Updated Guidance for Research Community Regarding COVID-19 (updated 3/16/20)

Published: March 20th, 2020

Category: Memos

Dr. David P. Norton, Vice President for Research

The university continues to monitor developments locally, statewide, nationally and internationally regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and actions taken. 

While there is significant uncertainty regarding future events, it is prudent for UF researchers to recognize that impacts and measures seen in other parts of the nation and world could be realized locally, and that they could occur rapidly. 

Recognize that future safety measures instituted by the University of Florida, the city, or the state could result in limitations and disruptions in staffing, supplies, and access to facilities.

UF|Research is providing the following updated guidance to researchers as they prepare for potential additional impacts from COVID-19:

  • Supervisors are encouraged to determine what functions can be migrated to remote workplace (e.g. home), and begin implementation.  While we don’t anticipate all functions will migrate off campus, moving some functions now makes implementation of social distancing throughout the on-campus UF workspace more readily achievable. 
  • Implement recommended practices for on-campus operations that minimize the potential person-to-person transmission of COVID-19.  If an employee is or feels sick, they should stay home.  At work, frequent hand-washing, social distancing (maintaining at least 6-feet of separation from others), and migrating meetings to calls or Zoom are good practices and are strongly encouraged. 
  • Perform situational planning in the event that access to your research space is restricted, or the availability of laboratory personnel is curtailed. 
  • Formulate research plans in the event that extended absence from laboratory is required for one or more individuals.  For critical functions that must be performed on campus, such as research animal care, develop a plan for how these will be handled.  Discuss now with your group who will be designated as research continuity personnel to maintain ongoing experiments and receive essential supplies, should access to campus be restricted. 
  • Primary consideration is the health and safety concerns of your group members and their families.  Individuals in high-risk groups or with high-risk family members should significantly limit exposure to other co-workers, who may be asymptomatic. 
  • Consider what supplies and reagents you will need to maintain ongoing laboratory experiments and human subject data collection projects in the event of a shortage or restricted campus access.
  • Prioritize ongoing laboratory activities that are critically important in the event that on-campus efforts are disrupted.  Consider postponing new experiments that require significantly long timelines of uninterrupted on-campus activities.
  • Discuss with your research group the types of research activities that could be performed if access to campus is impaired.  This could include data analysis, documentation of procedures, developing manuscripts, and writing reports.  The university recognizes that such disruption may impair progress for certain research endeavors.  While the university will seek to maintain on-campus research operations, these could become unavailable.
  • In light of disruptions due to COVID-19, federal funding agencies are providing flexibility to awardees and applicants.  Agency-specific guidance will be posted at https://research.ufl.edu/covid-19-updates.html  as it becomes available.  Please contact Stephanie Gray (slgray@ufl.edu) or Tiffany Schmidt (tcasi@ufl.edu) for specific guidance.
  • Establish a communication plan (or review existing plan) for your group, including both students and staff. This should include emergency contact phone numbers for all group members, and a strategy for how you will communicate essential information rapidly, if necessary. This information should be shared with all members of your group.  Plan to stay in good communication via virtual lab meetings to provide scientific as well as emotional support to your research team.

Many of these recommended actions represent prudent preparation for what might occur going forward.  The local situation with COVID-19 could evolve rapidly.  Our goal is to keep research laboratories open and available for UF researchers, but we to need to prepare now for various scenarios so as to protect UF personnel and families, and to preserve the remarkable entity that is the UF research enterprise. 

Additional updates specific to the research community will be posted at https://research.ufl.edu/covid-19-updates.html .  University-wide updates are posted at http://www.ufl.edu/health-updates/ .

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