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.

 

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.

 

Questions? Get Answers

Institute leaders and experts answer your questions about our road to recovery in this series of virtual town halls. 

Graduate Students

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

Frequently Asked Questions

[Editor's Note: This page was reviewed and updated on January 15, 2020.]

Table of Contents  
Research and Labs Campus Operations

FAQ

Research and Labs

Will the remainder of research activities resume in the spring?

Research-related Frequently Asked Questions and answers can be found on the Research Ramp-Up webpage.

 

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

Research-related Frequently Asked Questions and answers can be found on the Research Ramp-Up webpage.

 

Will researchers be allowed to resume field work?

Research-related Frequently Asked Questions and answers can be found on the Research Ramp-Up webpage.

 

How many people are allowed in a lab at one time?

Effective December 9, 2020, we are piloting a revised guideline to accommodate laboratories with lower personnel numbers and sufficient excess space in their laboratory. Please see the Revised Guidance on Laboratory Research Density for details.

We will continue to monitor and assess personnel density parameters and make any future revisions, as necessary.

 

What are the guidelines for in-person undergraduate research?

Please refer to this existing guidance on undergraduate researchers in the laboratory. This guidance will be revisited towards the end of January 2021 after students have returned to campus for the semester.

 

Can an exception be made to the research density guidelines?

Exceptions to the guidelines may be considered, but must first be assessed and approved by EHS. Please review the Revised Guidance on Laboratory Research Density for details. For more information, contact ehs@gatech.edu.

 

How will positive cases in research laboratories be handled?

Research-related Frequently Asked Questions and answers can be found on the Research Ramp-Up webpage.

 

What kinds of preventative practices are in place to protect students, faculty, and staff on campus?

Everyone is expected to continue to follow basic guidelines from the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH), the 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 10 people when social distancing cannot be maintained.
    • 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 required all faculty, staff, students, and visitors to wear appropriate face coverings while inside campus facilities/buildings where 6 feet social distancing may not always be possible. Face covering use is in addition to,  not a substitute for, social distancing.

Signs are posted at building entrances prohibiting anyone with a fever or symptoms of Covid-19 from entering. Contact-less thermometers have been supplied to all buildings.

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

 

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 employs a pooled testing approach that combines samples from multiple individuals and tests them as a group in an on-campus lab. Pooled testing dramatically increases the number of community members that can be sampled with a single coronavirus test. All students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to undergo frequent testing as part of this program. Several testing sites are 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 available at the Stamps Health Center.

More details and FAQs are available on the testing web page.

 

Will Covid-19-related accommodations for Fall 2020 be automatically extended for Spring 2021?

Current Covid-19-related employment accommodations granted for staff, faculty members, graduate research assistants (GRA), and graduate teaching assistants (GTA) for Fall 2020  have been extended through May 2021.

Extensions must be documented via a signed addendum,  sent to each employee by Georgia Tech Human Resources (GTHR). Staff, faculty members, GTAs, and GRAs and their direct supervisors must sign the addendum and return a copy to GTHR and their respective HR Business Partner or HR Director.

 

 

How do faculty members, GRAs, and GTAs request new Covid-19-related accommodations for the Spring 2021 semester?

Please note: The deadline to submit a Covid-19 related accommodation request based on age (65 or older, including those who will turn 65 during the spring semester) or underlying medical condition was Friday, Oct. 9. Decisions about accommodations were communicated no later than Wednesday, Oct. 14

Higher risk faculty, GTAs, or GRAs assigned to teach this spring, but who are unable to return to campus due to Covid-19, may wish to request an alternate work arrangement via GTHR.

The Return-to-Campus Manager’s Tool Kit outlines those higher risk categories, as well the process for requesting Covid-19 related alternate work arrangements. Note: For requests based on an underlying medical condition, supporting medical documentation must accompany the request form for the review process to begin.

If you need assistance or have questions regarding accommodation requests, email Ann F. Harris, GTHR-Employee Relations Compliance Advisor.

 

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

Research-related Frequently Asked Questions and answers can be found on the Research Ramp-Up webpage.

 

Can I have in-person meetings 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.  

 

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?

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.

 

FAQ

Campus Operations