As research laboratories are reopening, our top priority remains to reduce the risk of infection, based on published guidelines. Accordingly, we have implemented an array of measures designed to reduce your risks you as you re-enter laboratories:
- A daily online symptom screening system
- A robust symptom-based testing program for our workforce
- Installation of handwashing stations throughout our buildings
- Provision of face masks for those who don’t have their own
- Controlled access to buildings in order to reduce the density of people and facilitate physical distancing
- Mapping out of common spaces to show 6ft distances
- Clear signs in common areas indicating safety guidelines
- Frequent walkthrough of labs by departmental leaders assigned to buildings
We describe here in the ‘General Principles’ section a set of requirements that apply to wet-lab research-intensive buildings as we begin the process of a phased return to our research laboratories. We also strongly encourage you to read the Duke University guide for returning to the workplace. Our guiding principle is to do everything we can to reduce the risks to our employees and students based on the advice of health care professionals and other experts.
To reduce the risks of employees potentially being exposed to SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace or exposing others, we aim to keep the density of our workforce as low as possible at any given time and to help our researchers develop a daily plan that maintains safe distances between employees. The most important three elements that will help reduce the risk of transmission are: (i) wearing a face covering; (ii) regularly washing your hands; and (iii) keeping your distance from other people. Compliance with the instructions outlined here, as well as those from your supervisor and administration is required for continued access; violation may result in the immediate revocation of building access privileges and/or other appropriate disciplinary action.
No two laboratories are alike. The directives listed here describe approaches that were devised in collaboration with experts in the area of infectious disease control and have been developed together with our peers across the country. However, we urge you to collaborate with us to continually improve the safety of your workplace. For example, your work may involve the frequent use of shared equipment, such as a microscope: what extra cleaning precautions could you take to further minimize the risk to you and your coworkers? Perhaps the route to your laboratory could benefit from an additional strategically placed hand washing station? Please reach out to us if you feel you need to discuss your specific situation. In order to reduce our risks as much as possible, this must be an ongoing partnership.