From: Michael F. Malone, Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement
To: UMass Amherst Faculty, RLOP Participants, Campus Leadership Council, Postdocs, Graduate Students, Deans, Directors, Department Chairs, and Business Managers
Date: April 27, 2021
Subject: Changes to Research and Libraries Operations for Summer and Fall 2021, Update #1
This communication provides more specifics on the anticipated changes for in-person activities during the transition to the fall semester. It is in follow-up to the report provided by Chancellor Subbaswamy on April 22, 2021.
The Research & Libraries Working group notes the success over the last 14 months in mitigating health and safety risks in research and scholarly activities and commends the community for their diligence. We look forward to a transition to a return as close as possible to pre-COVID-19 activities, schedules, and densities of personnel in facilities.
This timing of the transition depends in part on modification of the state guidance on COVID-19 health and safety protocols. We anticipate that this will be a gradual transition over the summer term with some exceptions noted below.
The Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement (VCRE) in consultation with the Research & Libraries Working Group, EH&S, and other groups as necessary, will provide updates like this one describing modified requirements, bi-weekly or more frequently if necessary, and with as much advance notice of changes as possible.
Please use the following guidance for planning changes of in-person activities.
- Effective immediately, the RLOP requirement of 113 square feet per person is replaced with the state guidance to maintain 6ft of social distancing. This may allow for some increased occupancy, depending on the details of the space and equipment. It is not necessary to modify existing RLOPs to reflect changes unless personnel are added or removed from the RLOP; this can be done using the simplified process. The RLOP lead should maintain a list of participants' schedules. Note that RLOP leads can request that EH&S review safety procedures and PPE use if they have questions or have an immediate need to further increase occupancy.
- We expect that much of the extra cleaning of surfaces can be eliminated soon, unless there is a positive COVID-19 case identified in a facility. This can be done once the Commonwealth modifies its sector-specific guidance to align with CDC guidance as of 4/5/2021 or if we obtain an exemption. EH&S is in discussion with the Commonwealth and advises that the chances are good that this will happen soon. Notification will be made as soon as possible.
- The precautions of a daily COVID-19 self-check, mask wearing, and hand hygiene (whether an individual is vaccinated or not) should continue until state and campus guidance is modified. The timeline for some of these changes may be longer than for item 2.
- Research and Engagement will issue further guidance on the continued use and modification of the Research & Libraries Operating Plans (RLOP), if necessary. Currently, we expect that the RLOP will be relied on only for identification of the lab or shared facility locations (cores, farms, field stations), the participants, and human subject research. The RLOP leads will be responsible for maintaining schedules and for continuing to meet COVID-19 health and safety requirements in items 1-3 or any modified requirements.
- Once a week COVID-19 asymptomatic testing for those doing in-person research will be available this summer. The Public Health Promotion Center will announce any changes to the testing requirements, including for individuals who are vaccinated, once these are determined. Note that individuals may volunteer information on their vaccination status, but no one should request or record information on vaccinations of others because that is confidential and protected Personal Health Information.
- Visitors should follow the university travel guidance that is in place at the time of travel and any additional steps in the guidance on Summer Research Plans where applicable, e.g., NENS registration for longer-term visitors.
- International students and visitors should consult with the International Programs Office for visa or additional travel questions.
- Travel restrictions for UMass personnel are still in effect, but it is anticipated that these may be reduced soon.
- COVID-19 safety protocols for human subjects in research should be kept in place unless a modification is reviewed and approved by EH&S.
- In some facilities, more restrictive health and safety measures may be needed according to the nature of the activities and participants’ risk levels. Following the best practices developed over the last year, the COVID-19 aspects of such plans should be discussed with all the participants and across spatially proximate lab groups, such as on a floor together or using the same shared facilities.
Thank you and be well,
Michael F. Malone
Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Assistant: Christine Burnett, firstname.lastname@example.org