COVID-19 Updates for Researchers

Updates

July 20, 2020: Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund, Stage 1 funding
July 10, 2020: Considerations for resuming research
June 18, 2020: New campus access safety training now available
June 15, 2020: Update from Animal Care Services
June 12. 2020: Application process for expanded access to the Lethbridge campus
June 1, 2020:  2020 Fieldwork season 
March 30, 2020 Hazard Assessment training and forms
March 27, 2020 Science Stores Update
March 27, 2020 Critical Research Application Procedure
March 24, 2020 Update from Animal Care Services
March 20, 2020 Directive to work remotely
March 19, 2020 Memo from Animal Care Services
March 18, 2020 Impact of COVID-19 on research activities

Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund, Stage 1 Funding

Announced in May 2020, the Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund (CRCEF) is part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. The temporary program has been established to help sustain the research enterprise at Canadian universities and health research institutions that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The CRCEF is being rolled out in 3 stages. Stages 1 & 2 provide wage support to universities and health research institutions for up to 12 weeks to avert layoffs of research personnel. The support will cover up to 75% of research personnel salaries funded through non-governmental sources, to a maximum of $847 per week per employee. Stage 3 provides support to universities and health research institutions to cover the unanticipated, incremental costs associated with maintaining research assets at risk due to the pandemic and ramping up research activities once physical distancing measures are relaxed and ultimately lifted.

Click here to learn more and apply.

Considerations for resuming research

Prior to the phased resumption of research activities that were paused in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers must consider COVID transmission risks.  These considerations must include following the recommendations of Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health in addition to University requirements.  See the contacts below for more information.

Researchers wishing to resume human research are encouraged to continue using secure remote interactions as much as possible.  Where this is not appropriate or feasible, the protocol must be amended to include COVID-19 risk mitigation measures (e.g., physical distancing, use of PPE (masks, gloves), hand sanitizer, single use or sanitizing of equipment (mouse, keyboard, chair, etc.), health screening of participants).   Participants must also be advised of the new information about risks and the mitigating measures that will be in place as part of the informed consent process.  Changes to the protocol must be submitted for ethics review by the Human Participant Research Committee and approved prior to restarting the research with human participants.  For more information, contact the Human Research Ethics Officer, Susan Entz at susan.entz@uleth.ca.

Researchers wishing to resume animal research must contact the University Veterinarian (isabelle.gauthier@uleth.ca) to discuss facility access, housing, technical support and training needs.  Changes to the animal research protocol must be submitted for ethics review by the Animal Welfare Committee and approved prior to restarting the research with animals.  For more information, contact the Animal Research Ethics Officer, Keiko McCreary at keiko.mccreary2@uleth.ca

Researchers wishing to gain access to campus must currently apply for access via the following page:   https://www.uleth.ca/covid-19/accessing-campus

New campus access safety training now available

June 18, 2020

Anyone who has already applied or is planning to apply for access to campus for critical or time-sensitive research, teaching preparation, to support summer or fall 2020 program completion, or for ongoing staff access and has not yet taken the required training, the new Campus Access Safety Training is available at https://go.uleth.ca/covid19-oncampus-training.

Those who have already taken the training will be required to complete the attestation separately. Information on how to access this will be emailed to those individuals.

Update from Animal Care Services

June 15, 2020

As the University of Lethbridge is preparing to gradually ease restrictions for access to its Lethbridge campus over the summer months and considering that the uncertainty surrounding availability of necessary consumables is reduced, Animal Care Services will be lifting the suspension of the following services starting Monday June 15th:

  • Animal orders, importations and exportations
  • Animal transfers
  • Animal Training Wet Labs (partial lift)
  • Facility Orientations

Note: Although the suspension of the above services will be lifted this coming Monday, these services cannot be provided to a research laboratory until the Campus Access process is completed and confirmation of access approval is provided. 

As mentioned in the communications sent by the EOC last week, all Faculty members applying for campus access for their research team under the critical or time-sensitive research criteria will be asked to specify how the requested access will comply with current public health workplace requirements. When completing your access plan associated with animal-based research within the Rodent Research Facility, please be mindful of the number of individuals you will be including in your application as traffic flow respecting the 2 meter distancing guideline within the vivarium can easily be compromised. Additionally, keep in mind that the vivarium supports rodent-based research work of many individuals from multiple research laboratories.

Animal Care Services has also been preparing the vivarium space to help laboratory members comply with current public health workplace requirements related to COVID-19 and will be sending a follow-up email early next week that will provide more information.   

Application process for expanded access to the Lethbridge campus

June 12, 2020

This message contains important information about the process for expanded access to the Lethbridge campus.  At this time, access protocols to the Calgary Campus remain unchanged as we work with our BVC partners on questions of building access.

As the province moves ahead with its relaunch strategy, the University of Lethbridge is easing restrictions for access to its Lethbridge campus over the summer. We ask that faculty, staff and students who can work from home continue to do so in order to meet the government request that we limit in-person attendance of people on campus. At the same time, we understand that for some the need for campus access is becoming increasingly critical.

The process allows those who require access to equipment or facilities on the Lethbridge campus to apply for access if their work can be accomplished in line with the provincial guidelines for post-secondary institutions.

See Full message for application instructions.

2020 Fieldwork season

June 1, 2020

For researchers who are planning to be involved in fieldwork, the following guidelines will be in place until the current government restrictions are lifted or relaxed:

  • Undergraduate courses & work may not take place face to face. This includes independent studies, applied studies, and co-op work terms. Should current public health restrictions be lifted or relaxed, Summer 2020 independent study or applied study courses can be added up until the start of Summer Session II/III (July 6th, 2020).
  • There must be a contact number for your team during the fieldwork period.
  • Travel to and from the site, as well as travel and accommodations at the site, must allow for social distancing.

Furthermore in order to obtain approval to continue your fieldwork we ask that you answer the following questions (adapted from UBC) via an email or memo to avpr.dsgs@uleth.ca. Please reference the decision tree below (adapted from SFU) for whether your research is likely to be approved. As well if you are approved you will need to submit a completed hazard assessment and field activity safety checklist (https://www.uleth.ca/risk-and-safety-services/field-activitysafety):

  • Have you taken the COVID19-related safety training? Details of the training sessions are given below.
  • What are the proposed dates for this fieldwork?
  • Are you able to travel to and from your research sites in compliance with current government and University travel advisories and restrictions?
  • Is there a contact number for your team during the fieldwork period?
  • How does the size of your team allow for social distancing?
  • How do modes of travel at your research site allow for social distancing?
  • How do living and working conditions at the site allow for social distancing and/or for self-isolation should it be necessary?
  • What plans are in place should a member of the research team develop COVID-19 symptoms?
  • If your research will bring you into contact with local communities, how will you ensure required and effective social distancing protocols?
  • Why it is critical that this work be carried out now rather than waiting until the government restrictions are lifted or relaxed?

Hazard Assessment training

March 30, 2020

Here is the link to the zoom recording of the training required for those remaining on-campus for critical continuing research:

https://uleth.zoom.us/rec/share/-utLKpLQ0k5IX8_35HPDSPYfT8P9X6a8hyYZ_vNbykochQUBN_gNIXT7llr5K1q5?startTime=1585534129000

The powerpoint presentation, and the hazard assessments (one updated for research, while the other covers other areas in the university) are also linked below.

Science Stores Update

March 27, 2020

In light of the COVID-19 situation, faculty and staff are required to work remotely and Science Stores expects reduced traffic and order requests. We understand that research continuity under specific circumstances is unavoidable and so is the need for ordering scientific supplies. We want to assure you that the Science Stores is operational and is still processing order requests for research supplies. Science stores will remain open Monday-Friday with reduced hours from 10:00AM-12:00 P.M and 1:00 P.M-3:00 P.M. However, at this time, we are entertaining orders only from those research programs that are approved for continuity by the Associate Vice President of Research (AVPR). Please note that this measure is being implemented in order to reduce the health and safety risk, and to minimize work-related interpersonal contact for our staff.

We understand that many of you have cryogen and compressed gas needs to maintain your research programs. Compressed gas requests will be filled based on availability. For smaller liquid nitrogen needs (<50 L), a pressurized dewar is stationed within the Stores area that will provide liquid nitrogen to users. This dewar would be refilled as needed. For larger needs and to fill pressurized dewars, if possible, please provide a 1-day notice by emailing your request to science.stores@uleth.ca. As of now, the sole way to fill a pressurized dewar from the U-Hall fill station is by obtaining the access key from the Stores personnel. Similarly, please provide a 1-day notice for any dry-ice and compressed gas requests. The stores will make a reasonable attempt to stock enough dry-ice for approved continuing research needs; however, this situation may change based on the availability from our dry-ice vendor. Currently, our vendor does not expect any shortage of dry-ice, liquid nitrogen, or compressed gases. Should the availability of any of these items change, an update from stores will be provided.

All incoming packages for the Science Commons will be dropped off within the Stores area (SA7414) by Materials Management. We will store any perishable shipments under proper conditions for the time being; however, our storage capacity for perishables is limited. With that in mind, a notification email will be sent to the recipient of perishable items so that arrangements can be made to transfer these packages to their lab as soon as possible. All other packages received will only be delivered to research labs if they have received prior approval for research continuity from the AVPR.

At this time, access to the Stores area is being restricted to Stores personnel and Materials Management staff. As mentioned previously, this change is being put in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff and to promote social distancing. All transactions with Stores should be carried out through the stores window and a hand sanitizer unit has been installed beside this window. Please do not hesitate to contact Govi (science.stores@uleth.ca) if you have any further questions or concerns.

Critical Research Application Procedure

March 27, 2020

The situation with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the operation of the University of Lethbridge remains fluid, and our response evolves on a day-to-day basis.  As of March 23, the University of Lethbridge issued a directive for faculty, staff, postdocs and students to work from home. As was recently communicated, we are moving to a model of “Restricted Access” to campus buildings. Accordingly, all research teams and units must follow this directive to work remotely. We suggest that in your move to a work-from-home environment, you plan for the possibility of an extended period of remote work.  Allowances may be made for continuing critical in-progress research, scholarship and creative activities to continue on site, and most who are impacted have already been working with the Critical Continuity Research Committee in preparation for this shift. For selected research activities to proceed on campus, they must be registered and approved by the University. The process for this is detailed below.

As research, scholarship, and creative work are key components of the University, we must ensure that critical in-progress research (this term includes scholarly and creative work) is maintained as long as it is safe and reasonable to do so.  All researchers are asked to continue as much of their work as is feasible in a virtual or work-from-home setting. If you are able to do all of your work in this manner, only requiring access to online systems, you do not need to take further action.

Please evaluate whether you are able to shut down the on-campus portion of your work and focus on work that can be done from home. However, if your work depends on having you and other individuals work on campus or accessing on-campus infrastructure (either in your own on-campus workspace or shared facilities), then please carefully read the rest of this message.  If you have critical on-campus research, scholarship or creative work requiring access to on-campus facilities or infrastructure, then you must take action now so the University can review and approve your access to campus.  Similarly, if you are reducing or shutting down your work on campus, but must continue the operation of infrastructure on campus that requires maintenance or attention (e.g. sample storage system that requires regular liquid nitrogen refills or an experimental apparatus that cannot be easily shut down), you must take action to maintain your access to campus in the event of wider access restriction.

CRITICAL RESEARCH

The University of Lethbridge considers critical research to be research, scholarship or creative work that satisfies one or more of the following criteria:

  • COVID-19 related research that is vital to dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Clinical Research in which participant health might be put at risk if the program is suspended.
  • Ongoing research in which significant amounts of data would be completely lost or compromised if the experiment or project was terminated early/suddenly.
  • Research contract work that can be undertaken while meeting COVID-19 safety principles and in which contract deliverables must be met in order to continue funding.

CRITICAL RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE AND SERVICES

The University of Lethbridge currently considers critical research infrastructure and services to be those that satisfy one or more of the following criteria:

  • Maintenance of research infrastructure or services identified as required in support of critical research.
  • Research infrastructure or services required to ensure human health and safety.
  • Research infrastructure or services required to ensure animal health and safety.
  • Research infrastructure that cannot be shut down in a timely manner (less than one day) without significant risk of damage or destruction of the infrastructure in question. This includes sample/material storage infrastructure requiring regular maintenance or consumable replenishment.
  • Research in progress that, if ended, would result in significant loss of research dollars, data or findings.
  • Need for resources, including computers or other equipment, that cannot be accessed off campus.

NEXT STEPS

If your critical on-campus, in-progress work must continue and it meets the criteria outlined above, then you must complete the following approval process and form.  Approval from the Associate Vice-President (AVP) Research (Dr. Jackie Rice) is required to ensure that you and your team can access campus during this time.

Principal Investigator (or their designate) should initiate the following process:

  • Step 1: Complete and submit the Continuing Critical Research Form.
  • Step 2: The AVP Research will review your Continuing Critical Research Form in consultation with Risk and Safety.
  • Step 3: You will normally receive a notification from the Office of Research and Innovation Services within two working days. Approval means that your work and the other individuals identified as being involved in that work will be registered with the University of Lethbridge.

Important:  Approval from the AVP Research is required if you wish to continue your research work on campus when access is restricted.

Notes: No member of the University community should feel pressured to work on campus if they are not comfortable to do so. If any individual is feeling inappropriately pressured to carry out on-campus research, scholarship, or creative work, they should contact Suzanne McIntosh in the Wellness and Recognition office at the University of Lethbridge.

The University of Lethbridge may withdraw your Continuing Critical Research Designation if conditions change.

We understand that limiting access to campus is disruptive to the work of faculty, staff, postdocs, and students. The University of Lethbridge will continue to support your efforts, and we deeply appreciate your perseverance through this difficult situation.

Additional Information from Animal Care Services:

March 24, 2020

  • Everyone accessing the Rodent Research Facility must complete the “Working on Campus Registry” everyday https://uleth.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_25pgyMPThLwWGBT
  • Due to the global shortage of mask, surgical mask should only be used to support surgical procedures at this time and fit tested N95 mask to reduce allergen exposure in individuals with allergies.  
  • To conserve consumables, it is required that laboratory members planning euthanasia, tissue collection and perfusion identify their animal cages with appropriate laminated cards a minimum of a week in advance. 
  • Please continue to be diligent in following Alberta Health protocols of hand washing and social distancing as we work together to limit the spread of COVID-19.  Laboratories with multiple members required to support their research studies in progress should schedule the work in a way that reduce social contact.

hank you for your understanding in this difficult time. Please don’t hesitate to contact Isabelle if you have any question or concern.

Directive to work remotely

March 20, 2020

The University of Lethbridge is committed to helping attenuate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. To that end, any employee or student of the U of L who is able to work remotely must do so, which will help us minimize interpersonal contact on campus. We recognize that some faculty may have research projects or experiments in progress that require resources that cannot be accessed off campus. A committee has been established to assist the Emergency Operations Centre with developing a plan for how and when to allow people to safely access campus resources when absolutely necessary for them to continue their work.

The Research Continuity Committee (RCC) includes Jennifer Copeland (Acting Associate Dean, Arts & Science); Isabelle Gauthier (University Veterinarian/Director, Animal Care Services), Tony Montina (Interim Director Science Commons Academic Operations), Gene Lublinkhof (Director of Science Facilities), Jim Vanderzee (Project Management Office), Kelly Williams-Whitt (Associate Dean, Dhillon School of Business), and Lorna Selinger (Biosafety Officer). The safety of our campus community is our top priority. Second to that, the RCC is committed to trying to enable some continuity of research that requires campus access, barring things beyond our control. We are considering processes for safely accessing campus in the short (March), medium (May), and long term (September).

Currently, anyone who is able to work remotely must do so. If you need documents or equipment from campus in order to work remotely, please retrieve it before March 23rd.

The RCC is now gathering information from faculty who require ongoing campus access for one of the following reasons:

  • need for resources, including computers or other equipment, that cannot be accessed off campus;
  • research in progress that, if ended, would result in loss of animals’ life;
  • research in progress that, if ended, would result in significant loss of research dollars or findings; or
  • maintenance of critical infrastructure.

If these can be achieved while still adhering to social distance and all required safety practices, then access may be granted on a limited and monitored basis, with a maximum of 3 people in a lab at one time (including the PI). All researchers granted permission to work on campus must be prepared and have a plan in place to immediately shut down research, should the need arise.

Undergraduate students who are completing their spring term work, or graduate students who are supporting experiments in progress, may continue to work either remotely or onsite if the appropriate precautions are in place and if the student feels safe in continuing their work. It is imperative that no students be mandated to attend campus during this crisis for any reason. All faculty must offer all students and trainees the option to work remotely, without penalty. Students will be informed of their right to work remotely.

Our goal is to ensure that major losses of work already underway are minimized as much as possible, but this does not mean it will be business as usual. We encourage you to consider your research program, both in terms of the present and the future.  Given continuing uncertainty you should refrain from starting new projects that will require:

  • extensive campus access in the next few months,
  • purchasing/ordering new chemicals, equipment, or ordering/transferring animals
  • interpersonal contact with participants.

The Tri-Council has already communicated their awareness and understanding of the ongoing interruptions to research productivity; stay tuned for further information on how they will adjust and adapt to support the research community. This should allow you to focus on your most emergent research priorities in the short term.

If you have not already replied to the request for details about your requirements for campus access please do so immediately by sending it to Jennifer Copeland. By Monday we expect to have a process in place for requesting, approving, and monitoring access to any spaces on campus. You will need to confirm that you have processes in place to maintain social distance and all other precautions while on campus. We will revisit this plan in the coming weeks as the spring terms draws to a close and a we all gain a better picture of the coming months.

Should you have any questions for the RCC please contact Dr. Jennifer Copeland (jennifer.copeland@uleth.ca). We greatly appreciate all of your efforts to keep our community safe and healthy.

Memo from Animal Care Services

March 19, 2020

Animal Care Services will continue to care for the research animals and maintain the operation of the animal facilities to support only the present research studies at this time. We ask for your collaboration to keep your research activities to as tatus quo until further notice. The uncertainty surrounding supply of necessary consumables as well as the health of employees and students requires utmost consideration at this time.

Only essential laboratory members involved in present studies can access the animal facilities. It is requested that individuals accessing the animal facilities reduce their numbers of entries and exits to a minimum to reduce strain on resources and to promote social distancing. Also, please make sure to maintain good communication regarding your present research study with your supervisor and Animal Care Services staff if you are unable to come to campus or if your research plans are changing.

Animal Care Services is suspending the following services until further notice (this list may evolve as the situation progresses):

  • Animal Training Wet Labs
  • Facility Orientations
  • Animal orders, importations and exportations
  • No animal transfers will be completed

Anyone with symptoms such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing and/or have travelled outside Canada and/or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 must stay home. Moreover, if you have chronic conditions, or a compromised immune system, please stay home as well.  Additional information will be provided shortly.

Thank you for your understanding and collaboration. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any question or concern. It is important to support each other during difficult times.

University of Lethbridge Human Participant Research during COVID-19 Outbreak 

In light of the COVID 19 outbreak, research and recruitment involving in-person contact with participants must be suspended, delayed or modified to minimize or eliminate risks to participants and the public. Due to the current, and quickly evolving, COVID-19 situation, all human participants researchers should have stopped any in-person interactions with participants unless doing so presents more danger to the participant than continuing the research. If you are in this unlikely situation please let the Human Participant Research Committee (HPRC) know immediately. 

Please consult this file for additional information:

Impact of COVID-19 on Research Activities

March 18, 2020

As a follow up to the President’s announcement on March 18th we offer the following as we anticipate your shift from working on campus to working at home.  In terms of your responsibility as a researcher we would like you to consider the following: 

  • Take care -- of yourself; take care of your students; take care of your workspaces & labs, considering your impact on your colleagues & the community.  Be safe. 
  • Anticipate change -- we have seen mandated changes daily and we continue to respond accordingly. Researchers, as well as the students and staff working with you have been asked to shift their work and their workplace from the university campus to home, unless you have discussed this with the Risk and Safety office and have secured permission from the AVPR.   We ask you to make this shift in the next 24 hours.  If you have questions about transitioning your research please reach out to the individuals below, or to your grant facilitator for grant-related questions. 

Please note: currently and for the foreseeable future, individuals must suspend face-to-face research.  We understand the impact that this has on ongoing research programs. 

No travel, research or otherwise, can be taken at this time.   

No new animals will be ordered, and no new lab experiments will be started.  We are looking at closure procedures and will communicate further with researchers who are impacted by this.  We will continue to provide useful supports and information.  

As we move through this change, and eventually return back to some level of normalcy, the university is committed to support you in all of your research activities.   

We will continue to communicate and share resources as they become available; for example protocols for human participant research, information about liquid nitrogen dewar maintenance, shut down of some wet labs, and identification/cross training of personnel who will be required to work on-campus.  Please stay tuned! 

Contacts: