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Transition from Orange to Yellow Level for Laboratory Based Research on the Danforth Campus

Published July 6, 2020

To faculty, staff and trainees on the Danforth campus involved in laboratory-based research*,

Schools on the Danforth Campus will be authorized to transition from the orange level to the yellow for laboratory-based research as early as July 8, 2020. Schools, departments, and individual labs should delay transition until all requirements are met. All labs should be prepared to ramp research back down to the Orange or Red Level, if conditions warrant it.

The yellow level has similar requirements as the orange level, but increases laboratory research up to 80% of normal activity (see Appendix A to determine the normal activity). We are still recommending shifts to reduce the overall density in shared spaces, on floors, in buildings, in schools, and on campus, not just within a specific laboratory. Assessments of appropriate density will be managed by the department with approval by the school.

Prior to the transition, all of these requirements should be met.

  • Each PI should review the lab plan as well as the relevant shared rooms/common area plans with all personnel in their laboratory. This review should identify any items that need adjustment or revision.
  • Each PI should work with their laboratory personnel to develop a workable schedule. PIs are encouraged to take experimental need, trainee career goals, maintaining cohorts, and child care or other family care issues into account when developing the schedule. Work that can be done remotely, should continue to be done remotely, although it is possible that some schools may start to allow limited office based activities on campus in the near future. Please wait for guidance from your school.
  • Departments should review their common area/shared rooms plans and make necessary adjustments. Plans should be distributed to all relevant personnel.
  • The revised schedules and plans must be submitted and approved by the departments prior to transitioning.
  • Plans and schedules must be distributed to all laboratory personnel.
  • The PI should ensure that there is sufficient disinfectant and masks are available for their personnel.

A few additional things to note:

  • If conditions warrant it, you should be prepared to ramp down the lab research. We are currently seeing a slow rise in COVID cases in the St. Louis area. Although we have not seen transmission in the laboratories to date, our Public Health, Occupational Health and Student Health experts may advise us to decrease density and activity.
  • All personnel are encouraged to review the guidance on the OVCR website and carefully read the Health and Safety message from the Chancellor that will be sent out later this week. This will message will include requirements that:
    • Everyone on campus, including all WashU personnel (faculty, staff and trainees) as well as all visitors (contractors, vendors and other visitors) are required to wear a face covering/masks while on campus with the exception of being in a private office.
    • Everyone should maintain a minimum of 6 ft distance (see below for exceptions).
    • All personnel coming to campus should complete the WashU self screening prior to arriving on campus. Note that if you pass, you will receive a confirmatory email with a green checkmark. It is your responsibility to forward this email to your PI or designee. If you don’t pass the self screen, stay home and contact Occupational Health or the Habif Center for Student Health and Wellness. Your supervisor is only automatically notified if you do not pass.
  • Schedules can be changed as the research and personnel needs change. However if these changes are substantial (eg adding personnel to a shift, changing cohorts, moving entire shifts), the revised schedule should be submitted to and approved by the department/school in advance, and all changes should be communicated to all lab personnel.
  • The Danforth laboratory survey indicated that many people did not have a place to take a break where they can maintain 6 ft distance from all others such that they can remove their masks to eat. Schools and departments are encouraged to make additional break spaces available (eg turn conference rooms or other spaces into break areas). These should have limited seating and clear signage. If you cannot find a secure space for a break, please contact your department.
  • If you have concerns regarding failures to wear a mask, maintain physical distance etc, contact your PI, your department chair, or your Associate Dean for Research, depending on to whom you would be comfortable reporting these issues. There is also a place on the OVCR website to report concerns.
  • It is recognized that some procedures/experiments require being closer than 6 ft. There is new guidance available on how to do this as safely as possible.
  • At this point, disposable masks and disinfectants can be obtained through many vendors. If you have trouble finding a supplier, contact resource management for advice, and it is still possible for departments to order some supplies from resource management.
  • It is recommended that lab personnel wear disposable masks (to be provided by their laboratory) that are discarded at the end of their shift to avoid bringing other chemical, radioactive or biological hazards. They should wear one mask to travel to and from home and the lab, and a disposable one while on campus in their lab. Note that face coverings are now required in St. Louis City and County when in public spaces.

*For this purpose, laboratory-based research does not include research that involves human participants coming to campus. Non-clinical human subjects research is currently at the Red Level.

Jennifer Lodge, PhD
Vice Chancellor for Research