Stage 1 for Laboratory Research

Environmental Factors

Stanford may decide to enter Stage 1 when the local environment satisfies these criteria:

  • Local COVID-19 hospitalization rates flatten and decline.
  • COVID-19 testing capacity increases.
  • Stanford offers rigorous COVID-specific EH&S training and enforces physical distancing directives.
  • The campus community adopts the Health Check tool.

It is not necessary to eliminate all shortages of personal protective equipment and supplies before entering Stage 1.

Health and Other Concerns

All personnel must:

If you know or suspect that you have COVID-19, follow the guidance on the Health Alerts site.

For the purposes of cleaning a laboratory workspace where someone with COVID-19 has recently worked, contact Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) at 650-723-0448 and your school Human Resources (HR) representative. In the School of Medicine, the Department Finance Administrator (DFA) or HR representative should contact somemergency@stanford.edu. EH&S will assess the need for cleaning and, if necessary, will oversee a thorough cleaning of the appropriate spaces. Do not enter the lab without EH&S approval. The Occupational Health Center will coordinate contract tracing and take other steps as necessary.

Individuals who believe they should not return to research because of medical, pregnancy, or disability issues should contact their local HR representative or may contact the Diversity and Access Office or consult the Administrative Guide: Requesting Workplace Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities.

Individuals who have safety concerns may contact EH&S.  For confidential and anonymous reporting, members of the research community may raise concerns or ask questions via the Ethics and Compliance Helpline.

For emotional and wellbeing support, faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars should contact the Faculty Staff Help Center, and students should contact Vaden Health Services.

Access to Buildings

Academic units should grant laboratory access only to Key Personnel (i.e., personnel listed under Key Personnel on the Essential Research Smartsheets) with approvals from the COVID Committee and all regular approvals.

Academic units should also provide all personnel a checklist to review the protocols and procedures necessary to protect themselves and others (see the Researcher Return Checklist).

In early periods, researchers should conduct only work approved on Essential Research Smartsheets. To facilitate record keeping and tracking of personnel numbers for population density measurements, we have added sections for Essential Research Functions (up to 5 total), Minimum Basic Research Operations, Stage 1 and Stage 2 to the Smartsheet. Beginning in Stage 2, an On-site Role Management System will be available to track essential personnel who are allowed on campus.

Allowed Research Activities

During Stage 1, the research activities initiated in Stage 0 will continue. ​This is defined as Essential Research Functions and Minimum Basic Research Operations–see Stage 0 for details. The purpose of Stage 1 will be to prepare the laboratory for an increase in research activities in Stage 2.

Non-clinical Human Subjects Research

Whenever possible, non-clinical human subjects research should continue to be postponed or conducted remotely until a safe return to campus is possible.

However, IRB-approved, in-person non-clinical human subjects research activities that meet all four of the following criteria may restart beginning June 10, 2020:

  1. Subjects are members of the same research team as PIs;
  2. PIs, researchers, and subjects are willing and ready to participate, in compliance with IRB consent procedures;
  3. PIs have Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that conform to requirements (e.g., density criteria, hygiene, laboratory headcount and building population density) for Stage 1 Laboratories Research in the Research Recovery Handbook, and that have received approval from appropriate departments and/or schools;
  4. PIs will provide feedback and share information with the non-clinical human subjects research recovery working group about restart procedures and lessons learned while restarting.

The non-clinical human subjects research recovery working group is currently weighing the risks and potential mitigation strategies of all other types of in-person non-clinical human subjects research conducted on our campus and related sites. While the working group continues to develop recommendations on these matters, PIs are encouraged to develop restart plans and SOPs. These plans and SOPs must minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission among subjects, researchers, and their respective communities, as well as to the broader campus community. Restart plans and SOPs should include health screening of researchers and subjects at the time of the study, physical distancing and occupancy limits in research space and buildings, personal protective equipment, and disinfectant protocols for any instrumentation, computers, etc. that subjects might come into contact with. Anonymous reporting and consent procedures must be made clear to researchers and subjects. PIs should consult the Research Recovery Handbook, which will be updated as recommendations for in-person non-clinical human subjects research are developed. Questions, concerns, or suggestions may be directed to the working group here.

Density Criteria

Academic units will gradually and incrementally increase the numbers of research personnel and the type of research allowed in accordance with the space density criteria (see below).

Prioritization

Local units will determine their own restart priorities ​within the bounds of allowed research activities, considering factors such as these:

  • research with near-term contractual deliverables to external sponsors,
  • early-career PI projects,
  • trainees who are close to completing their degrees or their terms of appointment,
  • animal research with animals or colonies already established on campus, and
  • longitudinal research projects.

Shared Facilities

Shared facilities will resume operations to the extent required to assist user demand from the essential functions and minimum basic operations allowed in Stage 1.

Libraries

On-campus libraries will expand their availability options ​as allowed under Santa Clara County and Stanford guidance. See the appropriate sections of this Handbook relating to Libraries.

Disallowed Research Activities

During Stage 1, Stanford will continue to prohibit most non-essential in-person human subject research. High school and undergraduate researchers may not enter laboratories.

Laboratory Headcount and Building Population Density

The goal in Stage 1 is to allow preparations for Stage 2 research while limiting population density in labs, in buildings, and on campus. In Stage 1, a small number of researchers will a) prepare labs and units for a gradual return to work in Stage 2 and b) prepare to train the next group that will be coming in to work. In Stage 1, we will cap the limit on personnel at two (2) per faculty member per shift.

In Stage 1, only one person at a time may occupy rooms with areas smaller than 250 square feet (e.g., tissue culture rooms, microscopy rooms, small instrument rooms, etc.).

On June 5th, the density cap was extended to 4 people per faculty member per shift, provided that (a) the laboratory room has at least 250 square feet per person, and (b) the local unit approves the faculty member going to this density. The lab SOP must include physical distancing.

In some instances, situations may require that two people work in closer proximity than 6 feet. This might include operating a piece of equipment (e.g., starting up an NMR machine), performing necessary experimental steps (e.g., surgeries requiring two researchers), or safety activities (e.g., working with cryogens, transporting heavy equipment, providing aid in case of a potential incident/exposure). In these instances, personnel should maximize distance where possible, minimize time in proximity where possible (without rushing), and coordinate and collaborate on logistics before and during the work process. Physical distancing should not be discarded for convenience, such as simply allowing more people to work in a smaller space.

Researchers should occupy (at most) only every other work space (bay, bench, etc., depending on the lab layout) and remain at least 6 feet apart. Pairs of researchers should not occupy work spaces directly opposite one another at the same time if the distance between those work spaces is less than 6 feet. Laboratory managers should place barriers or partitions between researchers who work facing one another. PIs must cooperate to ensure that they do not exceed these density limits in shared spaces. We recommend that researchers establish a shared calendar for spaces belonging to 2 or more faculty members.

Wherever possible, researchers who share shifts should work in the same groups consistently to limit the number of cross-shift contacts.

We strongly encourage units (schools, departments, institutes, and buildings) to disallow late shifts and to establish limits on scheduled shifts. For example, we recommend that no scheduled shifts occur between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., with minor exceptions for timed experiments. These exceptions need approvals from the PI and / or the department. Late or “graveyard” shifts, such as 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., frequently correspond with higher rates of injury and exposure, and safety personnel are less available at those times.

In Stage 1, researchers may not at present extend the types of research beyond Essential Research Functions, COVID-19-related work, and Minimum Basic Research Operations, and they may not exceed the workforce limit of 2 personnel per PI per shift.

Non-Laboratory Areas

Academic units should comport with general campus recovery plans. They should assess common public areas to determine population density limits and mark floors to regulate physical distancing. To assist with this, LBRE will provide a Building Manager Communication Toolkit with applicable signage and markings, as well as examples and guidelines on where to place items.

Academic units may generally choose not to occupy conference rooms and similar community spaces at this stage. If they choose to do so, they must mark them appropriately.

Where kitchens are open and accessible, academic units should discourage people from congregating, insist that they observe physical distancing, and require people to clean surfaces after each use with cleaning supplies provided on site.

Academic units should reserve smaller restrooms (< 250 square feet) for single occupancy where possible and should provide appropriate signage, per LBRE, or occupancy limits on communal spaces such as bathrooms or elevators.

Hygiene

Researchers must continue to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) that they commonly wear for research activities.

Do not share PPE with other lab members unless necessary. If you commonly share personal protective equipment (for example, the face shields used with UV lightboxes to visualize DNA), you must clean and disinfect it after each use in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Consistent with Santa Clara County and Stanford guidance, researchers must wear face coverings in all university buildings except residences, where other rules apply. Researchers may elect not to wear face coverings when they are outside (provided that they maintain physical distancing) or under other situations outlined on the Health Alerts site. Face coverings can reduce the spread of the virus, but they do not eliminate the requirements to maintain physical distancing or to wash hands frequently.

Researchers must follow hand washing guidance.

PIs and academic units must ensure that labs follow self-care guidance on cleaning and disinfecting workspaces (Laboratories and Offices) at the end of each work session. Cleaning options include 10% freshly prepared bleach, 70% ethanol, or disinfecting wipes. Custodial cleaning occurs in common shared spaces, and not in labs or offices, and thus it is the responsibility of users to clean these spaces.

Preparations for Stage 2

  • The EOC Research Continuity Team assesses the effectiveness of Stage 1 results and adjusts operating guidelines if needed.
  • Departments and labs train people who will return to their laboratories in Stage 2.
  • Labs secure supplies to support the people who will return to their labs.
  • Campus partners (e.g., LBRE, Transportation, Public Safety, R&DE) increase staffing for core campus functions to handle the anticipated increased occupancy limit.