Research Under New On-Site Work Framework
As a follow up to the President’s recent memo explaining the easing of some COVID-19 restrictions, as well as the new Return to On-Site Work plan information released by HR, I want to clarify and reiterate the expectations for active research teams.
Research teams currently operating in-person have already gone through the process of obtaining approved Research Plans. Those plans are now superseded by the new MSU Returning to On-Site Work framework plans. Note: previously approved plans should be kept in reserve should there be another pandemic outbreak.
The research team’s main administrative unit, MAU (e.g., colleges and other administrative units), should now be in the process of completing the framework that reflects current MIOSHA orders and accounts for vaccination status. This will permit a broader and consistent reopening across campus and eliminate the need for specific plans for every research space. Approval of these plans should be very quick.
Current research teams working remotely should continue to do so until their MAU framework plan has been approved and MAU leadership indicates your team may return.
Meanwhile, active research teams with previously approved plans may proceed with eased restrictions today by following these key points:
- Personnel working in approved labs and studios who have already completed their EHS COVID-19 Safe Return Training have fulfilled the requirement and do NOT need to repeat it. Individuals on your research team who have not completed the training module should do so immediately.
- All employees should refer to the updated MSU Community Compact to understand their personal responsibilities.
- The health screening form remains a requirement and is a necessary tool for PIs to determine who is or is not vaccinated. Responses to the new attestation of vaccination will prompt a notification to supervisors. Members of the research team who have a supervisor other than the PI, should be sure to list the PI’s email address on their health screening form for proper notification to be delivered.
Mask Wearing and Personal Safety
- Fully vaccinated (defined as those who have completed their final vaccination and the two- week waiting period) are NOT required to wear masks or maintain physical distancing in labs, studios, offices or other public spaces such as conference rooms and break rooms, and there are no longer capacity limits in such spaces.
- Individuals who are either unvaccinated or do not wish to disclose their vaccination status are still required to wear masks and maintain six (6) feet of distance while indoors. Supervisors of research spaces that have a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals will need to address those scenarios, as well as public spaces, appropriately. Masks should be supplied to those who need or request them.
- Personal protective equipment needed for the specific research setting must be adhered to. If mask wearing could hinder the required safety equipment, researchers should discuss a possible exemption with the PI or supervisor.
Sanitization and Personal Hygiene
- Sanitization requirements have been eased slightly and now meet updated CDC recommendations. Research teams should ensure that daily cleaning is maintained (either by the team or building custodial services), but if a sick employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the space must take place before work can resume. Public spaces such as breakrooms are typically cleaned by building custodial services, but are the responsibility of all who use them.
- All research team members should continue to follow personal hygiene protocols such as handwashing. Hand sanitizer should also be made available.
- Transportation – Fully vaccinated individuals may now carpool for research or other work-related activities. Those who are not vaccinated must wear a mask and are limited to only two (2) individuals per vehicle.
- Human subjects – Guidelines for research with human subjects are currently under review. Research teams with active projects will receive a detailed email.
- Undergraduate student researchers – Must be registered to work in the lab. Undergraduate students who work in research should continue to participate in the Early Detection Program (COVID-19 testing) even if fully vaccinated. The need for testing will be reevaluated for the Fall semester.
Remember, getting a vaccination is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself, your family, friends, and fellow Spartans. Please visit the vaccine page on the Together We Will website to learn more and find vaccine availability near you.
If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Research & Innovation at 517-355-0306.
I want to sincerely thank everyone who has worked so hard over the last 15 months to keep research moving forward in a safe and healthy manner. By following your MAU’s framework and these research key points, we can continue our progress.
Interim Vice President for Research & Innovation