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WashU Phased Research Ramp-up

Published May 18, 2020

Dear Washington University Faculty, staff and trainees,

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington University had substantially ramped down on-campus research, in-person human subjects research, and research that requires travel. During the stay-at-home orders from the state, county and city, all non-essential research that could not be done from home had stopped.

At this point in time, we are preparing to begin to ramp up our on-campus laboratory research on both campuses, using a phased approach. The goal is to ramp up research in a thoughtful and deliberate manner that protects our researchers and our community, allows our important research mission to move forward, and enables us to monitor our situation, and make necessary adjustments.

For more information, guidance documents, checklists, links to printable signage, answers to FAQs, please visit the OVCR COVID website.

New procedures for coming to campus – Reduce the spread:

Importantly, all of us must take personal responsibility to slow the spread and to protect your colleagues, co-workers, and friends. The success of our research ramp-up and our ability to continue to ramp-up relies on everyone taking responsibility to reduce the spread. By coming onto campus, you are agreeing to follow the University and/or school imposed guidelines and requirements.

  • Stay home if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. The best way to slow the spread is to self-isolate if you are ill.
  • Wear a mask – widespread mask use (either cloth or disposable) has been shown to slow the spread significantly, and is recommended by the CDC. Masks primarily prevent the mask wearer from spreading virus to others, rather than protecting the mask wearer from others. Therefore, if we all wear our masks, we will slow the spread!
  • Self-screen before coming to campus using the BJC website (WashU website coming soon).
  • On the medical school campus, everyone must check in at a screening station.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Complete the COVID return to work training on Learn@work. This is required of everyone, even if you have been coming to campus for essential work.
  • Plans are being generated by PIs, centers, cores, and departments to help make the campus as safe as reasonably possible. Understand what is in the plans, and follow them!

In developing our plan, we followed a defined set of principles:

  • Protection of the health, safety and well-being of the WashU research community, the WashU community, the St. Louis region, our human subjects research participants, and the world.
  • Follow and respect state and local government restrictions.
  • Use evidence and metric based decision making.
  • Leadership (not faculty) will make decisions of when to move from one level to the next.
  • Our faculty/PIs will make decisions about prioritizing which of their research to ramp up, within the stipulations and limitations of the current level. The department must review plans for adherence to guidance, and approve if acceptable.
  • Careers of trainees should be taken into consideration in the plans.
  • We will ramp up in phases in order to monitor outcomes identify bottlenecks, and to respond to local outbreaks and changing conditions.
  • Ensure sufficient advance planning and flexibility to enable us to react reasonably quickly to changing situations. Identify necessary preparations to respond to a resurgence of COVID-19 and be able to ramp down, as well as continued progress towards normalcy.
  • Ability to contribute to the efforts to prevent and treat SARS-CoV-2, develop testing to enable better health care, public health, and decision making, and develop and refine predictive models for the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Dedication and commitment to our research, education, and clinical missions.
  • Respect the different disciplines that are present in our schools.
  • Recognize that different schools may implement more strict guidelines for their schools.
  • Effective communication to investigators, departments, and schools should be regular and informative.
  • Research that can be done remotely, should not be done on campus.

We have defined a series of four “Levels.”

  • Red Level 4 – our current state, where we are under stay at home orders and are at minimal laboratory operations.
  • Orange Level 3 – first phase of the reopening our laboratories with approximately 30% of normal laboratory activity. This phase will be a test of how well our plans for social distancing and shift work are performing. We will use this phase to assess our plans and make adjustments.
  • Yellow Level 2 – second phase of the reopening, with approximately 60-80% of normal laboratory activity.
  • Green Level 1 – development of a new normal, where we are operating at near normal activity, but with new restrictions and guidelines.

Plans and preparations are critical:

Before any laboratory research can restart, the PI must develop a comprehensive plan for managing their laboratory space and their personnel. We are focusing on the transition from Red Level to Orange Level. The plans should emphasize social distancing – keeping at least 6 feet spacing between people in the labs, shared facilities, elevators, break rooms, etc. We are also strongly recommending the development of “cohorts” of lab personnel, who will work in shifts. Cohorts will help reduce the likelihood that the entire lab will be required to shut down and quarantine if one person tests positive for COVID-19. These plans will be reviewed by either the division, department or school, depending on how the unit is organized. Research cannot begin before the plans have been approved.

Plans for managing shared spaces will also need to be developed, either through the collaboration of multiple PIs, core facility directors, centers or departments as appropriate. In addition, all preparations, including required training, availability of needed supplies such as masks, disinfectant, gloves, etc., posting of signage, etc. must be complete before research can restart.

We have provided links to guidance for PIs, core facilities, and department chairs/center directors/division chiefs on the OVCR website, as well as links to required training, signage, checklists, and FAQs that we will continue to develop as additional questions come in.

Guidance for the Ramp-up for research that involves human subjects and for Humanities/social science research is still being developed.

When can we begin to begin?

As announced by the chancellor in a May 7th message, the Danforth campus will begin opening up on June 1, provided that the progress of the COVID pandemic continues to improve.

At the School of Medicine campus, which due to its clinical mission, has been open, the beginning of the laboratory-based research ramp-up can start as early as May 20, providing that plans have been approved and all preparations are complete.

The Ramp-up for research that involves human subjects is still being developed.


We worked with multiple stakeholders across the University (including Infection Control, Occupational Health, Student Health, Environmental Health & Safety, Office of General Counsel, Human Resources, Facilities, Resource Management, Division of Comparative Medicine, the Provost and Chancellor’s offices, and the graduate and post-graduate training programs) as well as several committees (listed below) to develop the guidance documents and policies, as well as to identify and implement the preparations needed to bring people back to campus.

Lab research -Danforth campus
Patty Weisensee – McKelvey/MEMS
Jon Silva – McKelvey/BME
Matt Krueter – Brown School
Leo Cabassa – Brown School
Amy Eyler – Brown School
Deanna Barch A&S – Psychological & Brain Sciences
Joe Jez A&S – Biology
Bill Tolman A&S – Chemistry
Bruce Backus – EH&S
Angie Dartt – EH&S
Johnnie Cartwright – Chief of Staff, OVCR
Jenny Lodge – VCR

Lab research – Medical School campus
Dave Piston – Cell Biology
Lila Solnica-Krezel – Dev. Biol
Chris Gurnett – neurology (ICTS)
Chuck Zorumski – psychiatry
Yi Zhang – oncology/CCS
Aaloke Mody – I2/Inf Diseases
Jen Philips – Inf Diseases
Susan Cook – EH&S
Max Amurao – EH&S
Johnnie Cartwright – Chief of Staff, OVCR
Jenny Lodge – VCR

Human subjects research (in progress)
Suresh Vedantham – SOM, Radiology
Deanna Barch, A&S – Psychological & Brain Sci.
Sam Klein – SOM, Nutritional Sciences
Mitch Sommers – A&S – Psychological & Brain Sci.
Randy Bateman – SOM – Neurology
Cindy Brantmeier – A&S, Applied Linguistics
Pam Woodard – SOM, Radiology
Ramaswamy Govindan – SOM, Oncology
Chris Gurnett – SOM, Neurology
Yi Zhang – SOM, CCS
Amanda Cashen, Executive Chair, IRB
Jeannie Velders, Executive Director, HRPO
Linda Postula – SOM, Faculty Practice Plan
Johnnie Cartwright – Chief of Staff, OVCR
Jenny Lodge – VCR

Humanities and social science (in progress)
Denise Stevens – Olin Library
Peter Kastor – A&S
Jean Allman – A&S
Heidi Kolk – Sam Fox
Amy Eyler – Brown School
Scott Baker – Law School
Todd Milbourn – Olin Business School
Leland Deeds – Olin Library
Johnnie Cartwright – Chief of Staff, OVCR
Jenny Lodge – VCR


Please contact