Guidance for Laboratory Research Ramp-Up Phase 3

Document date: October 13, 2020

Prepared by the MIT Research Ramp-Up Lightning Committee (Marc Baldo, Vladimir Bulovic, James DiCarlo, Tolga Durak, Elazer Edelman, Sarah Farrington, Peter Fisher, James Fox, Leny Gocheva, Ronald Hasseltine, Tyler Jacks, Jacqueline Lees, Aude Oliva, Ron Raines, Nicholas Roy, Daniela Rus, and Dennis Whyte)

Key input was received from MIT Vice President for Research Maria Zuber.

As of October 14, 2020, MIT will transition to Phase 3 of the Research Ramp-Up (RR3) for laboratory-based research. The major change in RR3 will be the lifting of the current cap on the aggregate number of hours laboratory personnel may work on campus. Importantly, however, all of the other guidelines related to COVID-19-era safety and other practices that were in place during RR2 will remain in place for RR3.

A summary of changes related to RR3 and the rules that remain in effect

For RR3, laboratory personnel who need to access campus facilities to perform research will not be limited by the number of on-campus hours they can work per week. However, because density (125 square feet per person) and physical distancing (at least 6 feet separation in static work conditions) requirements remain, principal investigators (PIs) may need to utilize work shifts to prevent over-crowding. PIs should review their RR2 Exercise A floor plans and room density limits with their groups to assist in compliance. Any PI or Core Facility that has not updated their Exercise A floor plan since RR1 should update that plan for RR3.

It is expected that due to the required density and spacing limits, many laboratories will need to establish work shifts to accommodate additional on-campus hours. In these cases, PIs and Core Facilities leaders need to operate a scheduling system and maintain a record of weekly work schedules. This could be done using the Planning Exercise B spreadsheet or by some other manner that suits the group (e.g., Excel spreadsheet, Google calendar, etc.). PIs and Core Facilities whose space would allow them to operate their laboratories without establishing work shifts must submit a document to their Department Monitoring and Compliance Committee (DMC) providing sufficient detail to justify their plans. In RR3, PIs will not have to submit the aggregate weekly hours worked by their groups to their DMC. However, those PIs of laboratories using work shifts and requiring weekly schedules must keep records of these schedules on file for occasional review by the DMC. DMCs will be actively monitoring compliance with density and spacing guidelines.

Core Facilities must also maintain weekly work schedules that document on-campus staff work.  Additionally, in Core Facilities where researchers access the space (e.g., for equipment usage, animal use), there must be a reservation system in place to track non-staff access. Both the work schedules and reservation systems may be used to assist in compliance review and contact tracing.

PIs and Core Facilities should continue to use their existing RR2 Exercise B spreadsheet if they need to make personnel or building access updates. Because there is no longer a cap for laboratory personnel on-campus hours, information pertaining to hours in the Exercise B spreadsheet is no longer relevant. Hours do not need to be included under section 3.3 of the spreadsheet for newly added personnel. Previously submitted information under 3.3 will now be disregarded by the system.

DMC committees must submit weekly reports on compliance violations to the VPR’s office and describe their actions to ensure compliance with all rules. The VPR office will contact the DLC Administrative Officers with additional information about how to submit these reports.

To reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19, it is recommended that all activities of laboratory-based research groups that can be successfully performed remotely, including one-on-one meetings and group meetings, should be conducted remotely. However, we note that the latest guidance from MIT allows outdoor on-campus gatherings of groups of individuals, who are part of the COVID Pass system and up-to-date with the required testing and attestation, provided that proper physical distancing and face covering practices are observed.

All non-laboratory research activities will continue to adhere to the Thunder Committee's guidelines for office use and human subjects research. As stated in the guidance, office space use for non-lab research must not exceed 50% occupancy levels and at least 6 feet separation in static work conditions.

Common Space Usage guidance in DLC-controlled spaces remains the same.

Individuals must use masks or face coverings at all times when on the MIT campus, including inside and outside of buildings (please see updated guidelines). The only exceptions to this rule are when eating (which must be done individually and not as a group) or when alone in a private office with the door closed. For PI-controlled spaces (including multi-person offices), there can only be one person at a time occupying the space to eat, and sign-up sheets can be used to schedule meals. For rules regarding eating in DLC-controlled common spaces, please refer to the Common Space Usage guidance.

Health attestations must be filled out via COVID Pass each day that an individual accesses campus.

SARS-CoV-2 testing must be kept up to date.

Individuals should practice frequent hand washing/hand sanitizing.

Work surfaces should be regularly sanitized.