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Phase 2 Reopening

The second phase of reopening was announced by President Khator on June 2 in her e-mail to the UH community. Employees can return to work on campus or access their office on a voluntary basis starting on Monday, June 8, after they (1) complete the COVID-19 mandatory training; (2) inform their chair/supervisor about their desire to work from their office; and (3) pass a self-health screening test every time before to coming to campus.

Announced by President Khator in an e-mail to the UH community on Wednesday, June 24, the University now requires that everyone wears a face covering on campus. The University also updated its COVID-19 website with the latest guidelines.

This page contains additional information specific to research and refers only to research that is conducted in university research spaces, such as the physical campus; the Technology Bridge; research labs, core facilities, on-campus clinical sites, research offices, or field stations; or UH research involving direct contact with individuals (including, human subjects) anywhere. It does not cover research that is done remotely. University research space also includes physical presence in campus libraries, archives, and museums to access any University material that cannot be accessed remotely, as well as performance work (arts) or other studio access that is done in university spaces.

In this second phase, anyone who would like to work on campus or access their office can do so starting June 8 provided that occupancy does not exceed the Governor of Texas most recent Executive Order GA 26.

To the greatest extent possible, research personnel should continue to work remotely if they can; in particular, all vulnerable individuals are encouraged to continue to work remotely.

Researchers should be aware that depending on the situation, such as an outbreak of COVID-19 or Stay Home executive orders, research may have to be ramped down again within a short amount of time. The same process as during the ramp-down of research during the first Stay Home. Work Safe. Order applies for any future ramp-down.

UH Libraries

While the Libraries are not open to users at this time, UH databases, electronic journals and e-books remain accessible and staff in the MD Anderson, Health Sciences, Music, Architecture, and Design and Art libraries provide additional services. Librarians provide research assistance to UH faculty and students remotely via the Contact Us link — use either the ‘Chat with us’ function or the ‘Get expert help’ link on that page. To access print materials from the general collections, use the Contact Us link on the Libraries website to contact Libraries staff who are available to scan and email chapters and articles or mail entire items such as books and magazines.

To access materials from Special Collections, contact Christian Kelleher, Head of Special Collections, at cdkelleh@central.uh.edu. In-person access to materials will be by appointment only and will require the use of face coverings. Additional protective measures may be required on a case-by-case basis. Appointments will only be granted to individuals affiliated with the University.

Ordering new books has resumed. Resources in electronic formats are the most readily available.  Acquiring materials from other libraries is not fully available. Use the Request a Purchase link for ordering of new titles. You can also contact your subject librarian or use the Contact Us link if you need assistance for locating electronic materials, placing an Interlibrary Loan or any other needs not covered in this summary of services.

Research Stores

The Research Stores in the basement of the Lamar Fleming building is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.– 3:30 p.m. If you need to order something, email the Research Stores at rstores@central.uh.edu so that they can get your order ready for pickup. When you go there to pick up your order, make sure you wear a face covering. If you cannot get into the building, call 713-743-2639 and someone from the Research Store will come to let you in.

The Research Stores also carry Personal Protective Equipment, such as face coverings or face shields, at reasonable prices. They have been able to procure high-quality products from reputable manufacturers. For instance, 50 face coverings only cost $75, have durable elastic straps and are made out of material that does not wrinkle easily. They also carry bleach, gloves, safety goggles, medical-grade wipes, hand sanitizers and other disinfecting supplies.

UH Mail Services is not equipped to manage chemicals, biological and radioactive materials. They do not have refrigeration to maintain package temperature. Coordinate with UH Research Stores and have your sensitive packages delivered there. They have trained staff and the necessary equipment to handle chemicals, biological materials and packages requiring constant temperatures. (Note: radioactive materials, by policy, can only be shipped to and received by Environmental Health and Safety.)

Anyone (PI, students, faculty, and staff) coming on campus, even if it is only to pick up something from the office, is required to complete the HR training modules, pass a self-health screening test and is expected to cooperate with contact tracing. The training and screening can be found on AccessUH (TAP Employee Online Training). If you do not have access to the training, contact your department chair and Raysa Caba (rwcaba@central.uh.edu) with the name and PeopleSoft ID to be added manually to the training module. 

Prior to returning to work on campus, anyone must contact their department chair or supervisor. DOR no longer requires the completion of an online form to gain access and DOR will no longer keep a list of those who requested access.

If you have not started your laboratory activities during the Reopening Research phase, we ask you to consult the Guidance Document for reactivating paused research laboratory activities that was put together by Environmental Health & Safety.

Buildings will continue to be locked. A Cougar Card with appropriate access privilege will be needed to get access to buildings. Arrangements must be made for deliveries to buildings that remain closed.

Return to campus continues to be voluntary. Please check with your lab members regularly to make sure that they continue to feel comfortable being on campus. If they no longer feel comfortable, make sure they understand they can reverse their decision to work on campus. Students, faculty and staff who have concerns about their own or others safety and well-being during Phase 2 should consult with their supervisor, and if they still have concerns or suspect non-compliance, they should utilize established grievance and complaint procedures, including the Fraud & Non-Compliance Hotline, which can be confidential, available online and hosted by Convercent. They can also contact Environmental Health & Safety (ehs@uh.edu) directly if they have safety concerns.

Regardless of the type of research/scholarship performed, the following guidelines must be followed at all times.

  • Protect Yourself and Others: CDC guidelines of social distancing of 6 feet or greater, hand-washing (minimum of 20 seconds with soap), covering mouth and nose, cough etiquette, cleanliness, and sanitization should be rigorously practiced.

  • Face Coverings: As of June 24, 2020 and until further notice, face coverings are required of all students and employees while on campus. There are few exceptions. Visit the Face Coverings While on Campus page for further details.

  • Visitors: No visitors are allowed in shared research spaces except for the purpose of delivery, maintenance, repairs, or research collaboration that cannot be conducted remotely. Deliveries should be left outside the lab, if possible. Visitors must adhere to the same rules as lab members if they enter the lab.

  • Protective Equipment: It is the PI’s responsibility to determine what kind of protective equipment other than face coverings is needed and to ensure their availability to members of their research group while they work in university research spaces.

  • Health Checks: Prior to coming to work, individuals must self-screen for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19:
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Chills
    • Fatigue
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit, or
    • Known close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19.

    • If you have a fever or any of the above new symptoms and those symptoms are not related to a pre-existing medical condition or a diagnosis other than COVID-19, you may not come on campus. Contact your immediate supervisor as soon as reasonably possible. Follow the guidelines at the UH COVID-19 website in the case of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

  • Travel: Travel restrictions and self-quarantine rules continue to apply and are posted on the UH COVID-19 Travel Restrictions. Faculty may request an exception for domestic business travel from the Provost through their department. International business travel is not permitted at this time. The CDC maintains the State & Territorial Health Department Websites page where you can check for restrictions for any destinations within the U.S. and its territories.

  • Contact Tracing: Every individual should maintain and regularly update a list of substantive and known face-to-face contacts that they have had during the preceding two weeks (i.e., lab members they interact with on a daily basis, human subjects they came in contact with during study procedures, family members, friends, etc.). In the case of a coronavirus infection, this list should be made available to the Houston Health Department to facilitate contact tracing.

  • Common Areas: People are discouraged from eating together or gathering in common areas, such as kitchens or break rooms and these areas, including appliances, must be cleaned regularly.

  • Closed Workspaces: Closed workspaces that are open to users in libraries, archives, etc. must be cleaned regularly. Single-occupancy workspaces that are small and enclosed should not be occupied by more than one person per day.

  • Reporting Symptoms: The COVID-19 Information page has been updated with the most current information on what to do when a UH community member has experienced a potential exposure to or experiences symptoms related to COVID-19, and when to self-quarantine/isolate. The page has a detailed protocol on what to do during self-quarantine/isolation. Once the self-quarantine/isolation is completed, the University asks the UH community member to complete the Request to Return to Campus form. This request will be evaluated based on criteria listed on the Completion of Self-quarantine/Isolation page. Make sure that everyone in your research group knows that if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms, they must contact their supervisor immediately. Here is what supervisors need to do if they are notified by someone in their group that they have tested positive or are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms:
    • Ask them to self-isolate immediately, that is, they should stay at home, except to get medical care, and should not go to work, school, or public areas or attend large gatherings. They should also not use public transportation or ride-sharing. The UH self-quarantine requirements can be found here.

    • They should call their doctor or local health department for guidance, next steps, and arrange for testing.

    • If they have tested positive for COVID-19 ask them to complete the Reporting COVID-19 Diagnosis form that can be found here

    • Collect information about the individual’s contacts among the lab group, up to 2 days prior to symptom onset, to identify other lab members who could be considered exposed.
  • If an employee is confirmed infected, inform others in your lab of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Do not identify the symptomatic individual by name.

  • Send home anyone who has been in close contact, (< 6 feet) for a prolonged period of time (>15 minutes), with this individual and ask them to self-quarantine until 14 days after last exposure and self-monitor for symptoms. 
  • Contact your department chair who will work with Facilities Services in case a deeper cleaning of your lab is required.

  • Cleaning and disinfecting the lab/workspace after possible exposure to COVID-19: Please refer to the CDC’s specific guidance of how to properly clean and disinfect. Take the following steps when there has been a possible exposure to COVID-19:
    • Close off areas used by the person who is sick. Note that you do not necessarily need to close operations, if you are able to close off the affected area(s).

    • Open doors and windows if applicable to increase air circulation in the area.

    • Wait 24 hours before you clean or disinfect. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.

    • Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person who is sick, such as offices, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, lab equipment, keyboards and remote controls.

    • Once area has been appropriately disinfected, it can be opened for use.
  • Workers without close contact with the person who is sick can return to work immediately after disinfection.
    • If more than 7 days since the person who is sick visited or used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary.

  • Continue the practice of routine cleaning and disinfection of workspaces and frequently touched surfaces.

  • Be prepared that if an outbreak occurs in the building where your lab is located, your lab group may have to vacate the space for a period of time and monitor their health more closely. This type of information will come from your college and the building coordinator, and you therefore must monitor your email closely. If an evacuation occurs, make sure everyone in your lab is aware of it.

Shared Spaces are defined as research spaces where members of a research group routinely interact with each other in the same space, such as science and engineering labs, core facilities, shared spaces in institutes or centers. These guidelines apply:

  • Spacing: The following guidelines must be adopted for shared research spaces: The maximum occupancy must not exceed the Governor of Texas most recent Executive Order GA 26 and should be posted outside each lab or workspace. The PI is responsible for ensuring that this rule is followed at all times. Space out desks and work stations: desks in common areas should be arranged so that individuals occupying desks at the same time are at least 10 ft apart (consider temporary walls between workstations if this spacing cannot be achieved). If a space is designed for single occupancy, the space should not be occupied by more than one individual on the same day.

  • Work Schedule: To accommodate the occupancy limitations, consider implementing a staggered work schedule that minimizes the number of people who are in the lab or other shared research areas at the same time. Work shifts, including work during non-regular business hours, should be considered. The work schedule must be posted inside the shared research space in an easily accessible place. Allow for at least 15-minute buffers between shifts to avoid contact of individuals during transition. Minimize rotating individuals among shifts to reduce the number of unique contacts.

  • Protective Equipment: Protective personal equipment may be required in the lab. Obtaining these items (except face coverings for lab members) is the responsibility of the PI. Gloves must be worn and removed properly when individuals interact with human subjects in close proximity or share devices or equipment. Face coverings and gloves must be made available to human subjects and visitors prior to entering lab spaces. Human subjects and visitors must wear face coverings and must be given the option to wear gloves. If other protective equipment is needed, the PI must ensure their availability.

  • Meetings: Routine lab/research group meetings should not be conducted face-to-face. If a face-to-face meeting is necessary, limit the number of participants and hold the meeting in a large, open and well-ventilated space continuing to maintain a distance of 6 feet apart and wear a face covering at all times.

  • Safety: If research is conducted by a single individual in a lab setting where under normal circumstances, two or more individuals are present, notify at least one other person outside the lab as a safety precaution prior to entering the lab and upon leaving.

  • Disinfecting Labs: Disinfect common research areas and frequently touched surfaces (lab benches, doorknobs, sink handles, freezer doors, fume hood sashes, keyboards, microscopes, etc.) at the end of each shift prior to the next shift arriving at the workplace. Designate one or more individuals responsible for cleaning and disinfecting and have them initial on the daily work schedule that they completed the cleaning.

  • Disinfecting Equipment: Minimize the sharing of equipment and devices. If they need to be shared, thoroughly disinfect the device between uses by different individuals.

  • Core Facilities: Core facilities are potentially visited by multiple researchers each day. To reduce the risk of infection, core facilities must establish rules consistent with the guidelines on this page to address (i) sanitization between visits; (ii) number of individuals allowed in the space at a given time; and (iii) following the social distancing guidelines, in particular when core facility staff interact with researchers. Core facilities should keep a log of who visited the facility with start and end times of each visit. Face coverings should be worn at all times by both facility staff and researchers if they share space. Consider installing plexiglass barriers between work stations. Minimize the frequency of contacts between facility staff and researchers by utilizing online platforms, such as Zoom, for consultations. Provide hand sanitizers at all entrances and high-traffic areas. Place appropriate signage at entrances indicating how to proceed. If necessary, schedule visits of researchers to avoid crowding.

The requirements can also be found in the "Reopening Research during COVID-19: Human Subjects Research" presentation.

During Phase 2 of reopening of the campus for research, only limited human subject research activities are permitted. Remote interactions remain the primary research tool. A summary of activities and precautions are provided here; more detailed information is provided on the COVID-19 Human Subjects page. We ask you to familiarize yourself with all requirements prior to commencing research.

IMPORTANT – permissions for human subjects activities may change on a day-to-day, or week-to-week basis, based on the current county/city/state or federal outlook. Ensure that you and your research team closely monitor emails from the Vice President for Research and Tech Transfer.

  • During this phase, social distancing must be maintained. If research procedures require less than 6 ft of distance from subjects, they cannot be conducted at this time, except in clinics providing paid health care services.

  • A verbal pre-screen is required for all subjects prior to coming on campus, to ensure that the subject has not received a diagnosis of COVID-19 in the past fourteen days, does not exhibit any of the COVID-19 symptoms, and to the best of their knowledge, has not come in close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19 prior to coming on campus for research-related activities.

  • Subjects in known high-risk groups should not be invited to campus at this stage. This includes minors and adults >65, as well as other groups designated by CDC as high risk, if these conditions are part of the inclusion criteria.

  • Strict adherence to safety precautions is crucial, including the use of face coverings and gloves for research team members and subjects (including proper removal), thorough disinfection of lab and equipment between subjects, handwashing, non-overlapping subject appointments, and contact tracing.

  • The following research procedures may proceed with caution:
    • Online interviews, surveys, and focus groups. Note: important DOR/IT guidance for approvable online platforms is located on the COVID-19 Human Subjects page

    • IRB protocols switching to online methodologies, once a modification has been submitted and approved

  • With Harris County’s Threat Levels, the type of in-person human subjects research that is allowed, depends on the threat level. Further guidance on assessment and considerations for minimizing risks are on the COVID-19 Human Subjects page, and we ask you to consult this page prior to commencing human subjects research.

    Threat Level 1 (current threat level)

    • On campus, in settings that do not provide paid clinical health care services: The only research procedures that can be conducted are those that can be done while maintaining at least 6 ft distance at all times.

    • On or off campus, in settings that do provide paid clinical health care services: All approved research procedures may be conducted in these settings, following established clinical policies and procedures (in particular, sanitization procedures and PPE utilized for COVID-19 in the specific clinical field).

    • Off campus in other established institutional settings (e.g., schools, prisons): The only research procedures that can be conducted are those that can be done while maintaining at least 6 ft distance at all times. In addition to UH requirements, additional precautions set forth by the external institution apply.

    • Off campus in non-institutional/community settings (e.g., homeless shelters or on the streets, farmers markets, or community social/church gatherings): No human subject research is allowed at this time.

    Threat Level 2

    • On campus, in settings that do not provide paid clinical health care services: The only research procedures that can be conducted are those that can be done while maintaining at least 6 ft distance at all times. Policies and procedures are currently under development to allow for less than 6 feet distance.

    • On or off campus, in settings that do provide paid clinical health care services: All approved research procedures may be conducted in these settings, following established clinical policies and procedures (in particular, sanitization procedures and PPE utilized for COVID-19 in the specific clinical field).

    • Off campus in other established institutional settings (e.g., schools, prisons): The only research procedures that can be conducted are those that can be done while maintaining at least 6 ft distance at all times. In addition to UH requirements, additional precautions set forth by the external institution apply. Policies and procedures are currently under development to allow for less than 6 feet distance.

    • Off campus in non-institutional/community settings (e.g., homeless shelters or on the streets, farmers markets, or community social/church gatherings): No human subject research is allowed at this time.

    Threat Level 3 or 4 

    • Guidelines are under development.
  • Reporting of COVID test results is required if UH is utilizing an FDA-approved test as part of the research.

  • Any change to research procedures must be reviewed and approved by the IRB prior to implementation.

Following your review of the COVID-19 Human Subjects page, if you have additional questions,  please reach out to your IRB Coordinator, Ms. Danielle Griffin (dgriffi5@central.uh.edu) or Kirstin Holzschuh (kmholzsc@central.uh.edu).

As a reminder, we continue to fast-track new protocols related specifically to COVID-19 as well modifications to currently approved protocols to adjust for remote or alternate research procedures during this time.

  • Limit face-to-face interactions. The ACO team will limit face-to-face interactions between ACO staff and individual researchers. ACO staff will communicate with researchers via phone, through email, or other electronic communication methods such as Skype, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams meetings. 

  • Restricting hours of the animal facilities. To limit staff exposure, ACO is restricting all investigators from entering the animal facilities until 10 am. ACO staff will be able to complete the husbandry duties with limited contact with the investigators. By entering the facility, individual researchers certify that they do not have clinical signs of illness. 

  • Prepare for supply changes. ACO currently has enough inventory of PPE and cleaning agents to cover current needs within the animal facility. The situation, however, may change rapidly. Investigators are prohibited from removing PPE and cleaning supplies from the animal facility. Failure to adhere to this policy may result in denial of future access to the animal facility. ACO will inform everyone if the rationing of the PPE supplies is required. The leadership staff of ACO will also gladly provide the contact information for PPE vendors. 

  • IACUC approval. If any modifications to the animal protocol are being made due to the COVID-19 situation (for example, shortening procedure durations or ordering animals over the number approved by the IACUC), please ensure a modification is submitted and approved through ICON.