Date:        March 23, 2020
Subject:    URGENT: COVID-19 Laboratory Research Continuity Plans
To:           UMass Amherst Faculty, Postdocs and Graduate Students
                
Deans, Directors and Department Chairs, Business Managers
Cc:          Chancellor K. R. Subbaswamy, Provost John J. McCarthy,
               Campus Leadership Council, Faculty Senate Rules Committee,
               Research Council, Chairs of IRB, IACUC, Chemical, Biosafety, and
               Radiation Safety Committees, Research & Engagement Staff

I am enormously grateful to the research community for responding to the guidance provided on March 16 during this unprecedented COVID-19 emergency. Many labs on campus have transitioned some or all of their work to remote operations and arranged remaining activities to provide social distancing in laboratories on campus. 
In light of today’s order by Governor Baker focused on continued operations of essential services in the Commonwealth and closing of certain workplaces, it is important to confirm and communicate plans for minimum on-site research operations and personnel requested on March 16. We understand that the continuity and future of some research programs will require protecting critical data, materials, cell lines, animals or models, equipment, infrastructure and, in some cases, experiments.
All faculty directing research who believe that any continued on-site research is critical should provide a Laboratory Research Continuity Plan (Word Doc) for prompt review. This approval is required in order to continue minimum on-site research activities effective at noon Tuesday, March 24, 2020 until further notice. However, critical activities should continue past that deadline until a response to the approval request is received. Examples of critical research include activities that:
  1. Constitute a safety hazard if discontinued,
  2. Result in the loss of significant existing or in-process data if discontinued,
  3. Maintain critical samples, reagents, materials, animal populations, plant cells, tissue cultures, bacteria or other living organisms, instrumentation and other infrastructure,
  4. Could potentially harm a human subject if discontinued.
Plans will be collected by the VCRE and provided to department heads/chairs, deans, and relevant directors for review and recommendations. Plans will also be reviewed by the relevant compliance groups and staff experts to inform the institutional decision which will be made as soon as possible. If you have any safety related questions, please contact Kristi Ohr, Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) at kohr@umass.edu.
Plans must describe the nature of the critical research, identify personnel required on-site to safely conduct the research along with their schedules, and provide a timeline for completion of the work. More detail is provided below.
We all very much regret the further disruption and stress that these measures will cause. But these steps are necessary to provide research continuity to the extent possible while increasing community health and safety during this unprecedented COVID-19 emergency. Thank you very much for your careful attention and action on this critical issue.   

On-Site Personnel
Each laboratory or physically nearby group of laboratories that will continue on-site operations must identify 1-2 qualified On-Site Personnel who will be responsible for the critical activities and ongoing maintenance. Laboratories with large numbers of animals may identify up to 4 On-Site Personnel.
When identifying On-Site Personnel, consider those whose presence does not require public transportation and who are not at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.  Also consider any equipment that might require gas or cryogen monitoring/service, e.g., deep-storage freezers, electron microscopes, mass spectrometers, and incubators. Note that any potentially hazardous activity will require at least two trained and qualified persons be present during the activity, as required by university laboratory safety policy.

Submission of Plans

Plans should be submitted as soon as possible by completing the
Laboratory Research Continuity Plan (Word doc) and emailing it to vcre@umass.edu. You will receive confirmation via email and further communication as necessary. Meanwhile, take any steps necessary to preserve research continuity and carry out critical activities, provided they can be done safely. A FAQ and updates will be posted at https://www.umass.edu/research/covid-19-resources-guidance.

Thank you very much for your cooperation and continued attention to research issues in the evolving circumstances of this unprecedented public health emergency. And with best wishes for your health and safety.

Mike 

Michael F. Malone                                                 
Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement
University of Massachusetts Amherst
(413) 545-5270
vcre@umass.edu
 
University of Massachusetts Amherst
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