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Dartmouth College Messages to the Research Community on COVID-19

Research Ramp-Up Status, September 10, 2020

Read the latest announcement about the research rampup on the Dartmouth Important Updates page.

August 24, Research Ramp-In: Phase 2C

Dear colleagues,

Today, I am happy to announce some additional flexibility under the existing phase 2 guidelines, as outlined below. These new conditions will take effect Monday, August 24. In the meantime, thank you all for your continued compliance with the numerous limitations on laboratory activities. By now, I hope that checking in via the TSA app, scheduling time in laboratories, and disinfecting surfaces have become routine.

All of our phase 2 operational requirements remain in effect. Although our community prevalence is currently low, there have been isolated cases, and new students and colleagues are moving to the area. In addition to testing and quarantine rules, our distancing, face-covering, and other restrictions are essential preventive measures, designed to ensure that when cases occur, they do not spread into the research community. We also need everyone to continue to work remotely whenever possible. We are optimistic that some additional flexibility can be introduced once our institutional risk level has advanced.

RESEARCH RAMP-IN: PHASE 2C

Experimental proximity: Physical distancing is not always possible when individuals are being or when multi-person experiments are being performed. In these contexts, it is particularly important to use cloth face coverings, wash hands, and disinfect surfaces to minimize the risk of transmission. Laboratories that need to perform training or multi-person experiments no longer need to provide advance notice to EHS, but they must notify the department chair and adhere to the following guidelines:

  • It is essential to document the scheduling of any physically proximate work (i.e., closer than 6 feet) very precisely, in case contact tracing becomes necessary.
  • The time spent in proximity should be rigorously minimized: move apart whenever possible, e.g., when discussing procedures or questions or when one person is preparing an experiment.
  • It is particularly important to wear a cloth face covering at all times, and to wash hands and disinfect surfaces and equipment frequently.
  • Limit the number of different people interacting with each other; try to assign single trainers and trainees and avoid mixing pairs.

Break rooms: Break rooms, kitchens, and social alcoves remain closed, due to the difficulty of ensuring the rigorous and high-frequency disinfection required by State regulations. However, over the coming weeks, facilities staff will identify a limited number of break rooms in each research building that will be available for eating. Chairs will be spaced to ensure physical distancing and distances otherwise marked. Individuals must not move them closer together or otherwise congregate in ways that violate physical distancing rules. Face coverings do not need to be worn while eating or drinking, but they should be worn at all other times (e.g., preparing food or cleaning dishes). Everyone must disinfect their space before and after eating and should also disinfect any common equipment and surfaces used in food preparation or clean-up.

In-person human subjects research: Unless specific permission has already been granted, e.g., primarily for interventional or therapeutic studies, human subjects research at Dartmouth/D-H remains under an institutional hold. Effective August 24, PIs of human subjects studies involving D-H may request permission to resume necessary in-person, face-to-face interactions with participants. Initial priority will be given to interactions occurring as part of a regularly scheduled healthcare visit and posing minimal additional risk of COVID-19 infection. Please send an email request to Leigh Burgess (Leigh.Burgess@hitchcock.org), Lionel Lewis (Lionel.Lewis@dartmouth.edu), Ann O'Hara (Ann.O'Hara@dartmouth.edu), and to the IRB that has oversight of the study.

For low-risk human subjects studies that do not involve D-H, the PI may request permission to resume essential in-person, face-to-face interactions with participants by first contacting the the dean of the Dartmouth school at which the PI holds their primary appointment. Please cc requests to Ann O'Hara (Ann.O'Hara@dartmouth.edu). If approval is issued by the dean, CPHS will review the request and make a final determination whether the study may resume.

In all cases, such requests must describe a compelling and urgent need for face-to-face interactions and must outline rigorous precautions to protect the health and safety of both participants and study personnel.

Best wishes,
Dean

--
Dean R. Madden, PhD
Vice Provost for Research
Dartmouth College

July 6, Research Reopening Update: Restarting Limited In-person Library Research at Dartmouth

Dear colleagues,

As part of Dartmouth's Research Continuity process, in Phase 2b of the Research Ramp-In, the Dartmouth Library is starting to restore in-person access to the research collections in Baker-Berry Library and in-person research by prior appointment at Rauner Special Collections Library.

Beginning on Wednesday, July 8, during limited hours Dartmouth ID holders will be able to browse the circulating collections held in Baker-Berry and Sherman stacks, and faculty, staff and graduate students will be able to reserve time slots to work with the non-circulating materials from Rauner Library.

Collections held in other Dartmouth libraries can be requested through the online catalog (https://dartgo.org/search) and retrieved at the Berry Library circulation desk. As outlined below, access protocols have been carefully designed to ensure the health and safety of our community.

Throughout the spring term and to date, small teams of library staff retrieved books from the collections for pick-up and scanned articles and book chapters for electronic delivery and course reserves. Over 1,200 books and 2,000 articles were made available. Librarians also worked closely with faculty to provide research support and course specific teaching by participating in class discussions via Zoom or Slack. In some instances, videos were created offering students the opportunity to explore books and other materials in depth and asynchronously, and to learn library research methods, meeting multiple learning styles and needs. These remote services will continue as before. (https://dartgo.org/remote-services)

Complete information is available on the Dartmouth Library Research Restart website.(https://dartgo.org/library-research-restart)

HEALTH AND SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS

The Library reopening plan has been carefully developed with the consultation and approval of Dartmouth's Office of Environmental Health and Safety.
Custodial staff will clean and disinfect library spaces in accordance with CDC and NH COVID-19 guidelines. All materials will be checked out and returned at the Berry Library circulation desk which has been adapted to provide separation between library staff and patrons. In addition to campus-wide health and safety precautions outlined below, additional specific strategies have been developed.

For example, Library staff will wear gloves when handling materials, and returned items will be quarantined for 72 hours before shelving. We will continue to monitor the status of the pandemic closely so that we can adapt, change or halt our in-person services and access to library spaces as necessary.

As we expand our on-campus services, the health and safety of the Dartmouth community and the Library staff continue to be paramount. Details about current Dartmouth policies and guidelines that will govern individuals returning to campus are outlined on Dartmouth's Coronavirus Information website (https://dartgo.org/covid19) In line with other efforts to restart research activities on the Dartmouth Campus, the Library is working closely with campus partners on the design and implementation of required policies and protocols and will move forward in a cautious and phased manner.

As a reminder, all individuals must follow Dartmouth guidelines when accessing the libraries, including:

- Completing the Temperature Self Assessment before coming to campus (https://dartgo.org/temperature-assessment)
- Wearing face coverings while on campus and inside the Library
- Adhering to physical distancing guidelines
- Following signage and staff directions

We hope that enhanced access to these resources will benefit scholarly work across campus.

Best wishes,

Sue Mehrer, Dean of Libraries
Dean Madden, Vice Provost for Research

--
Dean R. Madden, Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Research
Professor of Biochemistry & Cell Biology
Dartmouth College/Geisel School of Medicine

 

June 26, 2020 Research Reopening Update, Reopening Laboratory-Based Research: Phase 2

Dear colleagues,

As part of Dartmouth's overall commitment to resuming scholarly activity to the extent compatible with the health and safety of our community, I am pleased to announce that phase 2 for laboratory-based research will commence on July 1, 2020. The key change in phase 2 will be the ability for labs to schedule on-campus activity for more than one researcher at a time, provided that physical distancing can be maintained (e.g., in work areas that are separate rooms or more than six feet apart). It is subject to a number of additional requirements, as outlined below.

The transition to phase 2 activity complements upcoming enhancements to library access under the oversight of Dean of Libraries Sue Mehrer and recent progress in developing an approval process for de minimis campus access for scholars outside of laboratory-based disciplines. All of this work is also helping to develop and test practices that will ultimately be required for any resumption of on-campus education.

Higher lab occupancy is associated with increased potential for interactions, particularly in shared research spaces. Thus, before work can begin in phase 2, each department must develop an EHS-approved safety protocol regulating behavior and ensuring disinfection in shared research spaces and public areas. In addition, each lab must develop or update its safety protocol to ensure required disinfection of high-touch areas and to prevent simultaneous occupancy of work areas that are closer than six feet apart. Detailed requirements are outlined in the "Guidelines for Reopening Laboratory-Based Research: Phase 2," which can be accessed at this link: http://www.dartmouth.edu/ehs/guidelines_for_phase_two_lab_reopening.pdf.

It also remains important to maintain compliance with all other public health and institutional requirements, including the use of physical distancing, face coverings, hand washing, and disinfection protocols. To maintain required custodial services, limited research hours will continue to apply. Labs are currently open M-F 8am-midnight. Under phase 1c guidelines, access will expand to include Saturday 6/27 8am-5pm. Starting 7/4, research labs will be available M-F 7am-midnight and Sat/Sun 8am-5pm.

We anticipate that phase 2 activity will significantly enhance access and productivity for laboratory-based scholarship. Nonetheless, we emphasize that the current risk level requires that everyone who can work from home continue to do so. We are mindful of the associated burden and isolation, which is borne by many members of our academic community, but this minimizes the chance for any new outbreak to spread undetected.

Our experience with phase 1 has enabled us to build and test a health-screening infrastructure that should also help to detect any new outbreak. With recent enhancements, Dartmouth's COVID-19 Task Force, our partners at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and the health/epidemiology working group will continue monitoring of compliance, in addition to tracking on local and regional epidemiological developments. Depending on the situation, we may need to restrict access again. In addition, violations of guidelines or safety protocols may lead to a suspension of laboratory access privileges, as well as other disciplinary measures.

That said, in phase 1 it has been heartening to observe the collaborative spirit that has allowed us to address challenges in thoughtful and creative ways, while focusing on the overarching imperative: maintaining the health and safety of the Dartmouth community. Success in phase 2 will require continued teamwork. Given the complexity of our scholarly landscape, it is almost certain that unanticipated issues will arise, but so will opportunities to improve safety protocols. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the Office of Environment Health and Safety, to Facilities personnel, or to the deans' offices for guidance and support or with suggestions.

Thanks to everyone who has cooperated in the success of our phase 1 research effort and for your continued patience and support in addressing the challenge that COVID-19 poses to all of our scholarly work.

 

Dean R. Madden, Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Research
Professor of Biochemistry & Cell Biology
Dartmouth College/Geisel School of Medicine

June 23, 2020 Research Reopening Update, Research ramp-in: phase 1c

Dear colleagues,

We have received the go-ahead for phase 1c, which will provide limited access to labs (and the required custodial coverage) on weekends:

  • This coming weekend, only on Saturday (6/27): 8am-5pm
  • Starting the following weekend (7/4), Saturdays and Sundays: 8am-5pm
  • In addition, starting Monday 7/6, labs can open one hour earlier on weekdays, i.e., 7am-midnight M-F.
  • The remaining conditions for phase 1 remain in place (1 person/lab; clean before and after; etc.).

I hope this is helpful, but also want to acknowledge that the more important change will be multi-person access to the labs. We are working hard on phase 2, and hope to have more information soon (and more progress soon thereafter).

Dean R. Madden, PhD

Vice Provost for Research

 

June 8, 2020 Update on Research Reopening, Subject: Two important requests as we enter Phase 1B 

Hi everyone,

I have two important updates as we start phase 1B. If you are not the PI of your lab, please forward to the PI, since these requests involve their responsibilities.

1) Buddy systems – As we have researchers in the lab later in the evening, at potentially even lower occupancy, it is the responsibility of the PI to ensure that everyone is using an electronic buddy system if there are not multiple individuals in the lab (e.g., due to an approved exception). At a minimum this should involve checking in with a colleague, providing an expected departure time, and checking out. For more complicated lab work, periodic check-ins may be appropriate. This can be by email, slack, text,... Regardless of the technology, any time that a researcher is in the lab, a defined individual should be waiting to hear that they have wrapped up for the day, and touching base if they don't.

2) Health screening outcomes – There has been some confusion regarding the health screening process. We originally hoped to send a daily update email to each PI with screening data, but that proved not to be feasible. Instead, as noted in my email on May 26th, for each lab, the PI or a designated lab manager needs to check their lab schedule every day, and then check the health-screening dashboard link. Make sure that everyone on the schedule has "checked in" and received a green light to work that day, or else remind them to do so. We need to see strong compliance in terms of daily dashboard review and lab member identification. Those of you who don't yet appear to have identified your lab members via the dartgo.org/lmi tool will be receiving a separate message with more specific instructions.

I hope that the additional flexibility in Phase 1B will prove helpful to everyone's research programs. Please reach out if you have questions.

Dean R. Madden, PhD

Vice Provost for Research

 

June 3, 2020

Dear colleagues,

Today, I am happy to announce some additional flexibility under the existing phase 1 guidelines, as outlined below. These new conditions will take effect Monday, June 8.

Before getting into details, I would like to thank you all for your forbearance and flexibility as we have rolled out a number of new tools and processes. Just today, a new location query has been added to the health screening tool, which will help us to track building occupancy. Initial reports suggest that participation has been strong over the past week, which is a key prerequisite for progression to phase 2. We hope to be able to provide more details regarding phase 2 over the coming weeks, so that labs can begin planning ahead.

Meanwhile, I also want to underscore the importance of continuing public health compliance as we look ahead. An outbreak of new infections could set us back. We need everyone to work remotely whenever possible, even if a research group has a free "slot." We need to adhere to strict scheduling, disinfection, and distancing protocols. Each of us needs to be checking in with the health screening tool before any visit to campus, no matter how brief.

RESEARCH RAMP-IN: PHASE 1B

  • Extended building hours: Thanks to the efforts of facilities staff, we will be able to extend opening hours for research buildings. Starting June 8, research groups may schedule access for a single person per group from 8am to midnight.
  • Please note that at DHMC, not all entrances are open after 7pm and labs will need to be accessed via the North entrance and the Garage entrance where screening will occur upon entering. The Borwell entrance is accessible until 7pm.
  • Core users: If researchers are working for more than one hour in a core facility that is physically separate from their PI's laboratory, and if they do not require access to the PI's laboratory during that time, then they do not need to be scheduled on the research-group calendar for the time they are in the core. Instead, they can schedule their time on the calendar of the core facility. This means that while someone is working on a longer-term experiment in a physically separate core, an additional individual from the same research group can be present in the PI's laboratory. If the core user needs to perform preliminary or follow-up experiments in the PI's laboratory, that work must be scheduled on the PI's lab calendar, observe the disinfection and safety protocols, and be counted towards the phase 1 limit per research group.
  • Distant faculty offices: If faculty members have offices that can be entered without passing through their laboratories, any necessary office use similarly does not need to count towards the phase 1 laboratory limit. This exception applies only for the office itself. If the faculty member needs to have access to the laboratory before, during, or after the office visit, laboratory time must be scheduled, and all protocols observed according to the phase 1 guidelines.
  • De minimis research access: Researchers who require brief access to office space or facilities, but whose PIs are not operating phase 1 protocols, may apply to the department Chair or Dean or Office of Research Operations for de minimis access (e.g., one hour per visit; <3 visits per week). Distancing, disinfection, and health screening protocols must be observed. The application should specify which rooms will be accessed and when, and the Chair/Dean, Office of Research Operations should avoid scheduling more than one individual per room at the same time. The deans' or Office of Research Operations offices will provide additional guidance on how to request permission.

 

Dean R. Madden, Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Research
Professor of Biochemistry & Cell Biology
Dartmouth College/Geisel School of Medicine

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