Emailed March 17, 2020

Sent on behalf of Richard V. Homan, MD, President and Provost, Dean of the School of Medicine; and William Wasilenko, PhD, Vice Dean for Research

To protect the health and safety of the EVMS research community during the COVID-19 outbreak, these research-related changes and recommendations are intended to help diminish the risk of COVID-19 transmission among researchers, staff and students.

As this situation is quite fluid, we advise that you prepare for additional changes to your routine research operations. At this time, research laboratories remain open; however, EVMS is recommending that all researchers begin ramping down non-essential research activities. EVMS also recommends that no new experiments or studies be initiated during this outbreak.

Graduate and medical students currently working in a laboratory should follow the guidelines of the principal investigator for limiting research in the lab. More information will be forthcoming.

We are monitoring the situation closely and recommend that all researchers immediately develop a contingency plan for more strict limitations on research. We also recommend that you become aware of any departmental pandemic plans affecting your research.

The changes and guidance provided below are similar to those being implemented at several research-intensive institutions and apply to all laboratory, clinical and community-engaged research activities. The requirements may change as the situation evolves.

Please note that all research support units, such as Environmental Health & Safety, Sponsored Programs, CompMed and the IRB, as well as the IACUC, Biosafety and Conflict of Interest offices, remain operational, although remote work is being planned for many of these support units. We encourage you to visit the COVID-19: Research webpage, which will be updated shortly to include information, resources for research continuity planning, and research FAQs to assist faculty, staff and students manage their ongoing research.

General Research Operations
Principal investigators should begin immediately identifying essential experiments that are at a critical stage and plan for their completion. Essential research is typically high-priority research that, if abandoned, will cause a major or irreversible negative impact on a funded project. Examples of nonessential experiments are exploratory or pilot projects, and quality control or procedural development, to name a few.

Develop a contingency plan immediately for more restricted laboratory access or a possible acute shutdown of laboratory functions. The plan will vary depending on the nature of the research. Some considerations for restricted use of laboratories are:

  • Illness of personnel and the identification of back-up personnel to perform any needed lab operations
    Access to needed core equipment, supplies, the protection and maintenance of sensitive equipment, cell stocks and animal models.
  • Ensuring the safety of the laboratory and dispose of any chemical and/or biological waste.
  • Limiting the number of individuals in the laboratory, and practicing physical distancing.
  • Considering impacts of limited subject involvement in clinical studies (see the IRB guidance documents)
  • Developing a communication plan with your laboratory, clinical staff and other collaborators.

Nonessential and outside visitors to the research facilities are prohibited. Research seminars and chalk talks are suspended and laboratory group meetings should be held remotely. Research activities in the community are discouraged.