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Increasing Laboratory Research Activity

Published October 19, 2020

Dear Laboratory Researchers,

During the Lab Research Yellow Level ( we had asked labs to restrict their overall in-person laboratory activity to 60-80% of pre-COVID activity. This restriction was put in place to keep the density in our labs as low as possible.

School and University Leadership has recognized that this restriction has been difficult for labs that are growing due to new funding or added personnel, and that many researchers are having difficulty completing experiments on this restrictive schedule.

Therefore, we are relaxing the 60-80% of pre-COVID activity restriction. Labs must continue to ensure that physical distancing for all personnel in the lab is carefully planned and achieved; and all personnel should continue to wear masks in the laboratories. We have revised the laboratory schedule, Appendix A, and this Appendix should be completed to ensure that the density in the lab is low and no two workstations occupied concurrently are less than 6 feet apart.

It is important to emphasize that all other aspects of the yellow plan for research are to be followed, that all members of research groups be fully familiar with their laboratory’s yellow plan, that compliance to the plans be monitored by the PIs as well as the Department, and that laboratories are prepared to ramp down research should conditions worsen and a shift to Orange or Red Level be announced. Finally, new research group members (including WashU undergraduates) may join research groups and perform research in laboratories on campus, but it is important that such changes be communicated to the Department, and that their training proceeds with due attention to the requirements for mask use, physical distancing, and proper hygiene.

On the Danforth Campus, each school will determine if the revised schedules need to be reviewed and what documentation they require for the review.

On the Medical School Campus, each department will determine if the revised schedules needs to be reviewed and what documentation they require for the review.

We also are still expecting that work that can be done remotely (e.g. manuscript and grant preparation, data analysis, development of algorithms, etc), should continue to be done remotely.

Once again, faculty who run research laboratories should recognize that many laboratory staff and trainees are experiencing major challenges with child and other family care because schools and daycare centers have not resumed their normal schedules. As new schedules are developed for laboratories, the PIs should take these challenges into account, make efforts to accommodate these complex schedules, and provide sufficient advance notice to laboratory personnel so that they can adjust their other responsibilities.

One reason that relaxing the restriction on activity is appropriate at this time is that we have good news. With thousands of people doing research in our laboratories for several months now, we have had no mini-outbreaks or known cases of transmission among our research personnel when people have followed our public health guidelines – wear masks, stay physically distant (especially when eating and drinking), wash hands, and stay home when ill. We have had two cases of transmission when masks were not worn and people were in close proximity. So, for the sake of everyone’s health and our collective ability to continue our research mission, please continue to wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, etc.

Jennifer Lodge, PhD
Vice Chancellor for Research​​