Overview: On Monday, June 1, 2020, we will reopen our research spaces in the College of Arts & Sciences and they will operate under a new three-layer COVID-19 policy. The base layer is the “Resuming Research” guidance from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, which establishes the basic principles for operation. (See also the Direction and Guidance for all On-Campus Research link on the same page). The next layer is this document, which translates those into practice for the College of Arts & Sciences, and the final layer consists of individual operating plans created specifically for each space that communicate to employees using the space the expectations that flow from the other two layers.
Here is an example of how this works in practice:
OCVR Resuming Research: “While labs and facilities will be permitted to increase activity up to 50% of their capacity, all research and scholarship that can be performed remotely (e.g., via teleworking) should continue to be performed in that fashion.”
This College of Arts & Sciences Document: “50% capacity means 50% of the activity that was ongoing in normal operations before the shutdown. The 50% limit on activity is a maximum; it is possible that less activity may be required in some labs or spaces in order to comply with the social distancing requirements of the OVCR ‘Resuming Research’ guidance.”
Operating Plan for Space: “No more than three workers may be in Room 100 at a time, and only one at a time may be in the adjoining breakroom.”
Responsibility for the first document lies with the Vice Chancellor for Research, the second lies with the Senior Associate Dean of Research and Innovation in the College, and the third with the PI or manager of the space, or other person as assigned by department chair. Operating plans and traffic flow plans for common spaces in buildings, as well as hallways and thoroughfares, will be developed before the buildings open to the public and students later in the summer. Meanwhile, we will rely upon research personnel to follow the OCVR “Resuming Research” guidance in common areas and report any difficulties to the Senior Associate Dean for Research and Innovation or to the Vice Chancellor for Research.
We previously circulated this document in draft form so that research PIs and others could begin drafting the third layer operating plans and training their returning personnel; there may be changes to these guidelines as we learn from experience. New versions will be distributed as necessary. Although June 1 is the earliest that research spaces should open, a later opening is encouraged if complex plans are needed or training of personnel suggests a phased approach.
Community standards for health and safety will evolve along with the plans to return faculty, staff and students to campus for the fall semester. The ongoing development and communication of these plans will incorporate lessons learned by the return of faculty and students to research, but it is anticipated that subsequent increases in the size of the community present on campus will require additional changes to behaviors. We appreciate your help and understanding.
- Research Spaces Opening June 1: Labs and facilities for research will be open June 1 at 50% capacity. In the College, “labs and facilities” means all places where research that cannot be conducted off-campus is happening. These might be offices with unique documents, collections, studios, research cores or centers, or science labs. In the College, buildings will remain locked and closed to the public, so entry keys or keycards will be necessary to access research areas.
- 50% Capacity: 50% capacity means 50% of the activity that was ongoing in normal operations before the shutdown. The 50% limit on activity is a maximum; it is possible that less activity may be required in some labs or spaces in order to comply with the social distancing requirements of the OCVR “Resuming Research” guidance. The required capacity level may be achieved by curtailed work schedules or fewer researchers working a full schedule. Some critical labs may currently be operating under an exception granted by the OVCR at more than 50% capacity. These labs must enact safety plans that are compliant with the “Resuming Research” guidance. Department chairs will be responsible for assessing the overall departmental compliance with the 50% limit.
- Safety Plans: Each research facility occupied by more than one person will have an updated safety plan that stipulates the work schedule and occupancy level required to maintain compliance with the 50% occupancy and social distancing stipulations of the OCVR “Resuming Research” guidance, as well as any other requirements, including procedures and intervals for cleaning within the research space. J Cohen, Assistant Dean for Facilities Planning, will be working with University Facilities and Employee Health and Safety to develop safety plans for common areas, thoroughfares, hallways and stairwells in anticipation of the return of a larger population to campus. These safety plans will be developed in consultation with department chairs and building managers over the summer. Until these are developed, common rooms without safety plans, except for restrooms, will remain closed. Research personnel are expected to follow all the OCVR “Resuming Research” guidance when entering and exiting research facilities.
- Responsibility: The PI or manager of each research space, or other person designated by the chair, will be responsible for drafting safety plans and schedules, maintaining cleaning regimens and enforcing the requirements of the policy with research personnel and visitors. Department chairs will collect safety plans and keep updated copies on file.
- PPE and Cleaning Supplies: Masks and cleaning supplies for the interior of research spaces will be provided centrally. These supplies are in high demand nationally and should be used only by research facilities as necessary to comply with the provisions of the OCVR “Resuming Research” guidance. The instructions for picking up supplies will vary by department; these will be circulated separately.
- Visitors: Visitors to labs, centers, studios, collections, and research cores should include only researchers who may be using equipment or core facilities, research subjects as allowed under the OCVR “Resuming Research” guidance and in compliance with the norms it establishes, or University employees who need access to the research spaces for operating reasons. If the presence of visitors makes it impossible to comply with the social distancing standards, they should not enter until personnel have left in sufficient numbers to allow compliance. All visitors should be required to complete a COVID-19 screening checklist.
- Parking: After June 1, it will no longer be possible to park in university lots without a permit. Other changes to parking policy and the latest updates are available at: https://move.unc.edu/news/covid-19/
- Policy Violations: Research facilities and buildings will be periodically monitored to ensure that required safety measures are being practiced. If an employee is found to be out of compliance, they will be counseled on the need for compliance with the required practices outlined in this guidance. Further instances of non-compliance may result in the employee being subject to disciplinary measures in accordance with applicable University policies. Compliance with required practices is a shared community responsibility. Individuals may report non-compliance by calling the Ethics Point Hotline at 866-294–8688. PIs who operate research facilities in the College of Arts & Sciences are reminded that respect for community values and new social norms are required for safe operation of research by the community of researchers.