Governor Whitmer’s announcement on May 15 that research and development activities can resume, Dr. Kunkel and the Medical School Office of Research (OoR) have developed a re-activation process for research at the Medical School. This process conforms with the U-M Research Re-Engagement Guidelines developed by central campus, while at the same time recognizing the unique needs and circumstances of research at the Medical School.
Medical School research will return to full capacity over several phases, with restrictions lifted in each subsequent phase, as informed by outcomes and public health guidelines. Once approved to do so by the governor and U-M leadership, we will commence with Phase 1, which is expected to occur in waves over a period of several weeks.
The Medical School reactivation is part of the larger university plan. The first wave of this plan is limited to a “pilot,” with one building participating from each of only a few of the U-M schools and colleges. The intent of the pilot is to learn what is working and what is not working as we bring back scientists into our wet laboratories.
The second and subsequent waves will include several Medical School buildings, as well as additional buildings in other schools and colleges, as we reach our final goal of putting all the research buildings on-line. Keep in mind that while there is a plan to bring back all of our research buildings, this will be at a reduced capacity from pre-COVID-19 occupancy.
Full research work force numbers will occur over time. The Medical School is privileged to bring a building on-line during the first-wave pilot. Progression through the Phase 1 waves are informed by safety, supply chain, and operational logistics. The goal is to ramp up slowly, safely, and successfully as opposed to having to pull back and revert to our current state if done inappropriately and too fast.
Proposed waves (subject to change depending on the governor’s orders and U-M metrics):
- Wave 1: Pilot one Medical School building
- Staggered start times to avoid long lines
- 2 weeks of operations before next wave initiated
- Waves 2-4: Medical Campus and North Campus Research Complex buildings
- Buildings opened in “groups”
- 1-2 weeks between each wave
- Implement shift work once permissible by U-M leadership.
Metrics to determine progression through waves will be provided as soon as approved and authorized for distribution by the Office for the Vice President for Research.
Buildings, or groups of buildings, once activated will have a single-entry point that will have limited access to approved personnel and a health screen before being granted access. All critical and essential laboratory maintenance and COVID-19 approved research may continue consistent with the “ramped-down” level of activity and following all safety precautions until the laboratory building is included as part of a reactivation wave. At that time, laboratories will have to follow all U-M guidance related to the safe reactivation of U-M laboratories and building access protocols.
Process for Reactivation
As of Thursday, March 14, the OoR has communicated with all Department Chairs regarding the very specific process required to begin re-activating labs according to the phased plan described above. PIs, please communicate directly with your Department Chair to learn if your lab and the building it occupies will be a part of this first pilot Wave 1. As part of this process, PIs with labs will be required to do the following:
- Review U-M Guidelines for Safe Lab Work
- Complete and submit a Medical School Laboratory Space Usage Form
- Complete and submit to your chair a Medical School Laboratory Safety & Hygiene Plan
- Complete MyLinc training module COVID 19: Working Safely in U-M Research Areas
The total headcount returning to the lab in the initial part of Phase 1 will be reduced. Faculty will need to prioritize their research and only request access for personnel who are needed immediately to reactivate the laboratory and begin high-priority experiments.
It is expected that approximately 30-40% of laboratory personnel for each lab will be returning in the first few weeks of reactivation. The PI does not need to be included in the 30-40%. The PI will be added automatically to the building access list. For small laboratories with modest staffing (i.e., 30-40% would be less than 1 FTE) at least 1 person may be listed.
The school will take into consideration, working with department leadership, the number of staff listed along with the laboratory square footage and social distancing directives, building density, supply chain, and operational logistics to determine the approved maximum occupancy per laboratory room. Final decisions must be consistent with all State of Michigan orders and U-M guidelines.
The new list of personnel submitted via the Medical School Laboratory Space Usage Form will replace the critical personnel list used during ramp down ONLY once the building in which the PI’s laboratory is housed is reactivated as part of the ramp up.
Additional personnel may be added once all laboratories are reactivated or when indicated to do so by U-M executive leadership.
Once the OoR has confirmed that a PI/lab has complied with the steps described above, the PI will receive an email with:
- location of the building’s screening entrance;
- assigned building entrance time for their laboratory;
- approved occupancy signs to post on their laboratory doors or in a public, visible location for large, open-bay lab designs;
- Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) Checklist for Restarting Research Activities.
The OoR will also submit the lab personnel list to facilities for programming building access.
Additionally, the OoR and Facilities staff will host a virtual meeting for building occupants prior to activating a building/building group to orient individuals to the building entrance process, to share expectations, and to answer questions.
Compliance & Continuous Improvement
The importance of doing this well and right cannot be overstated. Each subsequent wave is dependent on the success of the prior wave(s), and returning the remaining research workforce via shifts is dependent on successfully activating Medical School and campus research buildings.
The PI and research team will self-monitor adherence to U-M guidelines and compliance with their safety and hygiene plan.
If needed, Department leadership will prioritize competing departmental research priorities and aid in the enforcement of U-M guidelines and individual safety and hygiene plans.
The OoR will enforce U-M guidelines and mediate reports of noncompliance, which may result in sanctions leading up to and including termination of access to buildings and research laboratories.
Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.