COVID-19 Current Research Operations & Continuity Planning
Last updated: April 7, 2020, 11:00am
In light of local and state-wide guidance advising residents to shelter in place at least through Sunday, May 3, we have moved to a “maintenance-only” mode of physical operation of the campus. PIs have transitioned their research labs to majority-remote operation and suspended on-campus research to the greatest extent possible.
If you have submitted a Critical on-Campus Research Continuity Request to allow the continuation of ongoing critical experiments or COVID-19 related research, please be sure to review these FAQs below. If you need to update the essential staff permitted in your lab, please complete another request. A process for rapid institutional review is in place and PIs will receive responses on a rolling basis.
Beginning on Tuesday, March 17 access to campus buildings will only be available to essential research staff. We expect that regular access to campus buildings will be limited at least until the end of the local shelter in place order on May 3, 2020. Please be prepared that this period may be extended.
A process for rapid institutional review of these requests is in place and PIs are receiving responses on a rolling basis.
The VC Research Office has contacted all approved PIs with a process/form to collect UCB card key information for approved, essential personnel. The names of your essential personnel have been provided to your building manager and to UCPD to ensure that they have building access to perform the duties outlined in your request. If you need to update your essential personnel, please submit an updated Critical On-Campus Research Continuity Request.
If any of your essential personnel feel ill - particularly if they have a cough - they must remain at home. This is important not just for your group, but also others who share your floor/building. If you need to add a new essential person to your list, submit an updated Critical On-Campus Research Continuity Request.
While an exception is being granted during this time of pandemic response, all safety and regulatory requirements associated with your research must be maintained. Please review the relevant sections below. See March 17 VCR guidance to PIs.
To reduce the potential transmission of the coronavirus in the coming weeks, those campus labs and research facilities that have been permitted to continue essential research activities must follow the safety protocol that was approved with your request. In addition please review the following guidelines:
Protect your colleagues and campus support personnel: Require that all research group personnel who feel ill *to any degree but especially if they have a cough* remain at home to avoid risk of spreading COVID-19 to other lab members, or to support staff (OLAC staff, Facilities staff, building personnel who share your building/spaces). Other occupants of research spaces and laboratories are to practice social distancing and good hygiene measures. Occupancy should be dramatically reduced (though never below thresholds dictated by proper safety practices) and separation of at least 6 feet should be maintained.
Work remotely: The campus has transitioned to a dominant mode of research work that is performed remotely, where feasible. Except for essential personnel described in the PI proposal, all other research group personnel should be operating remotely.
Social Distancing: For those whose on-campus presence is required to sustain research, we direct PIs to implement social distancing and density reduction measures. In addition to those proposed in your proposal, please consider:
Increasing social distancing between individuals (>6 feet between individuals at all times: at workstations, in seminar and break rooms, and in similar shared spaces).
Scheduling personnel to work in shifts. Be sure that shared equipment, surfaces and spaces are cleaned between shifts. Shared calendars are a good way to manage on-campus schedules. Consider having 2 people on site for safety if personnel are in a building for an extended period. Make sure all staff have the UCPD emergency number handy: (510) 642-3333; Non-Emergency: (510) 642-6760.
If personnel are joining research group conference calls, join remotely from workstations, or sit at least six feet apart in seminar/conference rooms.
Increase cleaning of shared equipment and spaces. Facilities Services is conducting regular cleaning of conference rooms, bathrooms and doorknobs, but research groups should initiate their own regular wiping down of shared chairs, keyboards, tools, lab benches, equipment and instrumentation, and communal-use items such as white board markers/erasers, coffee pots, etc. *NOTE: Facilities Services cleaning schedules are likely to change in the coming days/weeks. The VCR Office or Building Managers will update PIs on schedules as they change. For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
While an exception is being granted during this time of pandemic response, all safety, regulatory and compliance requirements associated with your research must be maintained.
1) Environmental Health & Safety: All safety standards must be followed, including: all hazard assessments must be completed; required use authorizations are received (e.g., use of radioactive or biohazardous materials, lasers, controlled substances, toxic gases, human, and animal); standard operating procedures are written, signed and followed; appropriate training is completed, and personal protective equipment is donned.
Please note that EH&S is here to help, albeit in a limited capacity. The following EH&S services remain available:
Dedicated Urgent Response Team is available for spills and other urgent EH&S related issues.
Lab Coat fittings for laboratory personnel permitted in labs in need of properly fitted coats (and other lab personal protective equipment).
Respirator fit tests.
Hazardous waste pick-ups will continue as needed.
Research oversight committees will continue to meet as needed.
Please contact EH&S at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions related to safety and regulatory requirements or if you need assistance with any issues above or others not noted.
2) Human Subjects Research must follow interim campus guidance as posted on the OPHS website on March 13, 2020, preserving research that is critical to patient health and deferring other forms. Please contact OPHS at OPHS@berkeley.edu, if you have questions
3) Animal Care: OLAC will continue daily animal care in OLAC facilities throughout the shelter-in-place unless otherwise announced. Please limit or discontinue removing animals from OLAC-managed facilities, unless for the purpose of tissue collection. If you have IACUC approval to keep animals in the laboratory, research staff will continue to be responsible for their care. If you anticipate this may be a problem, please contact OLAC to identify alternate care plans. As of March 20, 2020, no new animal orders will be approved, unless they are approved through the Critical on-Campus Research Continuity Request process. Animal imports and exports are on hold until the Alameda County shelter-in-place order is lifted (currently April 7). All animal-related research must be accomplished between the hours of 7am-5pm.
Facility Access: If you have any issues accessing the facilities and are on your PI’s VCR-approved list of essential personnel, please contact the UCPD or OLAC. Do not contact OLAC after hours (contact UCPD at (510) 642-6760). You should not be in the animal facilities after hours.
No new Special Service requests will be accepted until after April 7.
Training: Only critical training needs will be addressed, for example, euthanasia.
Animal Orders: Orders that have already been placed will be honored. Any new orders placed as of March 18, 2020 will not be placed due to the "ramp down" order by the VC Research.
Please move all of your meetings and consultations online, as long as local health authorities advise residents to shelter in place.
Agencies and entities are continuously updating their guidance on COVID-19. Please refer to the Office of Sponsored Projects (SPO) website for up-to-date links to the most recent guidance provided by funding agencies and entities, as well as links to federal COVID-19 research funding opportunities.
SPO continues to operate during normal business hours with staff working remotely.
Please instruct your research analyst to track expenses related to COVID-19 by using the pay codes and chartfields provided by the Office of the CFO.
In order to help address the financial impacts of COVID-19, the campus is considering a number of proactive, budget-conserving actions. One such action is instituting a campus-wide hiring freeze effective April 1, 2020. For details, please refer to this announcement as well as this FAQ and other resources on the UC Berkeley People & Culture website.
Yes. As a recipient of federal awards, UC can charge salaries and benefits to such awards if it does so in a manner that is consistent across all funding sources, federal and non-federal. President Napolitano’s order is one of UC’s institutional policies that is used as a basis for charging sponsored contracts and grants. This approach is supported by costing policy guidance recently issued by the federal Office of Management and Budget. This guidance must be implemented by federal sponsors, so please check the Berkeley SPO COVID-19 resource page for further information on a particular agency.
The UC system is continuing to evaluate the support of the projects and research staff through what the federal sponsors have recognized as unexpected and extraordinary circumstances. President Napolitano’s Executive Order is the current systemwide response.
Certain agencies, like NIH, have expressly recognized the hardship that the COVID-19 situation will create for projects. Its leaders expect to review requests for supplemental funding on a case-by-case basis. Other agencies, like the NSA, have stated that remote work will not be eligible for funding. Check the Berkeley SPO COVID-19 resource page for further information on your project’s funder and contact your agency program manager/grant officer to request supplemental funding.
Resources to Support the Work of your Research Group
Please review these tips from the campus Information Security Office regarding telecommuting securely, COVID-19 related phishing, and other resources to help guide you and others during this time.
If you are looking for reimbursements for cancelled research travel due to COVID-19, please review the directions provided by the Office of the CFO here.
UCOP has directed the UC community to temporarily avoid all non-essential university-related travel to countries designated with a CDC warning Level 2 or 3. UC has defined “essential faculty travel” to be travel required to preserve 1) the safety of a patient or research subject or 2) the results of research activity.
At UC Berkeley, all requests for ‘essential’ travel to these countries, including travel for field research purposes, must be approved in advance. Consult the Berkeley Global Engagement Office website for the approval protocol. UC defines all staff travel as “non-essential” unless the campus grants an exception.
Guidance for travelers from countries planning to visit or returning from an area with community spread of COVID-19 is available from the CDC website.
Also note that as of March 19, the State Department advises US citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global spread of COVID-19. Review State Department guidance here.
Based on the UCOP guidance document, we offer the following campus guidance:
We strongly urge that you cancel travel and attendance at scientific conferences, and attend meetings via phone or videoconference. Many scientific conferences and other research community meetings have moved to a remote participation format.
We strongly urge that you cancel or postpone field research trips, as they present unique risks because of shared housing, communal meals, and challenges to “sending someone home” should they become ill during an extended trip. Review updated UCB Field Safety Guidelines.
Review current campus travel guidelines and enforce self-isolation as necessary: Ensure that all lab employees, students and visitors (including visiting scholars and researchers) who have traveled to or from a Level 3 country in the last 14 days self-isolate for 14 days since the date of departure from the country. All other travelers should monitor for symptoms for 14 days. Refer to the most-up-to-date guidance on the campus COVID-19 website.
Principal Investigators and research managers should work with each of their students and postdoctoral trainees to develop a personalized plan that allows each person to conduct research remotely to the fullest extent possible, e.g., performing data analysis, literature review, modeling and computation, writing manuscripts and applications, and planning. COVID-19 related resources for graduate students are provided by the Graduate Division here.
Note that UC Berkeley visiting scholars and researchers currently on campus must follow all UC Berkeley campus COVID-19 guidance regarding working remotely etc.
Due to the changing nature of US immigration policy, the rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts on global travel, the Berkeley International Office (BIO) does not recommend international travel. Please refer to the guidance provided by BIO for important information on US immigration policy, Executive Orders and travel advisories.
Many of the COVID-19 related funding programs that are emerging at this time have imminent deadlines that make it difficult to comply with internal SPO deadlines. To make it possible for UC Berkeley PIs to contribute their expertise, SPO’s internal deadlines have been modified. Please refer to the SPO resources on COVID-19 proposal review for details.
All principal investigators must have institutional biosafety committee approval prior to performing any coronavirus research or work on campus (including to help state and federal agencies to screen patient samples), and must undergo Committee for Laboratory and Environmental Biosafety (CLEB) review and approval. This includes requesting or accepting COVID-19 samples (patient or otherwise).
Due to the rapidly evolving concerns and risks related to the COVID-19 outbreak, the UC Berkeley Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) and Randy Katz, Vice Chancellor for Research are recommending that study investigators plan to take and implement specific actions to limit transmission of the virus by delaying or otherwise modifying non-essential interactions with human subject research participants. An advisory was sent to all investigators with human subjects research on March 14, 2020, and is available on the OPHS website. For more information, or if investigators have questions, contact the OPHS at OPHS@berkeley.edu.
Given current spread of the coronavirus and experience from evolving community closures, PIs should plan that the COVID-19-related curtailment of campus operations will last at least until April 7, 2020. Please be prepared that this time period may be extended.
Please use the following assumptions as a starting point for planning, based on a scenario with widespread COVID-19 community transmission:
A significant percentage of your laboratory workforce will be out sick or unable to come to work.
Access to campus buildings will continue to be limited or curtailed, with exceptions for designated personnel to sustain critical research.
Essential research infrastructure, such as power and telecommunications, will be maintained.
Orders for critical supplies may be significantly delayed.
Based on State Department guidance, processing of visas will be delayed, resulting in delayed appointments. Refer to the Berkeley International Office for the most up-to-date information.
International, and perhaps domestic, travel will be restricted.
Core facilities and other fee-for-service resources may have limited, delayed or no access.
Repairs performed by Facilities and other UC Berkeley and non-Berkeley service providers may be delayed.
Decontamination of your workspace may be necessary in the event of a local illness.
The university will communicate any disruptions to building and laboratory access.
These disruptions may persist for weeks or months.
UC Berkeley will continue to work with state and local health officials to carefully monitor the situation. The current curtailment will be in place at least until April 7, 2020.
Please use this use this checklist to inform the ramp-down of your research lab.
Immediately update your research group contact lists with current emails and phone numbers. Labs can use the Labs@Berkeley roster tool. Share them electronically and in paper form with each research group member and with your lead administrator
Update your contact list of important campus support staff, vendors, and suppliers. Circulate this list electronically and in paper form with each research group member and with your lead administrator.
Assess and prioritize critical research/laboratory activities.
Ensure staff have the necessary and appropriate training to perform critical functions. Cross-train research staff to fill in for others who may be out sick or unable to come to work.
Consider documenting critical functions with step-by-step instructions.
Identify in advance any research experiments that can be ramped down, curtailed, or delayed, and assign priority levels to those that must be sustained (see FAQ further below).
Identify procedures and processes that require regular personnel attention (e.g. cell culture maintenance, animal studies, sustained computational time).
If a laboratory has essential functions that must be continued under any circumstances, please immediately identify the key laboratory members, PPE, and/or equipment needed to perform these functions. Provide this information to your lead administrator.
Identify personnel able to safely perform essential activities.
Coordinate with colleagues who have similar research activities to develop redundancies and ensure coverage of critical activities.
Review contingency plans and emergency procedures with researchers and staff.
Maintain a sufficient inventory of critical supplies that may be impacted by global shipping delays.
Consider installing remote control monitoring devices for critical equipment (e.g., -80C freezers, liquid nitrogen storage dewars, incubators).
Communicate significant planned absences and/or laboratory closures to your Laboratory Safety Coordinators, business offices, and other key administrative units.
EH&S (email@example.com) can help you with:
Risk assessment to identify those activities that may pose a hazard when unattended.
Safeguards to implement if high risk work will continue.
Questions relating to PPE, disinfection, and cleaning.
The following rubric was adapted from Yale University guidance to researchers:
Impacts continuity of high-value, strategic and/or multi-stakeholder research having substantial sunk cost of prior investment. Cannot be paused without causing significant disruption to research or business operation, upstream and downstream dependent organizations or units, revenue and finances, or other core mission services.
Impacts continuity of long-term research which may be reduced for a month or more. May cause disruption to research or business operations, upstream and downstream dependent organizations or units, revenue and finances, or other core mission services.
Impacts continuity of research which may be paused for a month or more. May cause some disruption to research or business operations, upstream and downstream dependent organizations or units, revenue and finances, or other core mission services.
May pause and resume when conditions permit. May cause negligible disruption to research or business operations, upstream and downstream dependent organizations or units, revenue and finances, or other core mission services.
All PIs seeking to continue on-campus research must complete this form to allow the continuation of ongoing critical experiments or COVID-19 related research by March 18, 5 pm. A process for rapid institutional review of these requests is in place and PIs will receive responses on a rolling basis.
Identify your critical supplies
If possible, order a two-month supply of your critical supplies. Have a system to reorder critical supplies before your inventory gets low.
Speak with Supply Chain Management to assess potential impact of Coronavirus on supply chain for critical supplies.
Identify secondary sources of your critical supplies in case there is a disruption of your usual supply chain.
Train multiple laboratory members to order supplies; ensure that they are authorized to use UC Safety.
Ask other research groups/laboratories if you can share or borrow supplies for your critical experiments.
UC Berkeley core facilities have made continuity plans, but specifics may differ. Contact your core manager about their plans and how to maintain your access.
Consider ways to minimize your reliance on external service providers. For example, you can combine samples into fewer dewars to minimize liquid nitrogen needs or use fewer incubators to minimize CO2 needs.
If you are notified of a disruption, check with researchers in other laboratories to see if equipment or materials can be shared.
Ask a researcher in another laboratory to share receiving and storage of deliveries if members of your laboratory are unable to be present.
Campus procurement is in touch with AirGas to make sure critical supplies needed for essential research continue to be available (March 18, 2020).
Identify if your laboratory has any maintenance-critical activities. If possible, minimize them by combining them or ramping down lower priority activities.
Cross train other members of the laboratory to perform maintenance activities.
Draft detailed maintenance procedures, so that an inexperienced (but qualified) person can perform maintenance activities.
Ask a researcher in another laboratory to act as a backup for these activities.
Notify your building manager, so that they are aware in case of sudden changes in building access.
Identify continuous operations in your laboratory. If possible, discontinue or minimize their operations by combining operations or by running them only as needed.
Draft detailed procedures on shutting down your continuous operations; determine advance timelines.
Ask a researcher in another laboratory to act as a backup for shutting down the operation; provide training on appropriate procedures.
Plan for management of your long-term experiments. You may need to involve core facilities, etc. in your planning.
At this time, beware of the risks in starting a new long-term experiment if it requires significant on-site management/oversight. Confer with the internal and external service providers that you will depend on, and your research team/support staff before initiating the experiment.
Preparation now will help you mitigate the impact if it becomes necessary to ramp down all of your laboratory operations. Please consider the prerequisites for this and their impacts. Contact your Lab Safety Coordinator and use this Ramp-Down Checklist to ensure that it will be done safely.
Laboratories should be prepared to ramp down, curtail, or postpone, animal research experiments if and when the need arises. If experiments must continue, please limit or discontinue removing animals from Office of Laboratory Animal Care (OLAC)-managed facilities. OLAC will continue daily animal care in OLAC facilities. If you have IACUC approval to keep animals in the laboratory, research staff will continue to be responsible for their care. If you anticipate this may be a problem, please contact OLAC to identify alternate care plans.
The Office of Laboratory Animal Care (OLAC) expects to continue to provide regular care to OLAC-maintained animals. OLAC has developed plans to respond to a variety of curtailment or reduced staffing scenarios, and will communicate directly with relevant PIs if campus circumstances change. Please discuss plans with OLAC leadership if you have questions.
If laboratory staff are providing cross-coverage for each other for PI-maintained animals, ensure staff have the appropriate training and card key access to critical areas. If access to additional housing areas is necessary, please contact OLAC. If access to additional laboratory spaces is necessary, please contact your business manager.
Environmental Health and Safety
The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) continues to operate per normal schedule with staff mostly working remotely. EH&S is prepared to support the campus with decontamination, should it be needed. EH&S is helping to identify and prepare appropriate mass isolation areas should they be needed. EH&S is also supporting researchers pursuing work with the coronavirus.