Research Guidance During the Novel Coronavirus Response


On Tuesday, March 17, the UVA president and provost announced sweeping operational changes intended to “flatten the curve” of those infected and avoid overwhelming our health system, which would ultimately risk UVA Health’s patients, our UVA community, and our Charlottesville neighbors. All faculty, staff, and students who can work remotely must work remotely.

Beginning Wednesday March 25, 2020, activities conducted on Grounds were limited to approved “essential activities;” only those personnel approved for these essential activities may work on Grounds, and then only for those essential activities.   

The UVA Engineering research community’s primary objective continues to be the health of the broader community, while we endeavor to support research continuity during this unprecedented public health issue. 

Laboratory Access and Protocols Beginning March 25:

The deadline for submission for consideration of essential research was March 23.  If you missed this deadline, please contact your chair immediately.  As a reminder, essential activities are expected to be defined as: 

  • Activity that, if discontinued, would generate significant loss (e.g., long-term experiments).
  • Activity that, if discontinued, would pose a safety hazard.
  • Activity that maintains critical lab equipment in safe standby mode.
  • Activity that maintains critical samples, reagents, and materials.
  • Activity that maintains animal populations.
  • Activity that maintains critically needed living organisms.
  • COVID-19 related activity that could address the crisis.

No unapproved research-related work may be executed on Grounds. If there were no essential research-related activities that were approved, and all researchers in the principal investigator’s (PI’s) group will be working off Grounds, the PI should have utilized the Research Operations Continuity Temporary Shutdown Checklist for Laboratories to prepare for temporary shutdown.

Only personnel who have been approved to conduct essential research-related activities should be accessing labs and facilities, and then only to complete the approved essential work. The following safety practices should be observed:  

  • Maintain essential laboratory functions using the fewest number of personnel.
  • Stagger work to minimize the number of personnel present, while making sure a “buddy system” is in place for safety checks.
  • Instruct personnel to conduct lab-cleansing protocols each time essential activities are completed, including disinfection of laboratory areas and touch points (e.g. equipment controls, doorknobs, sink handles, freezer doors, telephones). CDC guidance should be followed. (Info. from Environmental Health & Safety will continue to be updated at http://ehs.virginia.edu/urgentnotice.html.)
  • Instruct personnel to conduct frequent handwashing and to ensure stringent social distancing. 
  • Instruct personnel that no one who is feeling ill, even with minor symptoms, is allowed on Grounds. Persons with sympoms concerning for COVID-19 should contact their physicians for advice immediately and inform their supervisors that they are not able to perform essential research-related activities.
  • PIs must remember that we must respect our personnel regarding their health and their ability to work on Grounds. Any person who was approved to continue performing essential research-related activities in a laboratory should be informed that they may change their minds at any time, with no pressure.

Research Support:

We understand that this will be disruptive to the scholarly activities of you, your students, and your research teams, and we will work to support your efforts. We encourage you to take this time to redirect personnel toward research activities that can be completed remotely, such as analyzing data, writing research papers, developing grant proposals, preparing thesis proposals, updating lab protocols, etc. Research group meetings should continue remotely.

As previous guidance from UVA Vice Provost for Administration Anda Webb specified, graduate research assistants and graduate teaching assistant (GRAs/GTAs) will continue to be paid for the period of their existing commitments as GRAs/GTAs, whether or not they can work remotely.

Federal guidance related to sponsored research continues to be revised and may be found at UVA’s OSP site  and at the COGR site. Federal guidance released on March 19, 2020, may be found here. This guidance has language about no-cost extensions and allowances for continued charging to awards and agencies are releasing related updated related guidance. Additional guidance is also expected following the March 27, 2020, passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. We are awaiting information about mechanisms for coverage related to research from non-federal sponsors.  

Our research administration offices are prepared for remote support. We have been working with research sponsors as part of our business continuity activities to ensure that we continue to operate in a compliant and appropriate manner.

PIs may contact Susan Barker with questions or concerns about specific awards. Susan also is available to assist PIs with ideas for helping GRAs work remotely on activities that will substantively support ongoing research.

Take Immediate Action if Feeling Ill:

People who are ill with symptoms concerning for COVID-19 should contact their physicians for advice. If those carrying out essential research activities display even minor symptoms of illness, including but not limited to cough or fever, they must stay home and notify their research supervisors as soon as possible that they will take leave so plans for alternate coverage of those critical activities can be determined. Employees are not required to disclose health information to their supervisors, however if an employee voluntarily reports a confirmed case of COVID-19 to a supervisor, the supervisor must report it on a confidential basis directly to the dean of UVA Engineering. People who have any doubt about whether they could be ill should NOT come to work.

Latest UVA COVID-19 Updates

For University and School of Engineering news and updates, visit UVA Engineering’s novel coronavirus resources page. For funding opportunities related to COVID-19 please refer to (https://researchdevelopment.vpr.virginia.edu/opportunities-related-covid-19). For updates related to existing federal funding see UVA’s OSP site  and the COGR site.  

Thank you in advance for your efforts to keep our community safe.