival on campus. In addition, if the order was not placed via the Stockroom, please inform both the Central Stockroom and Facilities of pending arrival of perishables and temperature-sensitive items. 

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