Date:        March 16, 2020
Subject:    Actions for the Research Community in Response to Coronavirus
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 writing to communicate actions for researchers to take in the interests of community safety and reducing the overall impact of potential disruptions of research. These have been developed in consultation with Faculty Senate representatives, administrators, key staff, and regulatory committees. We are taking these actions as part of the campus approach to reduce the density of operations in the context of the national emergency as others have and are doing (1).  

Faculty should work with their lab groups, staff, and department chairs to implement the following steps:
  1. Everyone who can conduct all or some of their research remotely should do so, effective immediately. Staff and students should confirm their plans with their supervisor or faculty advisor via phone or email. Meetings should be held remotely, e.g., via Zoom or teleconference.
  2. Human Subjects research that cannot be done remotely should be suspended, effective immediately. In consultation with Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S), University Health Services and the IRB, we are considering whether some studies can continue on a limited basis with additional screening guidelines to address subject and staff safety. More information will be provided to the researchers involved as soon as it is available.
  3. Faculty should work to put the following steps in place as soon as feasible, but not later than Friday, March 20, 2020 (2):
    1. Laboratory activities should be reduced to the bare minimum and programs and work schedules arranged to achieve social distancing within labs and buildings. For instance, analysis of results, design of future experiments, and the preparation of papers and presentations can be prioritized and conducted remotely. Work schedules can be modified to include shifts for smaller subgroups of personnel. Planning of these activities should be done remotely, rather than in person.
    2. Safety guidelines should be followed at all times, e.g., personnel should not work alone in laboratories and experiments should not be conducted if required staff expertise is unavailable (3).
    3. Researchers should increase the cleaning of lab equipment and practice the preventive steps advised by the campus for everyone: https://www.umass.edu/coronavirus/. Assistance and advice is available from EH&S (413-545-2682) and the Physical Plant (413-545-6401).
    4. Centralized Core Facilities will remain in operation at minimal levels, subject to available staffing and use. In most cases, physical access and use of cores will be limited to core staff. Except for studies involving human subjects, exceptions are at the discretion of the core director and approved by the Director of Core Facilities or the IALS Director. This may change if a more extensive shutdown is needed.
    5. Faculty should update emergency contact information for their group and ensure that it is prominently posted outside and inside their laboratories and communicated to their department chairs.
    6. Personnel, including postdocs, graduate, and undergraduate assistants and student employees, should come to campus only with the approval of their faculty advisor or supervisor and only for the bare minimum time and exposure to others. To ensure safety, faculty or supervisors should inform the department chair who is approved to come to campus.
    7. Personnel who are approved to come to campus should not do so if they are sick and should follow the University Health Guidance available here: https://www.umass.edu/coronavirus/health-resources. Employees who are in a high-risk group should follow the Employee Guidance available here: https://www.umass.edu/coronavirus/news/employee-guidance-faq.
  4. Faculty and department chairs should plan ahead and prepare/archive data, samples, animal and plant models, equipment and other infrastructure for an extended and more extensive shutdown. If this occurs, only occasional presence of personnel would be possible for a period of up to 8 weeks or more. Additional guidance is available at the web page listed below.
Please Note:
  • Any exceptions to these actions should be requested through department heads/chairs and deans for approval by the VCRE and Provost, as appropriate. Actions should proceed as listed above while requests are considered.
  • More information, including guidance from some federal agencies, is available at www.umass.edu/research/covid-19-resources-guidance. This information will be updated frequently, often daily, as more information becomes available.
  • Animal Care Services will remain operational with essential personnel and will consult with investigators regarding ongoing projects.
Thank you very much for your cooperation and continued attention to the evolving circumstances of this unprecedented public health emergency.

Mike 

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