Research Guidance during COVID-19

Page last updated 16:15, 30 November 2021

As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, there will be challenges in carrying out our research mission as well as our educational mission. This webpage has been established, accessible from the TAMU.edu/coronavirus webpage, to provide regular updates for Texas A&M researchers. Guidance is provided in FAQ format to assist faculty and researchers on all campuses with active research programs in managing their ongoing research and planning for potential future limitations. Questions may also be submitted via the box below.

For additional information, please go to TAMU.edu/coronavirus for the most current Texas A&M University response concerning the coronavirus.

Remember all personnel should stay home if they experience any symptoms including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

 

Recent Announcements

Research Status and Plans Entering the Fall Semester – August 27, 2021

Research Guidance Update – May 20, 2021

COVID and Human Subjects Research – January 6, 2021

Health and Safety in Research – August 18, 2020

Research status and plans entering the fall semesterAugust 11, 2020

In-Person Undergraduate Research Guidelines – July 21, 2020

Plans for resumption of clinical and human participant research, education, and service activitiesJune 8, 2020

Guidance on Graduate Student and Undergraduate Student ResearchersMay 20, 2020

 

COVID-19 Research

COVID-19 Federal Research Funding Announcements

Research Index for COVID-19

Texas A&M Responds: COVID-19

House representatives introduce bipartisan legislation to support U.S. research community during pandemic

Resources

Council on Governmental Relations

Institutional Resources on Ramping Up and Reopening
https://www.cogr.edu/institutional-resources-ramping-and-reopening

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Considerations for Institutes of Higher Education
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/colleges-universities/considerations.html
(The CDC emphasizes that “these considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which IHEs must comply.”)

Worldometer

(run by an international team of developers, researchers, and volunteers to make world statistics available to a wide audience around the world. COVID-19 data is collected from official reports, directly from government communication channels or indirectly through local media sources when deemed reliable. Includes live counters).

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

White House Guidelines-Opening Up America Again

https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica

Open Texas Checklists and the Governor’s Report to Open Texas

(includes Governor’s report as well as checklists for individuals and employers)
https://gov.texas.gov/organization/opentexas/homepage

Texas Department of Health Services (DSHS)-COVID-19

(includes minimum standard health protocols for COViD-19 as well as information and links related to case counts, what to do if you are sick, testing information, symptoms and prevention tips: COVID-10 self-checker)
https://www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/

CDC

(includes information on what to do if you are sick, cleaning, and disinfecting guidance)
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Guidance on face coverings
(includes information on how to make a face covering)
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html

Reopening guidance
(cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and homes)
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html

Texas A&M COVID-19 Guidance

(central hub for general information with FAQs and links to federal, state, local and university resources. Includes FAQs addressing a number of issues including travel, what the campus is doing about infection control; how to clean and disinfect; what to do if an employee is showing symptoms/signs consistent with coronavirus, etc.)
https://www.tamu.edu/coronavirus/index.html

Texas A&M HR employment related information concerning coronavirus

https://employees.tamu.edu/COVID-19

Reopening of Research Activities

1.1. Yes. These include:

  • Maintain social distancing at all times.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene, including proper hand washing, cough/sneeze etiquette, avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Have hand sanitizer available at all building entrances and at access points for each floor.
  • Use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect yourself and others from the spread of the virus while in the labs as well as in the research building.
  • Clean/disinfect high-touch locations in shared spaces, including laboratories.
  • Self-screen before coming to campus for new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19.
  • Do not come to work if ill or exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID-19.

2.1. Mandatory hygiene procedures for all Texas A&M research locations and personnel include the following:

  • All personnel should wear face coverings (i.e., use of a material to cover the nose and mouth) in shared spaces, including laboratories.
  • All doors and cabinet handles, bench surfaces, keyboards, instrument control panels, etc., should be cleaned at the beginning and end of each day, or, if researchers are working in shifts, at the beginning and end of every shift.
  • All shared equipment, including computer keyboards and tables should have user interface surfaces cleaned between every user.
  • Other “high touch” items such as hand tools, micro-pipettors, faucet handles, chemical and spray bottles, chair backs and arm rests, pens and whiteboard markers should be cleaned between users.
  • Cleaning should be with an EPA-approved disinfectant that is effective against COVID-19 in addition to the other biohazardous agents that may be in use. A list can be found at https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2
  • Pay attention to disinfectant contact times; most disinfectants do not work on contact.
  • Use appropriate PPE when using disinfectants/cleaning, including eye protection and chemical compatible impervious gloves.

Research Facilities/Laboratory Safety

EPA – Disinfectants for COVID-19

https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2

CDC

(interim laboratory biosafety guidelines for handling and processing specimens associated with Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19))
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/lab/lab-biosafety-guidelines.html

(laboratory biosafety and COVID-19 questions and answers)
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/lab/faqs.html   

Penn State University

(cleaning guidelines for laboratories and research facilities)
https://ehs.psu.edu/sites/ehs/files/cleaningguidance-laboratory.pdf

OSHA

Worker exposure to COVID-19
(outlines classification of worker risk to COVID-19)
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3993.pdf

Guidance on preparing workplace for COVID-19
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

University of Washington

(COVID-19 risk level and selection of personal protective equipment (PPE)
https://www.ehs.washington.edu/system/files/resources/COVID-19-risk-ppe-selection.pdf

(guidance for face mask use)
https://www.ehs.washington.edu/system/files/resources/facemask-guidance-COVID-19.pdf

1.1. Texas A&M University will follow Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-34 and the guidance of Texas A&M University and System leadership in determining current operations and functions.

1.2. Research activities may return to pre-COVID levels with protective laboratory practices recommended.

2.1. As research activities commence in the fall 2021, the following protective measures in laboratories are recommended but not required. These include

  • Self-screen before coming to campus for new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19. Do not come to work if ill or exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Maintain social distancing.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene, including proper hand washing, cough/sneeze etiquette, avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Have hand sanitizer available at all building entrances and at access points for each floor.
  • Use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect oneself and others from the spread of the virus while within the labs as well as within the research building.
  • Clean/disinfect high-touch locations in shared spaces, including laboratories.

3.1. PIs are responsible for developing and implementing appropriate management plans for their laboratories and for training their personnel on appropriate cleaning and disinfecting, hand hygiene and preferred/ recommended respiratory etiquette.

3.2. Recommended hygiene procedures for research locations/personnel include

  • Face coverings (i.e., use of a material to cover the nose and mouth) are recommended in shared spaces, including laboratories.
  • The virus that causes COVID-19 can land on surfaces. It’s possible for people to become infected if they touch those surfaces and then touch their nose, mouth, or eyes. In most situations, the risk of infection from touching a surface is low. The most reliable way to prevent infection from surfaces is to regularly wash hands or use hand sanitizerCleaning and disinfecting surfaces can also reduce the risk of infection.
  • Cleaning of all door and cabinet handles, bench surfaces, keyboards, instrument control panels, etc. at the beginning and end of the day, or, if researchers are working in shifts, at the beginning and end of every shift.
  • All shared equipment, including computer keyboards and tables should have user interface surfaces cleaned between every user.
  • Other “high touch” items such as hand tools, micro-pipettors, faucet handles, chemical and spray bottles, chair backs and arm rests, pens and whiteboard markers should be cleaned between users.
  • Cleaning should be with an EPA-approved disinfectant that is effective against COVID-19 in addition to the other biohazardous agents that may be in use. A list can be found at https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2
  • Pay attention to disinfectant contact times; most disinfectants do not work on contact.
  • Use appropriate PPE when using disinfectants/cleaning, including eye protection and chemical compatible impervious gloves.

4.1. Yes. Core facilities are open to support research activities. Recognize that each core facility is unique and rules for operation and access are set by the director of each facility. We have issued the guidance below to assist core facility directors, staff and users. Individual facilities may add requirements for equipment and facility use.

  • Establish and publicize hours of in-person operation, consistent with university guidelines for the laboratory.
  • Inform users that if they feel sick, they should not enter a facility.
  • Establish procedures for instrument and space cleaning at the end of each day so each day of operation begins with a clean space.
  • A reduced number of in-person users of the facility may be preferred, consistent with social-distancing guidelines.
  • Inform users they must use new gloves and available hand sanitizer before entering a room to use an instrument and use hand-sanitizer before departing the facility.
  • Remind users that while wearing gloves they must avoid touching anything in the lab that is not necessary for their work.
  • Inform users they must remove gloves before leaving the lab and dispose of them inside the lab after finishing work.
  • Advise users to wear appropriate masks for extra protection while using instruments.

5.1. Laboratory research staff should continue to follow universal precautions, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (disposable gloves, laboratory coat/gown, eye protection, etc.) and follow Biological Safety Level 2 containment practices for handling all human materials.

6.1. Researchers must have IBC approval to work with COVID-19 positive or suspected positive human samples. Researchers approved to work with such samples must wear all required PPE, including lab coats, gloves, respiratory (N95 or PAPR) and eye protection, at all times. Disposable PPE is preferable. No PPE should leave the lab unless it has been autoclaved. Procedures with the potential for creating infectious aerosols or splashes must be conducted in a properly maintained Class II biosafety cabinet (BSC), or other physical containment devices such as sealed rotor heads or centrifuge safety cups, and within an approved BSL-2 laboratory. All biohazardous wastes generated from such activities must be autoclaved prior to disposal. Researchers must follow strict hand hygiene procedures and should wash their hands before entering and leaving the lab. Work surfaces and equipment must be decontaminated with appropriate disinfectants before and after working. Use EPA-registered hospital disinfectants with label claims to be effective against SARS-CoV-2. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for use, such as dilution, contact time, and safe handling. Researchers using common-use computers and keyboards (e.g., one controlling an instrument), must wash their hands with soap and water before and after using the keyboard. The keyboard should be wiped down with a disinfectant wipe before and after each use. Lab members should work at a safe distance (at least 6 feet apart) from one another while in the lab together and strictly adhere to all standard microbiological practices, as outlined in the BMBL, during their work.

Activities with live SARS-CoV-2 virus must be reviewed and approved by the TAMU IBC and may only be performed in a certified BSL-3 lab by IBC authorized personnel.

7.1. The EPA list N indicates that this virus is susceptible to disinfectants with proven activity against enveloped viruses including bleach solutions or ethanol. For general lab surface disinfection, prepare a fresh, 1:10 dilution (0.5% active sodium hypochlorite) of household bleach, or a 70% dilution of ethanol. Prepare fresh disinfectant solutions at the beginning of the week and dispose of what wasn’t used at the end of the week. Allow at least 10 minutes contact time for both 10% bleach and 70% ethanol. Never use expired disinfectants.

8.1. EHS will maintain all functions, such as emergency spill and fire response, hazardous waste collection and supplies, radioactive package delivery, and public health activities. For routine questions and concerns, please call 979-845-2132 or email ehsd@tamu.edu. For after response contact the Communications Center at 979-845-4311. For emergencies, call 911.

8.2. The Research Compliance & Biosafety Offices will function to serve all research needs as required in fall 2021.


9.1.
Yes. The IBC will continue to meet once monthly, as scheduled. Likewise, the submission review process will continue as before, and renewal deadlines remain as scheduled. Extensions to active, but expiring, IBC permits will be given, provided a renewal application has been received, so that previously approved work may continue to the permitted extent possible. For specific questions about an IBC submission, contact ibc@tamu.edu.

9.2. To speak with someone from the Biosafety team, about your IBC submission, PPE requirements for specific biosafety levels or disinfectants visit the ORCB website: to contact a team member directly or send an email to biosafety@tamu.edu.

Research Travel

1.1. Please refer to the University's Travel Guidance to get the most up-to-date travel information.

Proposal Submission & Award Management

1.1. Most federal sponsors allow for a one-time no cost extension for 12 months at the end of the project. Many sponsors are considering the impact of COVID-19 on project timelines. Please notify your funding agency or sponsor of the pause in study activity. Be sure to let them know of any changes you will make to your study.

2.1. Proposals are being submitted by the Sponsored Research Services (SRS) office by the deadline in accordance with the Proposal Submission Guidelines.

3.1. We anticipate that all federal agencies will continue to accept proposals even if the agency is closed. The proposal will likely remain in an electronic queue until the federal agency staff return to work, similar to what we experience during a federal shutdown.

4.1. As with other units, some SRS staff will be working remotely. They will still respond to emails and voicemail as normal.

5.1. The Office of Budget and Management (OMB) has released M-20-17“Administrative Relief for Recipients and Applicants of Federal Financial Assistance Directly Impacted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) due to Loss of Operations.” which provides similar administrative relief as listed in M-20-11 to an expanded scope of recipients affected by the loss of operational capacity and increased costs due to the COVID-19 crisis. OMB has released the information regarding what federal agencies MAY do but they are clearly leaving the decisions up to the individual agencies.

7.1. NSF has developed a new website for the research community with detailed guidance on the Coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes guidance for awardee orga

8.1. Yes, as long as the investigator remains engaged in the project. NIH and NSF prior approval requirements regarding disengagement from the project for three (3) months or more, and effort reductions of 25 percent or more, remain in effect.

9.1. Currently there is no federal guidance relating to charges to awards for travel, conferences and related expenses due to the COVID-19. We expect that guidance will be available in the

10.1. It is unknown if federal agencies will consider longer-than-normal no cost extensions. Therefore, researchers should document the impact of COVID-19 on their grants for future no-cost extension requests.

Research Involving Animals

While research activities have resumed for all campuses, for operational continuity investigators should plan for how their experiments and animals will be appropriately managed in the event that one or more personnel become unavailable to work in the lab. Investigators who are unable, or become unable, to provide their usual level of care for their animals, should notify their animal facility staff immediately. While CMP and other vivaria staff will always provide health care, they may not be able to conduct experimental protocols, so please plan accordingly.

1.1. Animal care is always a priority, and will continue to be prioritized. Animal facilities will implement emergency protocols, if necessary, to continue to provide daily care for research animals in the event that normal operations are disrupted. Such plans are in place to protect animals in the case of a natural disaster, staffing shortage, or other emergency circumstances, and ensure access to food, water, appropriate environmental conditions, and veterinary care.

1.2. Animal facilities maintain appropriate volumes of supplies to ensure proper care during emergency circumstances and continue to communicate with suppliers to ensure that bedding, feed and other critical supplies remain available.

1.3. The attending veterinarian (AV) and veterinary staff are available for any animal health concerns. The AV and animal welfare officer (AWO) are available for any animal welfare concerns.

1.4. Please consult the Attending Veterinarian for your animal program for additional information on population management, personal protective equipment rationing, modifications to vivarium hours, and cage change/animal housing cleaning cycles.

2.1. Central Vivaria Contacts:

  • College Station/Galveston (CMP): (979) 845-7433
  • Dallas (ARU): (214) 828-8149
  • Galveston (Sea Life Facility): (409) 740-4574
  • Houston (PAR): (713) 677-7471
  • Kingsville (PRF): (361) 221-0770

3.1. All aspects of animal care will continue to be closely monitored. Contact the Attending Veterinarian for your campus for additional questions. (See vivaria contact list in Section 2.1.).

3.2. Please consult the Attending Veterinarian for your animal program for additional information on applicability of depopulation, personnel protective equipment rationing and modifications to vivarium hours, and cage change/animal housing cleaning cycles.

Human Subjects in Research

HR03-11-2021 TOOL In-Person Human Research During Covid

HR04-11-2021 Participant Acknowledgement In-Person Human Research Covid