Research labs have reopened to wet lab researchers only at this time. All research and related administrative work that can be done from home will continue to be done remotely. In open labs, one person is permitted in each bay. In closed labs, one person is permitted for every 500 square feet of space. To limit density, researchers will stagger their schedules, working one of two shifts per day.
All other health safety protocols should be observed, including Loyola’s Required Personal Safety Practices, to ensure the lowest possible risk while maintaining essential continuity of research.
In This Section
Research Continuity Guidelines
It is possible for many full-time, tenure-track faculty at Loyola to adapt conducting their research off-campus and at their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, research that relies on library searches, online surveys, interviews, and/or interpreting archives and published data can be continued by faculty without regular access to campus. The continuity of research for these faculty would be best served by a one-time visit to their offices to collect books, files, small instruments, or artifacts that they are studying. However, many different types of primarily scientific research and graduate (PhD and MS) training require on-site presence of laboratory personnel. In an effort to ensure the success of our faculty and students, we must develop a continuity plan for research that allows for more than our students to make progress towards their degree. We must also define how we allow research activity to occur under the “new normal” associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, while ensuring the safety of our students, staff, and faculty. This proposal outlines the first step (Stage 1) in achieving this goal.
Stage 1 is structured to ensure the lowest possible risk, while maintaining essential continuity of research. This can be achieved, through the “shifts” proposed (see below). Furthermore, strict cleaning and decontamination SOPs will be applied, to be consistent with the guidance received from Trinity-Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), whose policies are based on recommendations from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the CDC.
Note: Prior to Stage 1 (e.g., before the governor lifts the “stay-at-home” directive), faculty who need brief access to material in their offices to facilitate their ability to conduct research from home will be permitted access.
In phase three of Restore Illinois, non-essential businesses will be permitted to resume operation with appropriate health and safety measures in plan. In phase four, institutions of higher education will be permitted to reopen. Laboratory research is believed to qualify for reopening in phase three.
Laboratory and essential clinical researchers (e.g., clinical research nurses and coordinators, and BioBank staff) on the Lake Shore and Health Sciences campuses will be the only Loyola personnel permitted to return to campus in Stage 1. The research facilities are a unique working environment relative to many other Loyola activities for the following reasons:
- In general, laboratory research personnel do not interact with patients
- Wet lab personnel are disproportionately disadvantaged when prevented from accessing lab space since such access is critically important for continuity and progress
- Wet lab research can be conducted without volunteers or undergraduate students in the labs; we can ensure that only highly trained faculty, staff, and graduate students are present
- Safety first
- “Shifts” of activity will be created to keep the number of people on-site at any given time to a minimum
- Research personnel will conduct experiments ensuring that they maintain a minimum of distance of six feet apart, clean all areas on arrival and departure, use personal protective equipment (PPE), and not overlap work hours with others in their laboratory space
- Research personnel will access research facilities for the sole purpose of completing their task and will leave immediately thereafter, so as to minimize occupancy at any given time
- A handful of laboratories at the HSC, working on coronavirus-related projects, have been exercised these practices successfully (as evidenced by no positive cases of COVID-19 among the research teams), and as such, will inform various aspects of how we apply research continuity broadly, and across the three campuses
- Stage 1 is voluntary: If personnel are unable or do not feel safe reporting to campus, they should inform their PI, chair, and/or human resources; no explanations are required and no retribution will be tolerated
Personnel permitted in the building under Stage 1:
|Personnel performing wet lab work*||YES|
|Personnel reliant on public transportation**||Discouraged|
|Personnel in CDC-defined high risk group**||NO|
|Personnel not performing wet lab work (including faculty)||NO|
|Unauthorized personnel (children, family members, other visitors)||NO|
**STAGE 1 IS VOLUNTARY. If personnel are unable or do not feel safe reporting to campus, they should inform their PI, chair, and/or human resources. No explanations are required. No retribution will be tolerated.
# Defined as faculty, lab staff (technicians) or trainees (postdocs and graduate students)
Floor densityUsing the CTRE or the IES building (at the HSC and LSC campus, respectively) as an example, floor density is calculated in the following manner: There are 16 wet lab bays per floor. At any given time, each bay can have at most one person engaged in research activity. Additional spaces (cell culture rooms, alcoves, microscopy rooms, special procedure rooms, etc.) do not count as additional bays. The inability to maintain sub-threshold density may result in the closure of the violating lab, floor, department, or building. See also, “Distancing” below.
Using the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center (at HSC) or the Life Sciences Building (at LSC) as second examples: Layout: two bays per room (each room is ~500 square feet). In such room-based laboratory layouts, only one person per lab will be allowed in Stage 1.
Shifts/overlapsTwo shifts are proposed, which can be dictated by the experimental schedule. Multiple personnel are permitted to occupy the same bay at different times in a given day. However, overlap in bay occupants at the same time is not permitted. Cleaning procedures upon entering/leaving will be strictly enforced, and will be consistent with those used by the hospital and/or recommended by the CDC.
Note: Prior to approval of Stage 1, department chairs must provide a schedule of occupancy for their department, which must be reviewed for approval by the Research Division of the Campus Continuity Section.
Physical presence on the campus is NOT permitted if an individual:
- Receives a result of RED or YELLOW using the daily Symptom Checker app
- Has been diagnosed or presumptively diagnosed with COVID-19
- Has symptoms of a coronavirus infection (cough, shortness of breath, chills, breathing difficulties, muscle pain, sore throat, recent loss of sense of taste or smell, fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), diarrhea)
- Has been in close contact* with a confirmed or presumptive case of COVID-19 as diagnosed by a medical professional
- Has traveled from a Level 3 country, as designated by the CDC, or has traveled by cruise ship
*Close contact is defined as: More than 15 minutes face-to-face at a distance less than six feet or physical contact (e.g. shaking hands).
If any of the above criteria occur, laboratory personnel should contact the department chair or PI of the laboratory and inform Joan Holden in student wellness via email at jholden@LUC.edu.
A phone tree will be implemented to ensure that all personnel on the floor are aware that there has been a potential exposure on the floor. The department chair/floor leader will determine (following guidance from the Department of Public Health) the next steps, including the possibility of temporarily closing the floor until cleaning procedures have been completed.
Return to work criteriaWe will use the criteria outlined by the CDC and LUMC to define when a person affected by COVID-19 can return to work.
NOTE: Per CDC guidelines, If individuals were never tested for COVID-19 but have an alternate diagnosis (e.g., tested positive for influenza), criteria for return to work should be based on that diagnosis.
EntranceLoyola’s facilities department will be consulted on how best to implement a single-directional flow of traffic (single entrance point and single exit point). Signage will be posted in appropriate areas to help in directing personnel to the entrance and exit. A screening process (e.g., responding to a questionnaire prior to entering lab space) will be implemented.
PPEThese policies are in addition to standard PPE already required for experimentation.
- Masks: All personnel must wear masks* upon entry/exit from CTRE, Flanner, Life Sciences, and IES and when occupying shared spaces (e.g. elevators and workstations). Clean masks should be exchanged upon entry. In the event of supply shortages, re-use of masks is permitted following UV irradiation and three days in between use.
- Cloth masks are permissible if surgical masks are not available. N95 masks will be discouraged at this time, per recommendation of the CDC to reserve use of N95 masks for clinical environment use.
- Gloves: Gloves should be worn in the lab as previously required. Gloves used in the lab should not be worn outside of the lab. CDC guidelines for hand washing should be followed.
- Disposable lab coats (optional): We strongly encourage the use of disposable lab coats. In the event of supply shortages, re-use of disposable lab coats is permitted following UV irradiation and three days in between use. Non-disposable lab coats should not be used within three days of previous use.
CleaningIn addition to established laboratory cleaning procedures, upon entering or exiting lab space personnel should clean all items and bench space they plan to use, following CDC guidelines.
DistancingThere should be no more than one person per bay (for “open lab” environments). For more enclosed lab environments, there can be no more than one person per 500 square feet of lab space at any given time. Shared cell culture rooms (and similar enclosed spaces) count as a single space and should be limited to one person at a time, regardless of the number of labs using the room or the number of hoods in the room. Labs that share a wet lab area must coordinate to ensure only one person is in that bay at a given time. This will be achieved through the development of an occupancy schedule by the chair.
The use of elevators should be limited to one person at any time.
Distancing exceptions for multi-person experimentsIn general, multi-person experiments will not be permitted in Stage 1. However, under extenuating circumstances, the PI can email their chair with justification for the experiment. All email correspondence must copy Matt Hejna and Meharvan Singh. Masks or similar protective equipment must be used for approved multi-person experiments. New multi-person experiments must not be initiated at this time.
Office SpacePeriodic use by faculty will be permitted, but only to provide needed supervision/consultation for experiments being conducted on that day. As much as possible, faculty should not occupy office space in Stage 1 unless the experiment for the day warrants their role/participation/supervision of key personnel.
Common spaceThe use of common space, including kitchens and dining areas, is discouraged. However, when use of these spaces is needed, proper physical distancing must be maintained.
WorkstationsUse of computer and desk cubicles and workstations for the purposes of planning experimental design, data analysis, and other common tasks will be prohibited. Such activity should be done at home. Use of the workstation will only be permitted when in support of the experimental work for that day. When occupied, a workstation area with two to three desks also counts as one space, and is limited to one person at any given time.
Purchasing and DeliverySpecific details on the receipt of packages will be made available upon implementation of Stage 1, in consultation with building facilities.
NOTE: Periodic spot-checks for adherence to the principles defined in this document will be conducted. Violation of the fundamental principles of occupancy during Stage 1 (e.g., not maintaining physical distancing and not wearing PPE as appropriate) may result in revoking access to the violating lab.