PI Frequently Asked Questions

Q&A for Research Lab Principal Investigators

Procedures in the event of reported COVID-19-like symptoms or positive case

Stanford is committed to protecting laboratory personnel and their research as the campus moves into phased recovery. This Q&A is intended to support Principal Investigators (PIs) and reduce onsite exposure to COVID-19. Guidance will continue to evolve as Stanford moves into future stages of recovery.

COVID-19 POSITIVE TEST

Q: How does Stanford learn if University employees TEST POSITIVE for COVID-19?

Stanford faculty, staff, postdocs, and student employees, who are working on campus, are required to report their positive test results via Health Check.

In addition, undergraduate and graduate student employees must call Vaden Health Services at 650-498-2336 to notify them of their test results.

 

Q: If someone in my lab TESTED POSITIVE for COVID-19, how will I be informed?

PIs will be notified by a member of the Medical Support Team Stanford University Occupational Health Center (for faculty, staff, and postdocs) or Vaden Health Services (for students), via phone or email, if a COVID-19 positive member of their lab was onsite during their infectious period.

Due to privacy concerns, Stanford will NOT automatically disclose the name of an individual who tested positive to a PI. In some cases a Medical Support Team clinician may need to disclose the name of the lab member who tested positive to a PI, or designated lab member, who can identify any lab members with whom the individual has had high risk close contact, as part of contact tracing efforts required by CDC and County Orders. In limited cases, disclosure may also be necessary to a PI, or designated lab member, who can identify areas of concern for cleaning purposes.

 

Q:  Should I notify the rest of my lab that someone in our lab TESTED POSITIVE for COVID-19?

Due to privacy concerns, Stanford will NOT automatically disclose the name of an individual who tested positive to a PI. Individuals are NOT required to disclose that they tested positive for COVID-19 to a PI or supervisor. If the individual who tests positive for COVID-19 tells a PI of their diagnosis, the PI must not disclose the name of the individual who tested positive without their consent.

PIs can share that a lab member is not cleared to come to work.

 

Q:  When will Stanford conduct contact tracing?

Contact tracing will be used to trace any high-risk close contacts of an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. High risk close contacts will be notified of their exposure, asked to quarantine to prevent additional transmission, and monitored for symptoms through Health Check, under the direction of the Stanford Medical Support Team (SUOHC / Vaden).

 

Q: Do I need to close my lab if someone in my lab TESTED POSITIVE for COVID-19?

Yes — if the individual was in the lab during the time period when they could have been infectious. Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) will coordinate with the Stanford Medical Support Team (SUOHC / Vaden) to assess the time window for exposure.

  1. EH&S will contact the PI or the PI’s designated lab contact to assess the need for additional cleaning services — affected spaces will typically be cleaned within 24 hours of the EH&S assessment of cleaning service needs.
  2. Ensure to notify lab members of the lab’s closure as soon as possible — communication channels include, but are not limited to email, Slack, phone, and/or a closed sign alerting lab members that the lab is temporarily closed.
  3. EH&S will notify the PI and/or PI’s designated lab contact, via email or phone, when the cleaning services have been completed and the lab is available for use.
  4. Ensure to notify lab members when the lab is cleared to reopen.

 

Q: How will cleaning be conducted in the lab when COVID-19 positive cases are reported?

If EH&S determines cleaning services are needed, impacted shared laboratory spaces and equipment will be cleaned according to the University’s COVID-19 cleaning protocols, which are consistent with CDC guidance and recommendations. EH&S will coordinate with PIs prior to conducting cleaning to identify and protect any sensitive lab equipment, samples, and/or areas (e.g., cell lines storage, clean rooms).

 

COVID-19 Response Cleaning Actions for Labs
Location Type Examples Area Response Conditions to Release Area
Personal workspace

(Only used by 1 person)

Personal single-occupancy office room Isolate area for 1 week Area has been isolated for
>= 1 week
Shared area/ equipment

(Used by multiple people)

Benchtop, shared lab fume hood, conference room Isolate area and perform cleaning services Cleaning services have been performed
Common area Restrooms, break rooms, control rooms, public spaces Ongoing enhanced cleaning from LBRE N/A – open due to ongoing enhanced cleaning
Notes:

  1. EH&S is responsible for coordinating the isolation and release of areas.
  2. EH&S will coordinate cleaning of shared spaces/equipment with the lab P.I. and identify any special cleaning needs.
  3. LBRE ongoing enhanced cleaning will cover common areas.

SICK/COVID-19-LIKE SYMPTOMS — NO POSITIVE TEST

Q: How does Stanford learn if University personnel are ill or experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms?

Stanford faculty, staff, postdocs, and student employees, who are working on campus, are required to complete Health Check every day they are expected to be working onsite. In addition, employees who begin feeling ill after being onsite within 48 hours should complete a Health Check — whether or not they are expected to be onsite that day.

In addition, undergraduate, graduate, and medical student employees must call Vaden Health Services at 650-498-2336 to notify them of their COVID-19-like symptoms.

 

Q: If someone in my lab submitted their Health Check and was asked to remain offsite for a few days, how will I be notified?

Stanford faculty, staff, and students must follow the department’s standard process for reporting an absence from work. In addition, they should talk to their supervisor/local HR to determine whether they are allowed to work remotely, if they are feeling well enough to do so. Health Check will not formally notify the PI when faculty, staff, or students are not approved to work onsite.

If a postdoc is not approved to be onsite, their faculty sponsor will be notified that they must remain offsite. The faculty sponsor will not receive any further information and they do not have access to Health Check data or answers. Postdocs should contact their faculty sponsor, supervisor, or PI directly regarding their absence per policy (RPH 10.3) and should discuss whether and what work can be done from home.

 

Q: Someone in my lab has started to feel ill. How should I advise them?

Ask the ill lab member to resubmit their Health Check. Health Check will indicate if they are approved to remain onsite. If they are asked to be offsite, please ensure they follow this instruction promptly.

A clinician from the Medical Support Team Stanford University Occupational Health Center (for faculty, staff, and postdocs) or Vaden Health Services (for students) will review the impacted individual’s symptoms remotely and follow up with the person who is sick, as needed.

We recommend labs continue routine cleaning and disinfecting of shared work surfaces.

 

Q: Do I need to close the lab if a member of my lab is ill and unable to report onsite?

No, you do not need to close the lab. Continue to communicate to lab personnel that they should practice good personal hygiene including frequent hand washing and routinely clean and disinfect shared work surfaces before each use.

Also, ensure the ill lab member seeks care from their primary care provider and resubmits their Health Check. All lab members must continue to submit Health Check before coming onsite.

 

Q: My lab has heard that someone in the lab or adjacent lab is ill and lab members are concerned. What can I tell them?

Refer your lab to healthalerts.stanford.edu for general information about COVID-19. Important highlights include:

  • Similar to pre-COVID-19, viruses and colds circulate throughout the year. If someone is sick and not approved to be onsite, it should not be assumed that they have COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 is primarily spread through person-to-person contact from respiratory droplets (e.g., uncovered sneezing or coughing). The most effective prevention measures remain frequent handwashing, maintaining adequate social distancing, and wearing face coverings when in the lab. If these measures are followed, it significantly reduces their risk of exposure.

It is important to note that touching a contaminated surface is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. While this risk is relatively low in comparison to close contact with infected individuals, it is important to continue frequent hand washing and routine cleaning and disinfecting of shared work surfaces to further reduce any potential transmission.