The Governor of Texas and the Harris County Judge issued stay-at-home orders that are in effect until April 30, 2020.
At this time, only essential personnel (faculty/students/staff) are permitted to come to campus and only for the essential purposes. Essential personnel have been identified in the Continuity of Operation Plans. These are the individuals who are responsible for monitoring and managing critical activities, such as routine lab and animal maintenance. No exemption is required for those already identified in the Continuity of Operation Plans. Exemptions are required only for continued laboratory research activities that are essential and require access to campus facilities.
To submit a new or revised exemption for essential research activities, use this form. Requests for exemptions will only be considered for essential research activities that meet one or more of the criteria listed above (and also in the form). The form must be submitted by the PI/supervisor. Students or staff who want to request an exemption will need to submit the form through their PI/supervisor. The PI/supervisor will need to certify on the form that they obtained permission from their department chair (or equivalent) and dean of their college (or equivalent) prior to submitting this form. (The permission can be in the form of an e-mail and must be available upon request. Do not include the permission in the request.)
Students, non-essential employees, or employees who are not assigned essential duties to work on campus should not feel compelled to work on campus or in the field. Students and employees (students, staff, or faculty) should use the Fraud & Non-Compliance Hotline to file a confidential report if they feel compelled to work in university research space or feel uncomfortable/unsafe about their work situation.
Once the form is submitted, the department chair (or equivalent) and the dean of the college (or equivalent) will receive an e-mail about the submission, and the request will route to the Vice President of Research (or delegate) for final approval. PIs will be notified of the decision electronically.
Continue to review the list below to ensure that your lab is prepared to handle the extended absence of lab personnel during the Stay Home. Work Safe. order.
Laboratory access is limited to essential personnel who maintain essential research-related activities that include:
- Activity that if discontinued would generate significant data and sample loss.
- Activity that if discontinued would pose a safety hazard.
- Activity that keeps critical equipment and infrastructure in facilities and laboratories safe or avoid catastrophic loss.
- Activity that maintains critical samples, reagents, and materials.
- Activity that maintains animal populations.
- Activity that maintains critically needed plant populations, tissue cultures, bacteria, archaea, and other living organisms.
- COVID-19 related activity that has a timeline for deployment that could address the crisis.
- Activity in support of essential human subjects research.
Essential personnel must coordinate receipt of deliveries with suppliers to ensure that essential personnel is on campus to receive the delivery of items, such as gases, cell lines, etc. It is important to note that campus buildings are closed and so deliveries to a lab are not possible without someone being there to receive the delivery.
Essential personnel have been identified in the Continuity of Operation Plans. These are the individuals who are responsible for monitoring and managing critical activities, such as those defined above.
Exemption will be considered only for research that directly relates to COVID-19 and has a timeline for deployment that could address the current pandemic. Request for exemptions should be submitted through your Department Chair and Dean to the Vice President for Research.
On-going Essential Laboratory Activities
Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) has developed an On-going Essential Laboratory Activities questionnaire that researchers can complete. EHS has also developed a Paused Laboratory Guidance for researchers, which is posted on their website. Check the EHS website for updates.
Research while the Stay Home. Work Safe. order is in effect.
Below is the list we published previously to help with ramping down lab activities. Some of these need to be monitored and/or done during the Stay Home. Work Safe. order.
While working remotely
- Check in with your lab members regularly, ideally, daily.
- You should have your laptop or other materials you need to work remotely with you.
- You should have your lab phone tree and/or your lab continuity plan with you so you can communicate with your lab members.
- Ensure that emergency contact information is correct and shared with all lab members. Ensure that your unit office has this current information.
- Back up your data and update notebooks each day. Ensure that your data is remotely accessible through share drives, websites, or conventional hard drives.
- Cancel orders for nonessential research materials if they have not yet shipped.
- Review essential activities (procedures and processes that require regular personnel attention e.g., cell culture maintenance, animal studies, and contact with human subjects), and ensure that the plan is followed by essential personnel.
- Identify back-up for personnel able to safely perform essential activities in case of illness or other reasons for absence of currently identified essential personnel. Establish and regularly test communication chain. Ensure adequate training of these individuals.
Tasks for essential personnel during Stay Home. Work Safe. order
The following tasks should have been done on Tuesday. If not, essential personnel should complete them as soon as possible and continue to check on them as necessary.
- Freeze down any biological materials for long-term storage.
- Consolidate storage of valuable perishable items within storage units that have backup systems.
- Fill dewars and cryogen containers for sample storage and critical equipment.
- Properly secure all hazardous materials in long-term storage.
- Secure Infectious material and toxins in appropriate storage units that are marked with a biohazard sticker or sign.
- Ensure all flammables are stored in flammable storage cabinets.
- Ensure all chemicals are stored in appropriate storage cabinets.
- Remove all chemicals and glassware from fume hoods and store appropriately.
- Ensure that all items are labeled appropriately.
- Turn off and disconnect all heat-generating equipment.
- Ensure that all gas valves are closed and that gas cylinders are properly secured in an upright position.
Things you should have done by Tuesday, March 24, 11:59 pm
- Leave your workstation/lab bench in a clean and orderly state, clean laboratory instruments and glassware, and properly dispose of all waste in case you are unable to return for an extended period of time.
- Remove all perishable and open items from lab break areas and other spaces.
- Disinfect any potentially contaminated surfaces and properly dispose of biohazard waste.
- Request pick-up of all hazardous waste.
- Decontaminate reusable materials and any areas of the lab that may be contaminated with biological material.
- Close all doors, including cabinets, storage areas, and offices. Lock all exterior lab doors.
- Ensure that key personnel who will support critical functions have appropriate access.
Animal Care Operations under the Stay Home. Work Safe. order
Animal Care Operations (ACO) will provide daily care to all animals housed in the HBS core facility. All ACO staff, except administrative staff, are essential personnel and will continue to work on campus during the Stay Home. Work Safe. order.