Johns Hopkins University researchers will be permitted to resume on-site laboratory activities beginning next week, the first steps of a gradual resumption of on-campus activities envisioned in the weeks and months ahead as the university emerges from a monthslong period of distancing prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On-site lab research can resume as soon as Monday, June 15, in labs with approved reopening plans, Denis Wirtz, professor and vice provost for research, announced in a message to the Hopkins community this morning. PIs are required to get approval for individual reopening plans and will provide specific instructions to the faculty, staff, and graduate students in their labs about when and how to resume work in ways that observe social distancing, required face covering, enhanced cleaning, and other measures.
On-campus research at JHU has been limited to essential activities since March 18, when the university officially ramped down its expansive research enterprise in response to the rapidly evolving pandemic.
The decision to resume some on-campus research comes as Maryland and Baltimore ease restrictions on activities in response to a sustained decline in the number of COVID-19 infections and related hospitalizations in the state. It also relies on the university's own review of medical advice and public health trends in consultation with Johns Hopkins experts. The university has made significant preparations to ensure the safety of those who return to campus.
"This first step in reopening reflects weeks of discussions by our planning workgroups; ideas from our faculty, staff, and students across the university; feedback from hundreds of people online and in our town halls; and dedicated preparation by PIs and department leaders," Wirtz wrote. "There is still significant work ahead to plan for academic and student life activities in the coming months, but it is rewarding to see a vital part of our enterprise resume."
As the university resumes lab research:
- Not all labs will open immediately on June 15 or ramp up activity at the same pace; researchers should wait for direction from their PIs before returning to campus
- Essential personnel currently working at university campuses or buildings, including those focused on COVID-19 research, will continue to do so
- Nonlaboratory research, such as that in the social sciences and humanities as well as computational/theory research, is not included in this first phase of reopening
- Undergraduates are not yet permitted to join in-person research
- All work or learning that can be accomplished remotely should continue to be done at home, and people should be at JHU locations only for the time periods necessary to accomplish their required tasks
Workgroups are continuing to develop guidelines for resuming human subject research, and more information will be forthcoming. The university is also developing plans for scheduling limited library use and will announce them soon.
Health and safety guidance and operational protocols that will govern individuals returning to campus are outlined in the Research Return to Campus Phase 1 Guidance and the Return to Campus Guide, both of which will be finalized soon. The documents include information on where to go if you have questions or concerns as well as requirements for face coverings inside and outside JHU buildings, social distancing, monitoring symptoms, and keeping the density of people in each space low. Further guidance about procedures for masking, cleaning, and other measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 will be provided in the coming days.
Those who are at higher risk for negative outcomes from COVID-19 according to CDC guidelines may seek accommodations through the Office of Institutional Equity (faculty and staff) or through the Student Disability Services Coordinator (students) at their respective school. Individuals who do not fall within the CDC's COVID-19 guidelines for a "vulnerable person" but have other concerns about returning to campus due to their individual circumstances (such as household members who may be at higher risk) should contact their departmental or divisional human resources manager to discuss their concerns and whether adjustments to their work environment may be made to address them. You may also contact Central HR at firstname.lastname@example.org. Students with similar concerns should contact the dean of students or equivalent at their school.
The university will closely monitor the pandemic to determine whether our plans must be changed, Wirtz said, noting that it is possible that the return to campus could be further limited or reversed if public health conditions warrant.
More information is available in the FAQ section of the JHU Planning website.
"Thank you for your patience and flexibility over these difficult weeks," Wirtz wrote, "and for your vital input into the planning process."
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