Research in Shared Spaces
Shared Spaces are defined as research spaces where members of a research group routinely interact with each other in the same space, such as science and engineering labs, core facilities, shared spaces in institutes or centers. To the greatest extent possible, research personnel should continue to work from home; in particular, all vulnerable individuals are encouraged to continue to work from home. Research personnel should be aware that depending on the situation, such as an outbreak of COVID-19 or Stay Home executive orders, research may have to be ramped down again within a short amount of time. Click here to view Signage that should be placed in strategic and relevant areas to remind personnel of the health & safety guidelines required to remain compliant.
Health & Safety Guidelines
Prior to coming to work, individuals must self-screen for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19 infection, and must include new signs/symptoms among their household members:
- Cough, shortness of breath, persistent pain/pressure in their chest, chills, repeated shaking with chills, runny nose or new sinus congestion, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, fatigue, new GI symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), new loss of taste or smell, a fever great than 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit, or known close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19.
- If you or your household members have any of the symptoms on any work-day, do not come on campus. Contact your immediate supervisor as soon as reasonably possible. Follow the guidelines on the UT Dallas Covid-19 website in the case of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. The Office of Emergency Management and Continuity Planning (OEMCP) will provide additional guidance regarding individual and facilities follow-up actions that may be needed.
- Every individual must maintain and regularly update a list of substantive and known face-to-face interactions that they have had during work hours of the preceding two weeks (i.e., lab members they interact with on a daily basis, human subjects they came in contact with during study procedures, etc.). In the case of a coronavirus infection, this list should be made available to university personnel.
- As more robust contact tracing solutions become available, additional information will be provided to the UT Dallas community. Utilizing these resources will be strongly encouraged as they will be a key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19.
Meetings & Visitors
- Routine lab/research group meetings should not be conducted face-to-face; conduct meetings virtually.
- Please move all of your visitor meetings and consultations online.
- Research Safety staff will assist Central Receiving in safely handling and delivering packages containing chemical, biological, or radiological materials to laboratories.
- Vendor visits to research laboratories should be coordinated through Research Facilities Operations.
Social Distancing & Spacing
- CDC guidelines for social distancing of 6 feet or greater must be maintained.
- Shared research spaces must have no more than one (1) individual per 200 sqft per room/workspace unless further density is justified and approved. The PI is responsible for ensuring that this rule is followed at all times. Space out desks and workstations; desks in common areas must be arranged so that individuals occupying desks at the same time are at least 10 ft apart (consider temporary walls between workstations if this spacing cannot be achieved). If a space is designed for single occupancy, the space should not be occupied by more than one individual on the same day.
- Maintaining appropriate fire barriers and life safety protections in buildings and work spaces is critical. Furniture or other items that are rearranged to support physical distancing cannot block or diminish paths of travel (aisles, hallways, corridors), or in any way hinder access to egress doors. Personnel and units must not prop open or inhibit the operation of doors, especially doors that are designed to be self-closing for fire safety or security purposes.
- Wash/sanitize hands frequently. At a minimum, this includes before entering and upon leaving a laboratory.
- When available, use soap and water and scrub hands for a minimum of 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol and cover all hand surfaces and rub until dry.
- Cough/sneeze into a tissue. Dispose of used tissues immediately into a trashcan and then wash hands. If there are no tissues available, cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not your hands.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth. This can accelerate the spread of infection.
- Wear personal protective equipment, as appropriate in the laboratory.
Face and Hand Coverings
- Face masks/face coverings must be worn at all times in spaces that involve close proximity with other people and when other people are present.
- Hand coverings/gloves should only be worn during work tasks where use is specified by a hazard assessment. When disposable gloves are worn by research personnel, gloves must be discarded after each use. Do not wear gloves in public spaces/common areas, to prevent cross-contamination.
- Masks and gloves must be available in shared research spaces. Obtaining these items is the responsibility of the PI. See here for more information on how to obtain masks.
- Gloves must be worn and removed properly when individuals interact with human subjects in close proximity or when in contact with shared devices or equipment.
- Masks and gloves must be made available to human subjects and visitors prior to entering lab spaces. Human subjects and visitors must wear masks and must be given the option to wear gloves.
- If other protective equipment is needed, the PI must ensure their availability. If any of these are needed and not available to the lab, the lab is not allowed to remain open.
- If research is conducted by a single individual in a lab setting where under normal circumstances, two or more individuals are present, notify at least one other person outside the lab as a safety precaution prior to entering the lab and upon leaving.
- Please contact Research, Campus, and Environmental Safety to request support, when more than one person may be needed to safely operate equipment.
Disinfecting Labs & Equipment
- Disinfect common research areas and frequently touched surfaces (lab benches, doorknobs, sink handles, freezer doors, fume hood sashes, keyboards, microscopes, etc.) at the end of each shift prior to the next shift arriving at the workplace.
- Designate one or more individuals responsible for cleaning and disinfecting and have them document on a daily work sheet that they completed the cleaning.
- Minimize the sharing of equipment and devices. If they need to be shared, thoroughly disinfect the device between uses by different individuals.
Human Subject Research
All IRB protocols will be reviewed on an individual basis to evaluate risk to participants and to the UTD research community. First and foremost, all human subjects activities that can take place via virtual platforms (Teams, Zoom, online surveys, etc.) should be conducted virtually to avoid in-person contact. These type of procedure changes can be requested by submitting a Request for Revision form to the IRB Office. All such modifications to a research protocol require IRB review and approval prior to them being initiated.
In-Person Research Procedures
For procedures that cannot be moved to an online format, an Application to Resume Human Subjects Research (“ARHSR”) must be submitted to the IRB Office and approved prior to the activities commencing. IRB members will use the COVID-19 Research Protocol Risk Reduction Checklist, to guide their review of the investigator-initiated ARR and decisions for recommendations and approval.
- ARRs will need to demonstrate Investigators have a plan in place to reduce risk to participants, which includes the following:
- Scheduling participants so that there is no congregating in research settings and allows for appropriate disinfecting between all participants.
- Investigator and participant screenings including temperature checks using a noncontact thermometer (or disposable equipment) for adults and one accompanying family member (if a minor).
- Investigators and participants should wear face coverings, such as a washable cloth mask, that covers the nose and mouth.
- Participant screening should be conducted prior to their arrival on campus and at the testing site to assess each participant’s exposure to COVID-19.
- Follow CDC guidelines for social distancing and handwashing, cough/sneeze etiquette, surface cleansing and disinfecting after each participant encounter and use of appropriate personnel protective equipment (PPE).
- Disinfect all equipment that will be in contact with the subject and all contact surfaces after each subject. Scheduling of participants should allow for adequate cleaning and disinfecting between all participant visits.
- For studies that involve collection/analysis of biospecimens: If these procedures cannot be postponed, the UTD Research, Campus and Environmental Safety office must approve protocols for collecting and handling of biospecimens.
Restricting entrance to the animal facilities
- By entering the facility, research personnel certify that they do not exhibit any of the symptoms at the time of entering the facility: new or worsening cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, or feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit. If they exhibit any of these symptoms or if the investigator knows that they have come in close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19, they are not allowed into the animal facility.
- Investigators not abiding by the social distancing or use of a proper PPE will have their animal facility access removed.
Prepare for supply changes
- LARC currently has enough inventory of PPE and cleaning agents to cover current needs within the animal facility. The situation, however, may change rapidly. Investigators are prohibited from removing PPE and cleaning supplies from the animal facility. Failure to adhere to this policy may result in denial of future access to the animal facility during the pandemic. LARC will inform everyone if rationing of PPE supplies is required.
- If any modifications to the animal protocol are being made due to the COVID-19 situation (for example, shortening procedure durations or ordering animals over the number approved by the IACUC), please ensure a modification form is submitted.