Page last updated October 19, 2020

Lab Ramp-up Planning
Off-Campus Research
Training & Education

If you have additional questions that were not answered through these FAQs, please contact Johnnie Cartwright, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research & Chief of Staff (

Lab Ramp-up Planning

Can graduate students come on campus to work in labs?
Yes, if they are included in the research ramp-up plans. PIs have been asked to consider the careers of their trainees in developing their plans.

[Updated] Can undergraduate students come on campus to work in labs?

WashU undergraduate students 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. See the Undergraduate Students in Research page for acceptable activities for undergraduates participating in research.

Is it OK to hire undergraduates and graduate students for research project if they will work remotely?
Yes, undergraduates and graduate students are allowed to participate on research projects remotely.

(Med school specific) Where are the check-in stations for campus entry as research begins to ramp up?
You can find a list of check-in stations for researchers here. For the complete list of check-in stations and their hours, please visit the campus screening location page.

What do I do when it is not possible to have appropriate physical distancing during lab procedures or activities (e.g. animal surgery or training on some equipment)?
When possible, researchers should adhere to the required minimum 6ft distance. If a 6ft distance cannot be achieved, the activity should either be discouraged at this time or would need approval by the Department Chair. The PI may want to propose the use of a higher level PPE (e.g. face shield atop of a face mask) to ensure the safety of all researchers.

Guidance for proximity work (work within 6 ft for more than 15 minutes). 

In some cases during laboratory work, the minimum 6ft physical distancing cannot be maintained. These situations might include some techniques or procedures that require more than one person or during training of personnel in new techniques. If this proximity work (defined as work within 6 ft for more than 15 minutes) must be done, the following guidance must be followed: 

  • Proximity work should be minimized as much as feasible and the duration of this work should be reduced to the minimum time necessary to conduct the activity.
  • Labs are encouraged to develop training videos to help reduce the need or time needed for training lab techniques. 
  • Individuals engaged in proximity work should wear a disposable isolation mask.
  • Eye protection (safety glasses, googles, or face shield), as well as other PPE (eg lab coats) that is normally required for laboratory work should be worn.
  • Surgical/isolation masks should be discarded at the end of the day or replaced when they become wet, soiled or damaged.
  • Individuals involved in the training or proximity should be minimized and not involve groups of more than 2-3 total individuals at a time.

As with all on-campus work, all COVID-19 safety precautions should be followed – washing hands before and after touching shared surfaces, symptom monitoring, staying home when feeling ill, and cleaning surfaces between users.   Importantly, these guidelines are for specific work involving two or more people that cannot be performed at a distance, and are not to be used to enable doing normal work at a distance of less than 6 ft apart.  

Is it okay to use face shields to replace face masks?
No, a face mask or face covering should be worn underneath a face shield. If you have a medical condition that makes wearing a mask difficult, please consult Occupational Health.

Plans for different Phases: In submissions of Schedule A is it necessary to include plans for Orange, Yellow and Green phases? Or is Orange-only enough for now, with updates for Yellow and Green accepted later?
The initial ramp-up planning documents should focus on the transition from Red to Orange (and back again if necessary). The document should be reviewed regularly, and modified prior to the transition from the Orange to Yellow level. We believe that the orange level will be highly instructive to determine what works and what needs to be modified.

Is it necessary to include the employee ID on appendix A?
Yes. You can hide this when you post the schedule.

What are the policies for social distancing at shared facilities (i.e., at greenhouses in arts and sciences, the vivarium at the medical school, shared equipment rooms)?  This is a point of real concern given past situations.  Are these policies posted, or must these be decided by groups of users that share space?
Where there is a manager of the facilities, such as the Division of Comparative Medicine at the School of Medicine, the greenhouses in Arts & Sciences, or the maker space at McKelvey School of Engineering, these managers will develop plans that will be shared with investigators using the facilities. It is likely that mechanisms for regulating people density in these shared rooms will need to be developed as part of their planning. For other shared facilities and labs, the investigators that use those facilities should develop plans and/or schedules that ensure maintenance of the minimum 6ft social distancing. 

Is signage and tape available for the mandatory postings as part of the research operations ramp up plans?
Printable signage is available for the Danforth and Medical Campus. At the School of Medicine, signage in common areas (entrances, elevators, lobbies) will be posted by facilities; signage in shared spaces (conference, break rooms) will be posted by departments or centers; signage in labs should be posted by the labs. Labs can develop customized signs for instructions specific to their lab space.

(Medical School specific) Because the policy promotes multiple shifts across the day and 7-days/wk. scheduling, will there be checkpoints at entrances each day and throughout each day?
See the recommended check-in stations for researchers. Also see the complete list of check-in stations and their hours at the med school. We discourage late night shifts.

For the schedule A is this something that we fill out each week?  Instead of assigning people to certain days/hrs. each week can we set up a sign up sheet for people to work in the lab?  I anticipate that the needs for being in the lab will vary week by week depending upon the experiments that are occurring.
Schedule A is likely to change periodically as the needs of the researchers change. However, we are strongly recommending the creation of “cohorts”. Allowing individuals to sign up at will, would go against that recommendation, and put the lab in danger of a complete shut-down if one individual tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, the PI is responsible for ensuring that the density in the lab is low, and that the 30% of normal activity during the Orange level is maintained. Allowing people to signup might make that more difficult.

I have a person who works in a different location from the lab. Should that person’s time get factored into the 30% for the lab even though he/she won’t be in the lab?
Yes, all effort counts toward the overall activity at the institution, and any person’s time on campus must be accounted for in a lab plan before they are allowed to come to campus. The plans must be approved by the department.

During the Ramp-down period, two categories of lab work were permitted: essential and important.  During the orange level ramp-up, is the expectation that all important work now be subsumed within the 30% activity level allotment?
All work (except COVID-19 research) is included in the 30% activity level.

When must PI plans be submitted and approved? Who approves them?
PI plans can be submitted anytime to their division/department/school (this depends on the org structure of the school – e.g. some medical school departments have division, and some schools don’t have departments). The approval of the plans will come from the unit to which the plan was submitted.

When can the PI plans be implemented and lab work started?
The PI plans must be 1) submitted for approval 2) received approval from their division/department/school (see answer above), 3) all preparations must be completed, including, but not limited to: training of all personnel who will be coming to campus (including essential personnel from the Red Level), signage, tape markings, availability of PPE (e.g. masks, gloves, lab coats, hand sanitizer), availability of disinfectant. 4) posting of Schedule A 5) communication of the plans to all members of the laboratory. The earliest the laboratory work can resume is May 20 on the Medical school campus, and June 1 on the Danforth campus. The two campuses have slightly different earliest implementation dates because the infrastructure (Occupational Health, security, food service, housekeeping etc.) at the two campuses is at different stages of preparation to welcome researchers back to campus.

When will we need to supply our own PPE?
You should start placing orders through your normal vendors ASAP. If you have trouble with availability, there is some PPE available through Resource Management.

In the checklist that came with the guidelines, it says that we need to “verify staff have the ability to check their temperature twice a day.”
Staff should check their temperatures, at a minimum, once per day before coming onto campus, either at home or at a checkpoint (at the medical school).  The guidelines have been corrected.

What do I do if someone in my lab is diagnosed with COVID-19 or tests positive for SARS-CoV-2?
Contact Occupational health. They will work with facilities and EH&S to arrange for the appropriate locations to be cleaned. Occ Health will also be responsible for notifying local public health agencies. Contact tracing and quarantine determinations will be done by either Occ Health or the local public health agency. 

What will happen if a member of my lab is exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual (at work or home)?
They should call Occupational Health for advice. If necessary, Occ Health will also inform the appropriate public health authorities.  Contact tracing and quarantine determinations will be done by either Occ Health or the local public health agency. 

What do I do if I see someone (a WU person, a vendor, a contractor) without a face covering/mask?
Politely remind them that mask is required while on campus, unless they are working in a room by themselves. If they don’t respond, let your supervisor know.

What do I do if a colleague refuses to wear a mask? Is there a mechanism to report safety concerns in the lab?
To report concerns or observations of unsafe conditions or practices on campus, first contact your Supervisor, Division Chief, Department Head, or Associate/Vice Dean for Research. If you still have concerns, complete this form.

Off-Campus Research

Will research assistants and members of research teams on sites that are off campus, at both local and international locations, have access to the online training modules for information about risk factors and transmission, etc.?

Are off-campus research team members “required” to complete the WashU training?
Those research team members who are working remotely (i.e. from home) will be required to complete the training when they are recalled to campus. Off campus research that would occur outside of the home (e.g. field work) will require some training that is still being developed.

Are the WashU PIs of off campus research responsible for overseeing that appropriate PPE, social distancing, etc. are being met?  In what format will off campus research team members report completion of training through WashU?
Yes, PIs are always responsible for oversight of their team’s research activities. Plans for the off-campus research will have to be developed and submitted to the division/department/dean for approval before the research can ramp-up. Everyone (including those conducting research off-campus) is required to complete the Return-to-Campus training module in Learn@Work.

Training & Education

Is WashU training going to include an assessment of COVID-19 related knowledge before research continues or begins? What if the off campus research site has already hosted trainings for its employees on how to manage the COVID-19 situation?
The WashU training does include some information on COVID-19 transmission etc. Theoretically, it might be possible to substitute other training (mechanism still to be developed). However, it is likely that taking the WashU training will be more time effective if only a few people at a remote site are impacted.

The stated requirements to join the Ramp-Up workforce states that Learn at Work training must be taken. Where can we find it?
The Return-to-Campus training module is available in Learn@Work.


Are vendors allowed on campus during the Orange Level to make repairs and deliver/set-up equipment?
Yes, vendors are allowed on campus, but they must adhere to the university’s safety policies. Ensure the vendor has self-screened for symptoms before arriving to campus, wears a mask throughout the entire on-campus visit and maintains appropriate physical distances.

Where can we get disinfectants and PPE?
It is recommended that the normal purchasing channels and vendors are used for ordering supplies. Resource Management and Emergency Management have collaborated to provide some PPE and disinfection products if there are challenges with outside vendor supply. You can order these products on this website. PPE supplies have been approved by EH&S. Consider your colleagues and please do not stock up and order more than is needed – it is recommended orders are limited to a two-week time frame.

Will there be screening of employees for COVID-19?
At this time, we are not testing for virus or for serology. As viral testing improves in sensitivity, turnaround time, and availability, or as the serology tests improve, WashU might decide to implement testing which could be required of all personnel.

Shipping & Receiving: Are they fully staffed? Are they now performing any cleaning/holding of received boxes and mail?  Are such procedures recommended for departments and labs?
Shipping and receiving are managed by each school. Please check with your school.