Covid-19 Information for Researchers and Other Research Personnel

Chris Jones and Chaouki T. Abdallah

(left) Chris Jones, professor and William R. McLain Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and (right) Chaouki T. Abdallah, executive vice president for Research.

 

Dr. Chaouki T. Abdallah staying safe in the research lab with his face mask

Research Operations Status

UPDATED AUGUST 24, 2020: Georgia Tech has resumed some research activities for the purpose of fulfilling research grants and contracts, and to ensure student degree progress. Research personnel density remains at 50%. The Institute will revisit this level during the fall semester. Further increases to research activities (as much as 75% personnel density) will be decided as conditions and support infrastructure permits. 

We advise all researchers to continue completing duties off-site that do not require campus access. Research at field sites will be allowed to resume depending on several factors, including travel restrictions, stay-at-home directives, and density and physical distancing requirements.

Find the latest updates, information, and safety guidelines at Tech Moving Forward: Our Road to Recovery.

 

Returning Safely to Labs

Professor and William R. McLain Chair in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Christopher Jones and Assistant Vice President of Environmental Health and Safety Nazia Zakir share information and guidelines for researchers returning to Georgia Tech laboratories as part of the Institute's phased return-to-campus plan.

 

Graduate Students

Graduate students can also review information for students or faculty and instructors and refer to the Graduate Education Guidance and FAQs.

 

Questions? Get Answers

Institute leaders and experts answer your questions about our road to recovery in this series of virtual town halls. A video recording will be posted after each event.

Research Resources:

 

Frequently Asked Questions

[Editor's Note: This page was reviewed and updated on September 11, 2020.]

Table of Contents  
Research and Labs Campus Operations

FAQ

Research and Labs

Will the remainder of research activities resume in the fall?

We will continue to prioritize research requiring campus access. All researchers should continue completing duties off-site that do not require you to be on campus.

Georgia Tech has resumed some research activities for the purpose of fulfilling research grants and contracts, and to ensure student degree progress. Limited activities of research personnel (25%) resumed on June 18. Research personnel density was increased to 50% on July 13. Currently, we plan to remain at 50% personnel density and will revisit this level after the start of fall semester. Further increases to research activities (as much as 75% personnel density) will be decided as conditions and support infrastructure permits.

We advise all researchers to continue completing duties off-site that do not require campus access. Research at field sites will be allowed to resume depending on several factors, including travel restrictions, stay-at-home directives, and density and physical distancing requirements.

Our priorities remain the same: to protect the health and safety of the campus community and to communicate clearly and consistently.

More information is available on the Research Ramp-up FAQs.

What special protocols are being implemented to protect faculty, staff, and graduate students who will be working in labs?

If you have been identified by your supervisor to return to your lab, or if you have been working in one of the labs that has remained open, you will be required to watch the “Returning Safely to Your Lab” videos. The six-part module will include what you can expect, recommended safety precautions, cleaning and disinfection best practices, and proper use and disposal of PPE, among other helpful tips for ensuring your safety and the safety of others. You will have to log in and view the videos before returning to campus or continuing laboratory work:

  • Log in at training.osp.gatech.edu. Click “My Online Classes” in the left menu.
  • Select the first item: “Returning Safely to Your Lab.”
  • In “Available Courses” click “Returning Safely to Your Lab.”
  • Click “Enroll Me.”
  • There are six video segments. When finished with each segment, go to the menu on the left side of the screen to start the next video.
  • After segment six, click “Quiz” in the menu and follow next steps to record that you have viewed the videos.

More ramp-up details are available on the Research Ramp-Up FAQs.

Will researchers be allowed to resume field work?

Research at field sites may resume in the Fall 2020 semester as long as it is consistent with current travel restrictions, stay-at-home directives, and density and social distancing requirements.

Please see the latest guidance on research field work on the Research website.

What kinds of preventative practices will be in place to protect students, faculty, and staff when they return to campus?

Everyone will be expected to continue to follow basic guidelines from the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force, including:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer in the absence of soap and water.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or inner elbow.

Social distancing (6 feet of separation from others) at work:

  • Be respectful of others’ personal space.
  • Assess and adjust workspaces to maximize social distancing, including spacing furniture with 6 feet of separation.
  • Hold meetings virtually whenever possible.
  • Provide services remotely whenever possible.
  • Do not share phones, desks, offices, computers, or other equipment. In cases where equipment is shared, it should be disinfected before and after each use.
  • Do not gather in groups of more than 50 people when social distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Think creatively of ways to facilitate safe social interactions. For example, hold outdoor and physically distanced events to reduce the risk of contagion relative to indoor spaces.
  • When interacting in open environments (e.g., outdoors, atriums, auditoriums) or in indoor common areas, keep a safe social distance.
  • Limit occupancy in elevators to maintain social distancing.
  • Use care when entering or exiting restrooms to maintain a safe distance.
  • Do not use a restroom when it is being cleaned.
  • Supervisors should allow employees to take meals outside or in separate locations.
  • Cancel or postpone any events or activities (networking happy hours, lunch-and-learns, etc.) or consider hosting them virtually.
  • Avoid all person-to-person contact, including handshaking.

Effective July 15, 2020, University System of Georgia (USG) institutions will require all faculty, staff, students, and visitors to wear an appropriate face covering while inside campus facilities/buildings where 6 feet social distancing may not always be possible. Face covering use will be in addition to and is not a substitute for social distancing.

Signs will be posted at building entrances prohibiting anyone with a fever or symptoms of Covid-19 from entering. Contact-less thermometers will be supplied to all buildings as they reopen.

To mitigate the spread of Covid-19, Georgia Tech is implementing a wellness check protocol designed to help protect the health and safety of our community. This wellness check will include temperature screenings. All employees are strongly encouraged to administer the Covid-19 Daily Self-Checklist before coming to campus.

All employees and students will be asked to complete an online Covid-19 health and safety training prior to arriving on campus and will be encouraged to take a health and safety pledge as part of the training.  

How will cleaning and disinfecting protocols be stepped up to protect students, faculty, and staff when they return to campus?

Building managers and Facilities Management will adhere to the following measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 and promote a healthy and safe campus:

  • Buildings and labs to reopen as a result of resumption of services and operations will first undergo proper cleaning and disinfection protocols.
  • All uses of indoor common areas must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Some common areas may be closed if social distancing cannot be maintained while in use.
  • Elevators will have signs posted indicating their capacity to allow for proper social distancing.
  • Restrooms will be disinfected four times a day. Use caution when entering or exiting to maintain social distancing.
  • Restrooms will be closed to anyone other than cleaners during cleaning times.
  • Cleaning of labs will be performed regularly by research personnel. They will be trained in proper cleaning methods prior to resuming lab operations.
  • Instructions will be posted for proper hygiene and handwashing, according to guidelines from GDPH, CDC, and the Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force.
  • Campus Guidelines with health information and protocols are available for all faculty, staff, and students at health.gatech.edu/campus-guidelines.

Other precautions will include installation of signage to encourage best practices regarding personal hygiene and the movement of people through campus spaces, upgraded air filtration systems (where possible), workspace modifications, and staggered scheduling for on-campus community members. Setup in offices, classrooms, labs, makerspaces, etc. will be modified to facilitate social distancing and enable cleaning and disinfection protocols.

Will testing be available to Georgia Tech students, faculty, and staff?  

Georgia Tech is taking an aggressive, multi-pronged approach for limiting the spread of the coronavirus on campus, a strategy that will depend heavily on support and participation from members of the campus community.

  • Asymptomatic Surveillance Testing Program – Relying on saliva to obtain samples used to detect the virus, this program will employ a pooled testing approach that will combine samples from multiple individuals and test them as a group in an on-campus lab. Pooled testing will dramatically increase the number of community members that can be sampled with a single coronavirus test. All students, faculty, and staff will be encouraged to undergo frequent testing as part of this program. Several testing sites are being offered for asymptomatic Georgia Tech students, faculty and staff: Covid-19 Testing Locations and Hours.
  • Tests for Symptomatic Students – Testing for currently enrolled students with Covid-19 symptoms is already available at the Stamps Health Center.
  • Pop-up Testing (through September 10) ­– A Fulton County walk-up testing site at the McCamish Pavilion parking lot will be available to symptomatic and asymptomatic students, faculty, and staff at no cost on Tuesdays and Thursdays from August 18 through September 10.
    • All individuals who want to be tested are strongly encouraged to schedule an appointment.
    • Visit the GDPH website or call the Fulton County Covid-19 hotline at 404.613.8150 to complete the online registration and schedule an appointment.

More details and FAQs are available on the testing webpage.

Will accommodations be made for employees who are at higher risk for severe illness with Covid-19? What about for those living with a high-risk individual?  

For Fall semester 2020, it is expected that employees will return to campus by the start of the fall semester to conduct their work. Employees can expect social distancing will be practiced. We are working diligently to create an environment where social distancing can be relied upon as the best tool in reducing the spread of Covid-19. In the limited cases where social distancing cannot be practiced, supervisors will determine how employees continue to use teleworking, split shifts, staggered shifts, and other measures that promote physical distancing. Any alternate work arrangements should not interfere with our ability to serve students. The Institute will provide appropriate PPE for employees who must return to campus and who are unable to practice social distancing.  

Employees who care for or live with individuals at higher risk for severe illness with Covid-19 should plan to return to campus as scheduled and work with their direct supervisor to ensure that their work environment allows for social distancing and the ability to practice the behaviors known to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Employees may utilize appropriate leave options as necessary, and they should contact the Human Resources Office to identify appropriate leave options. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for managing Covid-19 related issues. Among the changes are to definitions for people who will need extra precaution due to age and underlying medical conditions. In response to those changes from the CDC, the University System of Georgia (USG) is providing updated guidance on the wearing of face coverings and for who is eligible to seek alternate work arrangements due to falling into one of these categories.

Older Adults

The CDC no longer gives a minimum age for those at risk. The USG will continue to use 65 as its measure for evaluating requests for alternate work arrangements. Individuals who are younger than 65 can provide documentation from a health care provider that their age is a determining factor for risk that should prevent them from working on campus as scheduled.  

People of Any Age with Underlying Medical Conditions

People with the following underlying medical conditions may request alternate work arrangements under the previously developed process:

For more information about work arrangements and leave options for employees unable to return to campus, refer to the  Return-to-Campus Manager’s Tool Kit.  

To request  paid sick leave or expanded family medical leave  through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act  (FFCRA), visit the  Human Resources  FFCRA  portal.  

If industry sponsors ask for work stoppage and suspension of payment or cancel projects altogether because they can no longer afford to fund research, what should be done about student support, especially for those in the last 12-18 months of their degree programs?

Wherever possible, the students should be moved to other projects that could cover their time. If this is not possible, please work with school chairs to determine if other support options are possible.

Can I have in-person meetings with students in my classes or research group, or with students I advise?

In most cases, we recommend one-on-one or small group meetings be conducted remotely. This is the preferred and most common option used by academic advisors and other student services. When in-person one-on-one or small group meetings are needed or requested, meetings should be set up in a place that accommodates social distancing and follows all health and safety protocols, including the use of face coverings.  

I don’t feel comfortable reporting to my lab, and my PI is insisting that I report in person. What recourse do I have? 

It is expected that employees, including student employees, will return to campus by the start of the fall semester to conduct their work. In the limited cases where social distancing cannot be practiced, supervisors and PIs will determine how best to utilize teleworking, split shifts, staggered shifts, and other measures that promote physical distancing. 

Based on your particular situation, you may be eligible for an academic or employment accommodation. Students seeking an academic or employment accommodation (including graduate teaching and research assistants) should start by contacting the Office of Disability Services (ODS). Registering with ODS is a 3-step process that includes completing an application, uploading documentation related to the accommodation request, and scheduling an appointment for an “intake meeting” (either in person or via phone or video conference) with a disability coordinator. If you work as an undergraduate or graduate teaching assistant or graduate research assistant and are seeking an employment accommodation, you should also complete the Georgia Tech Covid-19 Higher Risk Alternative Work Arrangement Request Form.

In addition to approved accommodations through these processes, we understand that an employee or student may not feel comfortable being on campus. In this case, please discuss your particular concerns and situation with your supervisor. If you do not qualify for an accommodation and cannot resolve a conflict with your PI or supervisor related to returning to the lab or other campus operations, you are encouraged to reach out to the HR Business Partner or HR Director within your unit. You may also seek support from the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies within your school or the Graduate Ombuds Office.

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Campus Operations

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