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Covid-19 Updates

Phase 1 Re-entry to ESC and Research in EEB

June 15, 2020

The University of Toronto has described Principles, Approach, and Guidelines for a phased restart of research at the University. These documents comprise the official motivation and rules for restarting research in the University, and all members of EEB should familiarize themselves with them. They can be found here:

Here, we provide additional guidelines for Phase 1 research in ESC and emphasize aspects of the University’s guidelines to help members of the EEB community restart laboratory research

Who should work in ESC during Phase 1, and which activities should be conducted?

In general, all research that can be undertaken from home must continue to be undertaken remotely. Those who require access to our laboratories for ongoing research will be permitted access to ESC with a number of restrictions following approval by the Chair and the Vice-Dean Research, to a maximum occupancy of 25%. Phase 1 does not indicate that research activity is back to normal levels; some research will be incompatible with the guidelines outlined below. This is the reality. Further, University and EEB guidelines may change rapidly in response to Public Health requirements, thus labs should prepare accordingly and balance the costs of starting up new research with the risk of having to shut down again in the near future, should the pandemic worsen or public health guidance change.

Staff

  • Only critical staff (growth facilities, IT) will be on site, and for limited hours Administrative staff will not be returning during phase 1

Faculty

  • Faculty should restrict their time in the building to necessary laboratory research and to monitoring the compliance of their research personnel to the University and EEB Phase 1 guidelines.

Graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research associates

  • Graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research associates should restrict their time in the building to necessary laboratory research.

Undergraduate Students

  • Undergraduates should not be entering the building during phase 1, with the exception of paid employees of the University. Paid undergraduate employees, including Work Study, can be included in restart forms, but this should be under exceptional circumstances, and undergraduate employees should be working remotely as much as possible.

External Visitors

  • Visitors from other universities should not be entering the building during phase 1.

EEB Access Request Forms (link) need to be completed by faculty, with information about each graduate student, post-doctoral fellow and research associate who they believe requires access to ESC. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows must fill in the attestation form (link), and provide this to PI’s to submit with their request to access forms.

Shifts and work hours

Access to research buildings on campus should be limited to the period of 7am-8pm when appropriate security is available. We are aiming for cohorts to reduce the size of contact networks and to facilitate contact tracing, thus most individuals will be restricted to either an early (7am-1pm) or late (2pm-8pm) cohort. We remind everyone working outside of regular business hours to take normal precautions for their personal safety, especially because campus and surrounding areas will likely have lower densities of people nearby.

  • Faculty should indicate on Access Request Forms a cohort for research personnel.
  • There may be some cases where research demands hours that do not fit the two cohort schedule. These rare exceptions can be raised with the Chair.

Travelling to and from ESC

We encourage community members to avoid crowded transit, and the two cohort work shifts have been set to avoid morning and evening rush hours.

  • Before travelling to ESC, all personnel must assess their health. You should not travel to ESC if:
    • You have flu-like symptoms. Everyone with these symptoms should stay home, not work, and self-isolate.
    • You experience symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, difficulty breathing etc.). If you have concerns, please follow this Ontario Ministry of Health self-assessment tool.
    • You need to visit a COVID-19 assessment centre. A number of dedicated assessment centres have been established across the Greater Toronto Region to facilitate assessment and testing. Information on locations is available on local public health websites including Toronto and Peel Region.
    • You are advised by a public health authority that you have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca immediately.
    • In the last 14 days have you traveled outside of Canada, or been in close physical contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or who travelled outside of Canada over that time period. This should be immediately reported to your supervisor.
  • For those using public transit, we encourage the use of masks and gloves.
  • Gloves and masks used in public should be removed upon entering the building.
  • Entrance for EEB community members is limited to NW corner of the building (near Forestry; doors on Willcocks).
  • Hand cleanser (available at the entrance) should be used upon entering.
  • Exit, except in the case of emergency, will be limited NE corner of the building (door nearest the intersection of Huron and Willcocks).
  • Hand cleanser (available at the exit) should be used upon exiting.

Working in ESC

General

  • Personnel must complete their on-site work as efficiently as possible and only stay onsite only as long as required by the research procedure.
  • With the exception of chance passing encounters in the hallways, personnel must maintain a minimum of 2m between individuals while in ESC. Be aware of your surroundings as you move about the building, and minimize chance encounters as much as possible.
  • Following the University’s guidelines, masks (disposable or cloth reusable) are required at all times while in public spaces in the building (hallways, elevators, bathrooms). For questions or if you are unable to wear a mask due to medical reasons, please refer to the University guidelines. We also strongly encourage the use of masks in any non-public spaces including laboratories. Medical-grade masks required for safe laboratory procedures must always be used.
  • We strongly recommend that masks (disposable or cloth reusable) be worn at all times while in the building, except when alone in a room for extended periods. Medical-grade masks required for safe laboratory procedures must always be used.
  • Personnel must be vigilant with hand hygiene and should always avoid touching one’s face.
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided at the entrances of all labs (PI’s responsibility) and shared facilities and equipment rooms (Department’s responsibility).
  • Appropriate sanitizing agents for surfaces include:
    • 70% ethanol
    • 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (e.g. bleach) for 5 minutes of contact time then rinsed with water – note that sodium hypochlorite is corrosive
    • 0.5% accelerated hydrogen peroxide products such as PreEmpt
  • During their time in ESC, personnel should limit their time in public areas, including hallways and stairwells.
  • Kitchens, lunchrooms and meeting spaces are closed, and are not to be used.
  • Food and drinks can be consumed in offices and should not require heating or cooling.
  • Stairwell usage should be unidirectional. The NE corner of the building (stairwell and door nearest the intersection of Huron and Willcocks) will be the down stairwell and EXIT, and the NW corner of the building (near Forestry; doors on Willcocks) will be the up stairwell and ENTRANCE. For those with accessibility requirements see northeast entrance and northwest entrance for more information.
  • Personnel should carry their ID on them at all times as proof of status.
  • All on-site personnel must renew their biosafety and WHMIS certifications.

Laboratories

  • Before entering the research space for the first time, use the Laboratory Inspection Checklist to document your visual inspection and ensure that the space is safe to use. The checklist can be found here.
  • Maximum occupancy for standard labs in ESC will be one researcher per bay at any time, for a maximum of 3 researchers per lab.
  • Individuals in labs must maintain a minimum of 2m distance at all times.
  • Hands should be sanitized when entering and leaving labs.
  • Gloves should be worn in the lab where the work permits it.
  • Lab gloves should not be worn outside of the lab.
  • Before and after each shift, all personnel are expected to ensure that their work surfaces and common equipment are disinfected.
  • At the end and beginning of each shift, designated personnel will perform hourly disinfecting of common lab areas, door handles, common equipment, and other high-touch surfaces.
  • All personnel in the research space are required to have access to instructions and training on safety and re-entry procedures.

Shared Equipment and Facilities

  • Access to shared equipment (e.g., microscopy) will be organized by appointment or a web-based calendar.
  • Shared rooms (e.g. growth rooms) will have maximum occupancy restrictions, as noted by signs.
  • Access and use of growth facilities will follow separate guidelines established by the Growth facilities management.
  • Access to equipment from another lab should be coordinated in advance with the lab.
  • Food-grade disposable gloves (one-time use) will be made available for use of shared equipment, and should be disposed of after use.
  • Departmental vehicles are not available for use at this time.

Offices

  • Offices should only be used for meal breaks.
  • Office occupancy is limited to one person at a time, with doors closed.
  • On entering and leaving offices, used surfaces, door handles and light switches should be sanitized.

Washrooms

  • Washroom occupancy should be limited to a single person.

Elevators

  • Elevators should be single occupancy and limited to accessibility requirements and moving equipment.

Deliveries

  • At this time, administrative staff will not be on campus, and couriers cannot enter the building. Personnel requiring shipping and receiving will need to coordinate with couriers to receive packages, while practicing physical distancing. Emily Workman is available to assist remotely through email.

Growth Facilities COVID-19 Guidelines

To safely begin to restart approved research activities that use the Growth Facilities we must minimize the possibility of Covid-19 virus transmission. Please read through the following document on Guidelines for Phase-1 resumption of Research Activities.