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COVID-19 and UW Research Activities

Updated June 3, 2021

Given the global nature of the University of Wyoming’s (UW) research enterprise, the Office of Research & Economic Development (ORED) will continue to monitor the fluid situation presented by the Coronavirus pandemic. Please consult UW’s Official Page for COVID-19 Communication for recent COVID-19 updates and policies related to vaccines, testing, travel, and resources.

ORED staff have been working remotely since March 2020 and most will continue to do so through the 2021 summer months.  As always, ORED staff are able to assist via phone, email, and Zoom.  ORED is considering an in-office employee rotation schedule to provide for a couple of employees to be in the office each day of the week as we near the fall 2021 semester.  Office visitation with ORED staff should still be by pre-arranged appointment. 

UW is planning to reopen campus for the 2021 fall semester.  The full 2021 Summer Campus Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is found here. UW Laramie campus research facilities and UW research stations in other Wyoming locations should continue their operations according to the recommendations on this webpage, with current UW policies, and in accordance with current Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for minimizing COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.


Incidence of COVID-19

As of the date of this posting, incidence of COVID-19 cases are low and many people have been vaccinated but the virus is not gone. If anyone in a research laboratory, facility, or field site experiences COVID-19 symptoms (coughing, fever, and shortness of breath), please stay away from campus, self-isolate, check the UW COVID-19 webpage for testing resources and contact your health care provider. You are also encouraged to email covid19@uwyo.edu or call 307-766-COVID (2683) to report your status. 


Vaccination

At this point, there is no requirement for members of the UW community to receive the COVID-19 vaccine; although vaccinations are strongly encouraged, even for those who have had a COVID-19 infection. Employers are currently not permitted to ask employees or students their vaccine status although employees and students can self-disclose their vaccine status to their employer if they so choose. An employees’ job status and students’ academic or research status will not be at risk if they decide against receiving the vaccine. 


Testing

The university’s requirement for students and employees spending time on campus to be tested for the virus at least once per week will be lifted July 1, as will use of the COVID Pass.

To help track the prevalence of the virus among the community, UW is making plans for a limited testing program beginning July 1. It will consist of voluntary diagnostic testing that is free to the public, staff, faculty, and students; and random sample diagnostic testing of 3 percent of the entire UW community on a weekly basis. Faculty, staff, and students who have been fully vaccinated for two weeks -- or who have been tested in the previous five days -- will be able to opt-out of the random sample testing.


Graduate Student Research

UW faculty are to continue to advise and work with their graduate students toward advancement of their degrees. For questions about graduate student education, please see the Office of Graduate Education COVID-19 Related Information website.


Undergraduate Research

UW undergraduate students, who are conducting research as part of the federal work-study program, can continue their research and be paid if they so choose. It is recommended that supervisors of part-time hourly undergraduate research employees alter students’ duties as needed to protect their health and well-being in accordance with CDC guidelines for minimizing exposure in the workplace. Part-time hourly students shall be afforded the option to continue or discontinue work based on their level of comfort.


Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Labs and Field Research to Minimize Risk of Exposure

ORED has encouraged laboratory managers and lead field research investigators to develop standard operating procedures (SOP) specific for their research activities to minimize the risk of spread of COVID-19.  At a minimum, these SOP’s need to align with CDC guidelines and current UW COVID-19 policies for medical surveillance of participants, social distancing, use of masks and PPE, and disinfection regimens for reducing the spread of COVID-19.  It is worth including consequences for anyone violating an SOP and inclusion of information on how to contact the COVID-19 Command Care Center (covid19@uwyo.edu or 307-766-COVID (2683)) in the event of a positive case of COVID-19.

SOP’s should be posted, shared with, and adhered to by all faculty, staff, students, and visitors, in the research space with a copy provided to the reporting department head and dean/director. Here are examples of laboratory and fieldwork SOPs.


UW and ORED Travel within Wyoming and the US

As of May 8, 2021, any business and research travel outside Wyoming and within the US will no longer be limited to mission-critical work.  Business and research travel within Wyoming and the US will no longer require approval by the appropriate vice president. UW and ORED still advise checking the CDC COVID-19 Travel webpage for the latest updates on travel. Any travel still requires a UW Travel Request Form approved by the traveler’s supervisor.

Additionally:

  • Vaccinated individuals do not need a negative test prior to traveling.
  • Non-vaccinated individuals must have a negative COVID-19 test 1-3 days prior to travel.
  • Consistent with Federal mandates, masks are required for individuals utilizing any mode of public transportation.
  • In accordance with the latest UW Transportation Policy, passenger capacity with UW Fleet vehicles will resume normal limits as long as all passengers are wearing face coverings and practicing proper hygiene/hand-washing. UW recommends trying to share vehicles with members of your household if possible.
  • Where practical, avoid pooled rides or rides where multiple passengers are picked up who are not in the same household. When you do share rides, keep in mind that time matters: a 10-minute shared car ride carries less risk of transmission than a multi-hour shared ride.
  • Non-vaccinated individuals are strongly encouraged to self-isolate upon returning per CDC guidance.
  • Any record keeping will be conducted by the unit sponsoring the travel.

International Travel

A University designation of heightened risk travel will be assigned to locations that currently have a “Reconsider Travel” (Level 3) or “Do Not Travel” (Level 4) advisory rating from the U.S. Department of State and/or a “Avoid Non-essential Travel” (Warning Level 3,) advisory rating from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). US Department of State/CDC may be a country-wide advisory or a region-specific advisory if the proposed travel falls within that region.

Before considering any international travel, please consult the US Department of State travel advisories website, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/, as well as the Centers of Disease Control advisories at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices.

UW has formed the International Travel Risk Assessment Committee (ITRAC) to review and approve/disapprove requests for international travel.  The ITRAC shall be responsible for the review and authorization of university-sponsored international travel to locations identified as presenting a heightened risk to the health and safety of University students and personnel.  

The ITRAC shall also determine if an internationally conducted research, educational, or business opportunity should be suspended, either before or during its conduct, due to health or safety concerns. In making these determinations, the ITRAC shall balance the educational and/or research merits of the opportunity with its associated risk, with an emphasis on risk mitigation.

NOTE- Faculty, staff, and students are also required to register ALL University-purpose international travel through the travel registry.

The ITRAC will use the InfoReady Review system for submission of requests for any international travel as part of UW business, education, and research but InfoReady Review has not yet been activated for this use. 

Until InfoReady Review is activated, submit international travel requests by emailing your travel request to both Diana Hulme, Associate Vice President for Research (dhulme@uwyo.edu) or Isadora Helfgott, Associate Vice President of Global Engagementt (ihelfgott@uwyo.edu). 

Please include the following information in your email or attach the information as a Word document or .pdf:

  • Lead traveler first and last name
  • Date of request
  • Lead traveler home department/unit
  • Dates of travel
  • Travel destination(s)
  • Number of accompanying travelers
  • Reason for travel. List places that will be visited, activities that will take place during travel, whether other travelers will join or leave the trip during the travel event.
  • Provide assurance that each traveler has been allowed to decline participation in the interest of protecting their health.
  • How travel, lodging, food, activities will be conducted to mitigate exposure and spread of COVID-19.
  • How social distancing guidelines will be followed during travel and at the site.
  • How PPE (masks, gloves, face shields) will be used.
  • How any equipment (if applicable) will be cleaned/disinfected before and after
  • Prepare a detailed emergency rescue/evacuation plan that accommodates the necessary precautions surrounding COVID-19.

Additional Considerations:

  • Vaccinated individuals may need proof of a negative test prior to traveling.
  • Non-vaccinated individuals must need to have a negative COVID-19 test 1-3 days prior to travel.
  • Consistent with Federal mandates, masks are required for individuals utilizing any mode of public transportation.
  • Where practical, avoid pooled rides or rides where multiple passengers are picked up who are not in the same household. When you do share rides, keep in mind that time matters: a 10-minute shared car ride carries less risk of transmission than a multi-hour shared ride.
  • Non-vaccinated individuals may be required to self-isolate upon returning per CDC guidance.
  • Any record keeping will be conducted by the unit sponsoring the travel.

NOTE: ITRAC approval does not certify the safety of the proposed travel, only that the travel has an academic or research-related purpose and the known health and safety risks have been evaluated and can be been reasonably mitigated.


UW Visitor Policy

While on University-owned property or when conducting University business or activities, including instruction and research, please ensure visitors follow the current UW Visitor Policy.


Designate Emergency Personnel

Currently, there are no plans to restrict access to university research spaces. However, should the COVID-19 situation change, it is in the best interest of all that research groups be prepared for limited access. It is advised that laboratory managers designate emergency personnel who will carry out essential functions in case access to research spaces becomes restricted.  Please contact UW Police and UW Operations and provide them a list of people who will need access to the building, why they need access, and when. Emergency personnel may include positions directly responsible for:

  • Building or property safety and security
  • Care of research animals, specimens, or equipment
  • Information security
  • Critical infrastructure
  • Essential business, contractual or legal duties such as payroll

Plan for Reduced Staff

In the event personnel cannot come to work, research group leads should discuss how to complete research activities with reduced staff. Each university research laboratory is best positioned to create its own contingency plan, which should include a communication strategy to streamline decision-making and reduce disruption to your research.


Ensure Remote Access to Research Materials and Meetings

All faculty, staff, and students involved in research projects should make sure they are able to access their work and information remotely. For instance, access to databases, research-related files, and literature, as well as meeting software such as Zoom, should be made available to all students, staff, post-doctoral researchers, and faculty. Prepare to hold meetings remotely if need be. Contact the IT Help Desk at 766-HELP (4357) for technical assistance.


Prioritize Experiments (considerations)

Prioritize experiments that can only be undertaken in your research spaces or in-person and defer work that can be supported remotely.

  • Identify experiments that can be ramped down, curtailed, or delayed
  • Identify ways to communicate with your staff and have their contact information
  • Review inventory of supplies
  • Document instructions for key processes
  • Save results and data for analysis

Restarting Research

Restarting Research Activities Safety Checklist

For any labs that may have shut down operations during COVID-19, a checklist was created to ensure a safe restart of research activities.  This general laboratory checklist intends to aid you and your research team as you plan to restart laboratory operations after COVID-19 or any major disaster. This checklist will help to minimize potential disruptions and to ensure safety for all working in a research facility. For specific guidance please contact:

Madeline Dalrymple, Biological Safety Specialist at 307-766-223 or dalrympl@uwyo.edu

Curtis Cannell, Industrial Hygienist at 307-766-3203 or ccannell@uwyo.edu


Adjust Long-term Experiment Strategies

If practical, freeze or capture samples at specific stages of long-term experiments in the event the COVID-19 situation deteriorates and research activities need to ramp down.


Research with Animals

Please refer to the IACUC Guidelines

Contact Nichole Person at IACUC@uwyo.edu with any questions.


Research with Human Subjects

Please refer to the IRB Guidelines and the new Addendum for Face-To-Face Human Subjects Research (8-10-2020)

Contact Nichole Person at IRB@uwyo.edu with any questions.


Biosafety and IBC Questions

Contact Madeline Dalrymple at dalrympl@uwyo.edu


Radiation Safety Questions

Contact Jim Herrold at herrold@uwyo.edu


Respect the Concerns of the Researcher

The extraordinary circumstances surrounding COVID-19 require that deference be given to researchers if they have concerns about performing research in the lab or field even after the supervisor feels reasonable adjustments in procedures have been made. If a researcher is uncomfortable performing a scope of work, the researcher’s work scope must be respectfully adjusted. The supervisor will work with the research team to find other ways to get the required work done.


Keep Your Communication Plan Up-To-Date

If you do not have a communications plan for your research group, designate points of contact to efficiently disseminate information that impacts your work and group.


Plan to Submit Research Proposals Remotely

The ORED Research Services Team will continue to work remotely and will transition to an in-office rotating schedule over the summer of 2021.  They continue to submit research proposals. Be prepared to work with department administrators and your Research Services point of contact remotely to meet deadlines. 


Electronic Submission of Greensheets

Greensheets can be submitted electronically as email attachments to research@uwyo.edu and can be signed electronically.


Sponsor Guidance

With the need to reduce human contact, it is likely research projects will experience some delays.  As this situation evolves, please contact our office if you feel you need to ask your sponsor for a no-cost extension.  We will keep you posted as we hear from sponsors regarding their guidance during this time. There is also sponsor-specific information on the Council of Government Relations (COGR) website.


Chemical Stockroom

Hours of operation for the Chemical Stockroom are Mon-Friday 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

To place an order or arrange to pick up items, call the office at (307) 766-4348. If there is no answer send a text to (307) 272-8309 or email Jack Leonhardt, Chemical Stockroom Manager, at jleonhar@uwyo.edu and he will make arrangements to meet you.


Advanced Research Computing Center (ARCC)

ARCC will remain open and available to assist campus. ARCC staff can be reached at arcc-info@uwyo.edu.


Shipping and Receiving – Animals, Research Supplies

UW Shipping and Receiving will still be fully staffed for the foreseeable future, but recommends coordinating with their group (307-766-2304, ext. 4) prior to ordering to minimize the risk of lost materials.  Researchers expecting deliveries of perishable samples/supplies should still receive them in a timely manner.  If you have concerns about an incoming perishable item, please call UW Shipping and Receiving.


Redirect Media Inquiries

News media may contact you or a member of your research group for comment on the coronavirus. Unless authorized, do not give statements on behalf of UW. Instead, all inquiries should be directed to UW’s Institutional Communications staff. Media relations representatives are trained to respond to media inquiries in a timely manner.

 

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