Research FAQ COVID-19

Frequently Asked Questions:

Where can I find the most recent guidance on Research Activities?

The communication from VP Ramasubramanian Update on Guidance, (3/20/20) gave the below guidance and was followed by an email from Provost Magill Update on Research Enterprise at UVA, (3/23/20) to clarify how to request exceptions. We are past the cut off date for requesting exceptions, please email us if you have additional concerns.

What’s happening with funding and grants?

Our OSP staff are working remotely to make sure researchers are able to continue to apply and get funding for research projects. We have all the latest information on our site about grants from government agencies, and changing deadlines. There is currently grant funding available for COVID-19 research, and we’re helping to connect faculty to those opportunities.

I am listed as essential personnel and required to come to Grounds for work. Have they lifted the parking restrictions?

Parking and Transportation has announced that permit and meter restrictions are lifted in most areas around Grounds. The Health System and areas around the Stadium are not included in this. If you need specific help with parking near your building, let us know and we will try to assist you. Note: They have locked most buildings you will need a card or key to access most facilities. 

What guidance do you recommend for managing the staff and postdocs in my lab?

The Provost note from Thursday (3/12/2020) specifically covers staff and postdocs. PIs have the power to designated those that are “essential” for their lab operations. They can follow guidance from the President for staff in general and those guidelines (such as self-quarantine with pay) will always trump any laboratory continuity plan and lab policies. Institution-wide policy will trump local policies, in general. That in itself should be treated as a contingency in the planning of continuity for research.

Can graduate students be designated as “essential” employees and do they follow the same directive as faculty and staff?

Graduate students cannot be designated as “essential.” They can only work remotely. Only faculty, staff, and postdocs can be designated as “essential” to support “key research activities” in the lab. 

If I decide to ramp down my research to essential activities, is there an Environmental Safety checklist to follow?

Yes -- use this checklist.

What is the definition of a designated employee?

An employee whose assigned job duties and responsibilities are considered critical to maintaining the essential operations of the University when changes in operating status occur due to an emergency event. Designated employees are first responders needed to meet the immediate needs of students, patients, research programs, or general operations. UVA policy: https://uvapolicy.virginia.edu/policy/HRM-032 

My lab is not large enough for the number of people working in there to maintain the necessary social distancing. What strategies can I use to continue research in such a space?

Normal Operating Status: You can evaluate the status of each graduate student, postdoc, and staff in your laboratory and make specific determinations. For example, graduate students that have not started their research and are in a coursework only portion of their graduate education (early graduate students) should go home if it is possible to do so, since we have moved all classes to online delivery only. If Charlottesville is their home (for many graduate students it is), they stay home and take classes. If they work in a lab, they follow the guidelines set forth by the PI for the entire lab.

Modified Operating Status: Graduate research assistants have not been classified as designated employees, and so they are free to stay home. PIs cannot require GRAs to come to the lab under modified operating status of the University.

Normal Operating Status:

  • Lab Schedules: To control the density of people in the lab at one time, the PI of each lab should consider developing an inventory of ongoing projects and generate a timetable in which lab members work in shifts, in order to maintain research momentum as best as possible. A transition time between shifts (suggested to be 30 minutes) should be incorporated into lab schedules whenever possible, to allow lab members ample time for arrival and departure procedures. Departing lab members should follow standard laboratory cleaning procedures to sterilize surfaces. In many labs, for safety reasons, it is inappropriate to schedule lab staff where individuals could be alone in the lab. 
  • Lab Procedures: It is imperative that proper lab hygiene procedures be followed at all times. Faculty members are strongly encouraged to review basic hygienic practices with their lab groups. Please ensure your labs have a sufficient supply of sterilization and cleaning supplies to allow all lab members to adhere to proper protocols. 
  • Virtual Options: To the extent possible, consider flexible work options for lab members. UVA offers options for remote work and teleconferencing for staying in contact with your staff and students. 
  • Facilities: Buildings may be restricted from general access. Interior spaces within buildings may also be access-controlled as appropriate. Such interior access would be managed at a unit level.

I have a satellite animal facility for my research and maintain it myself. Will the university support people coming in and breaking quarantine to feed and care for our animals? What if 100% of my lab must quarantine because of a case in our ranks? Who can feed then?

Our vivarium employees are “designated”. If the University operations change to a “modified” mode (which means only essential employees report to work on Grounds), those designated employees would be continuing taking care of animals. The same approach will apply for any vivarium or animal facility not on Grounds and/or managed by the PI themselves. The lab lead should designate some as essential for those facilities to come in and feed the animals. In anticipation, you can have a plan to have personnel come in shifts and reduce total contact with each other. Creative scheduling may decrease contact. Having processes and procedures for the care of animals written down and having additional personnel cross-trained to cover might be helpful-as well as coordinating contingencies with other labs. Of course, our Animal Care experts will be glad to provide advice and support as needed. Contact Sandy Feldman at shf2b@virginia.edu for help in planning. See Letter to Researchers using Animals.

Will Facilities be on call regardless of what happens with the operating status of the university? We just want to be sure that even if the university moves to a modified schedule, we have people to call who can get things functional again.

This is a public health emergency. We do not anticipate water and power to be shutdown. The units responsible for supplying water are planning for the same possibility of staffing issues in their unit and will take preventive measures. In general, the Continuity Plan for Facilities Management (FM) addresses critical function support including research, and they plan to maintain staffing levels and operations. FM will continue to have people on call during off hours who are accessible through our 24/7 Systems Control Center 

Many of us freeze essential lab materials with liquid nitrogen. Most of us have recently ordered to avoid issues. But if the university is on a modified schedule, will there be ways to get refills?

That is a laboratory-vendor relationship and a supply chain question. Finance is fully equipped to work remotely for all functions in UVAFinance, including Procurement and hence remain operational under a modified schedule. We cannot predict whether suppliers/vendors will run into issues, but UVA procurement and VPR will be working as usual, even if remotely.

Is it possible to add a camera to my lab so my team can monitor experiments while still practicing social distancing?

Yes. If you’re interested in putting a camera in your lab, please contact Carey Drayton.