Animal Care and Use: COVID-19

Have questions or concerns? Contact us:

These FAQ’s may change depending on the impact on personnel, resources, or leadership decisions and public health recommendations. Please check back frequently to ensure you are in compliance. Emails will be sent out periodically from the CCM, ACUC, and OAW to keep you updated on any anticipated changes.

Center for Comparative Medicine (CCM)

The Center for Comparative Medicine (CCM) will continue operation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to provide animal husbandry and veterinary care. Read this letter from Dr. Feldman (3/16/2020) for more.

Is there information from NIH regarding animal care?

The link below provides information from the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare at the NIH regarding animal care, experimentation and ACUC function during the COVID-19 pandemic. The presentation contains regulatory information pertinent to animal care and use. 

NIH PPT

What plans are in place to ensure the animals will continue to receive animal care in CCM-Managed housing facilities?

As is currently the case, CCM will continue to provide animal care tasks to animals housed within CCM-managed animal facilities. Animal care will continue to follow their SOP’s as long as they have supplies and until they are experiencing staffing shortage. 

If CCM animal care staff is decreased due to illness, they will discontinue tasks that are not directly related to the health and well-being of the animals. Animal care at 25% staffing reduction will not sanitize hallways or non-animal spaces; they will not perform many of the quality control testing they perform; at 50% staffing reduction they will go off schedule and spot change caging that is excessively soiled or wet; 75% staff reduction we will be asking labs for assistance with animal care and will seek permission from the laboratories to euthanize strains that can be readily purchased or replaced.

What plans are in place for PI-Managed Permanent housing facilities?

Each investigator should institute their COOP and disaster plan as well as designate essential personnel to perform animal care functions. CCM will not maintain fish, frogs, birds, reptiles, or salamanders, etc. where husbandry and care are currently the responsibility of the investigator’s laboratory staff. Investigators are also responsible for ensuring their supply chain for food and other essentials for their species health and wellbeing.

Ensure that the Office of Animal Welfare and has the primary contact and reliable phone number: animalwelfare@virginia.edu 

Any deviation in animal care practices or SOPs associated with the approved protocol need to be reported to the Office of Animal Welfare (animalwelfare@virginia.edu) as soon as possible. The ACUC will review deviations resulting from the pandemic and may require protocol modifications.

Will veterinary care continue?

The CCM veterinarians will continue to provide veterinary oversight and care to all animals at the University, whether housed in CCM-managed or PI-managed facilities. 

Veterinary care will continue as before with the exception that veterinary technicians may not provide research support (tail vein injections, large animal anesthesia, etc.) for elective research procedures. 

As always, the veterinary technicians and veterinarians can be paged for emergencies. Their information can be found here: https://research.virginia.edu/center-comparative-medicine/organization-staff

I received an email about decreasing my animal numbers and providing care, what was that about?

In the event that CCM can no longer work on its normal operating schedule due to a decrease in personnel or supply chain interruption, we are asking that people assess their animal colonies, decrease if possible by cryo-preserving lines, or euthanizing unnecessary animals in order to decrease the workload of the remaining staff. If the staff shortage decreases significantly, researchers may be asked to assist in some of their animal care. These suggestions would be considered a last resort and are taken very seriously. We feel this is an unlikely scenario; however, for those of you who have completed a colony assessment and decreased your animal numbers we greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness and efforts to help the caretaking staff at this time.

Will I be able to access my animals during this time?

Yes, CCM has not altered vivarium access. Approved animal handers will continue to have access to approved vivaria and rooms as normal.

CCM asks that highly valuable, irreplaceable cages of animals be designated with a gold star shaped sticker, available from the vivarium supervisor.

Will I still be notified of any health issues that emerge with my animals?

Yes, CCM husbandry staff are completing daily health assessments as per standard operations. Veterinary technicians are addressing veterinary and clinical care issues. Researchers will be contacted as per normal methods. 

Ensure that CCM has the name and phone number for the primary contact for the laboratory. The CCM diagnostic laboratory is continuing to perform sentinel assessments and testing.

If PPE runs out, what is CCM’s expectations for PPE entering mouse barrier rooms?

As long as there is PPE available, personnel should put PPE on as before to enter animal rooms. Do not wear the same PPE in multiple rooms.

Reuse your face masks where possible. Zip lock baggies are available in rodent rooms. Write your name on the zip lock bag and store your face mask in it until your next visit to the same room.

Should PPE shortages occur the minimum expectation is that research and animal care personnel will wear disposable gloves and work with rodents in an animal transfer station or biological safety cabinet. Researchers will be notified if these shortages occur.

Will there be any disruption to my animal experiments during the COVID-19 stay at home order?

As indicated by university leadership, research should be shifted to key functions only. What is defined as “key” tasks or functions may vary; however, the Provost Liz Magill provides guiding principles HERE: https://news.virginia.edu/content/latest-updates-uvas-response-coronavirus#march-18-research

CCM husbandry staff will not be able to take on additional responsibilities of weaning mice, separating mice, or caring for colonies that are roles currently performed by investigators. 

Veterinary technicians may be unavailable to provide research support (tail vein injections, large animal anesthesia, etc.), but they will be available for animal health issues and emergencies.

Should I use my approved temporary housing facility during this time?

Unless you are able to provide the daily health and husbandry duties as required, it is strongly recommended that you avoid using any approved temporary housing facilities at this time. CCM will not be able to take on additional responsibilities that are currently performed by research staff. 

Is animal ordering allowed during the pandemic?

Animal ordering is continuing as before, however should CCM experience a shortage of animal care staffing of >50% animal ordering will stop at that time

Can I still order controlled drugs and other veterinary supplies?

Yes. At this time, we are not halting any ordering through the CCM online ordering system. Drug orders will be filled and can be picked up at MR5 G010 from 10-12:00 Monday through Friday.

Are animal protocol transfer and delivery requests continuing during the pandemic?

Yes, these are requested through the CCM online system. Requests must be received prior to 3PM weekdays for delivery the following day. 

Are Swiss Webster foster females still available?

Yes, these females are available on a first-come, first-served basis including CCM’s internal need to foster litters for research staff.

Is animal import and export continuing during this time?

UVA is continuing to import/export animals, however many other institutions are either not accepting or not shipping animals at this time. CCM will keep each laboratory informed regarding the status of their request to ship or receive animals. However, should CCM experience a shortage of animal care staffing of >50% animal import/export will stop at that time.

 

Will I still be able to obtain grant cost estimates and CCM codes for new accounts?

Yes. The CCM staff are teleworking and will respond to email during normal business hours between 8am and 5pm Monday-Friday. Administrative services will not change during this time.

ACUC and OAW

The Animal Care and Use Committee office and Office of Animal Welfare are working normal business hours remotely and will be available on Grounds as necessary to address any issues that cannot be resolved through email, phone, or web meetings.

Will there be any disruption to the ACUC protocol modification, review, or approval process during this time?

No. The ACUC Office is still working diligently to maintain the current process of protocol and approvals. The Committee will conduct their monthly meeting on schedule in order to conduct business, review policies, and review and approve protocols.

For further updates and guidance about ongoing research activities, please refer to: https://research.virginia.edu/additional-guidance-continuity-research.

Are we still having the ACUC Spring Semi-Annual Inspections?

The Spring 2020 Semi-Annual Inspections of laboratories, animal housing locations, field stations, and related facilities have been postponed until normal operations resume.

What do I do if I have a compliance problem or need to report an animal welfare concern?

Email animalwelfare@virginia.edu with the details of your issue or concerns and the OAW will contact you via email or phone. If you wish to remain anonymous, please call the Compliance Helpline at 800-235-8700.

Am I still able to add or remove people from my protocol?

At this time, there are no restrictions on the addition and removal of personnel. Animal handlers are encouraged to complete their required training to enable them to become approved animal handlers or to update their training as needed. Animal handlers may need to be removed from a protocol if they fail to complete required training or occupational health evaluation renewals.

How do I complete the training necessary to become an approved animal handler?

Once the individual has been added to the protocol, training to become an approved animal handler can begin. The in-person Orientation Seminar has been converted to an online format (see instructions below). All other required training is already offered in an online platform and accessible on the animal handler access page. 

How do I complete the Orientation Seminar training requirement now that all Office of Animal Welfare (OAW) in-person sessions have been cancelled?

The animal research orientation seminar is now being offered in two parts that must be completed in succession. Part I: Orientation to the Animal Care and Use Program is a customized online module available through the AALAS Learning Library (ALL). Following completion of the ALL module, the second portion, Part II, is offered through a Zoom or WebEx meeting with the OAW staff. Instructions for accessing Part I in the ALL is on the OAW website https://research.virginia.edu/office-animal-welfare/training or contact the Office of Animal Welfare at animalwelfare@virginia.edu for more information. Instructions for the Zoom meeting are provided upon completion of the online ALL module.

I received an email from the ACUC that my annual occupational health evaluation (Research Related Medical Health Assessment) is due. How do I complete this? What if I’m due for my 3rd year in-person visit? What do I do?

First, using the link in your email from the ACUC, enter the animal handler access site. Complete the medical questionnaire. The internal algorithm will indicate whether an “in-person, face-to-face” assessment is needed. All in-person/face-to-face assessments have been replaced with a phone assessment with an occupational health professional. CLICK HERE FOR ADDITIONAL DETAILS 

Any animal handler receiving notice to have an “in-person/face-to-face” assessment MUST make an appointment for a phone health assessment.

All assessments are conducted over the phone until further notice. Based on your status at the University, contact UVA WorkMed or Student Health Services to make the appointment. CLICK HERE FOR ADDITIONAL DETAILS

All animal handlers MUST send their required health forms to the occupational health provider at least 24hrs before the scheduled phone appointment. CLICK HERE FOR LIST OF FORMS.

If vaccinations or titer checks are required, then the animal handler must complete this portion at the next available monthly UVA WorkMed Satellite Clinic. An appointment is required to visit the Satellite Clinic (Cheryl Pietryzk at CDP4Q@virginia.edu or 434-243-0076).

For further information, please see ACUC website Occupational Health (Occupational Health Visit During COVID-19 Pandemic).

I need my initial occupational health evaluation; how do I complete this step?

All assessments are conducted over the phone until further notice. Based on your status at the University, contact UVA WorkMed or Student Health Services to make the appointment. CLICK HERE FOR ADDITIONAL DETAILS

All animal handlers MUST send their required health forms to the occupational health provider at least 24hrs before the scheduled phone appointment. CLICK HERE FOR LIST OF FORMS.

 

Can I still get in-person training for animal handling or other techniques?

As directed by the university leadership, all in-person group training has been cancelled until further notice. Individualized training requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and social distancing measures must be observed. Email adr8s@virginia.edu or dlt9h@virginia.eduand we will contact you as soon as possible to discuss your needs.

I need to use B-044. Are you still doing the monthly access training?

As directed by the university leadership, all in-person group training has been cancelled until further notice. Some training may occur on an individual basis as long as social distancing measures can be maintained. Contact dlt9h@virginia.edu if you require access to B-044.

I have questions about using controlled substances in research. Who should I contact?

The controlled substances website may have the answer you need. You can also contact Angie Gamble at adr8s@virginia.edu