In order to maintain research operations at Montana State University during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the Vice President for Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education has defined research operation levels for the university.
MSU is currently operating at Level 1.
Laboratories and research units may voluntarily proceed to higher levels proactively if their circumstances warrant.
Levels of Research Operations
Important Notice: Laboratories must follow MSU guidelines in accordance with CDC recommendations for disinfecting facilities in the event that a laboratory member is confirmed to have COVID-19. The following are approved disinfection methods, and one of these two options will be determined in consultation with the principle investigator (PI), department head or director, Office of Research Compliance (ORC), and Safety & Risk Management (SRM) in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case:
- OPTION 1: Seven-day shutdown of the laboratory. Entrance into the laboratory is prohibited during the seven-day period unless approved by ORC and SRM for short-term, emergency entrance with appropriate personal protective equipment. This option will be the default, unless a PI has coordinated with ORC and SRM an acceptable plan for deep cleaning that will not harm equipment, experiments, and neighboring laboratories/spaces.
- OPTION 2: Deep cleaning of the laboratory. Disinfection of porous items (i.e., lab notebooks, cardboard, etc.) sensitive equipment, reagents, and experimental samples may be impacted by this option. Please note that if it is determined that SRM approved deep clean methods could harm neighboring laboratories and spaces, this may not be an option.
- Normal operations.
Level 1: Caution and Preparation for Modified Operations
- Maintain social/physical distancing (i.e., 6 foot distancing between individuals) and encourage use of face coverings consistent with university guidelines and CDC guidance. In rare circumstances where social/physical distancing is not possible due to the nature of the work, require the use of face coverings and other personal protective equipment that is appropriate for the given circumstance.
- Consider instituting rotations and/or split schedules of lab work, and allowable telework options, to reduce the number of individuals in the laboratory at any one time.
- Maintain good hygiene practices consistent with CDC guidelines. Key guidelines include,
but are not limited to, the following:
- Frequent hand washing.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth.
- Frequent disinfection of common areas and equipment.
- Develop a written plan for how you would manage during Level 2 research operations.
- Level 2 research operations plans do not need to be formally submitted during Level 1, but you are encouraged to consult with your supervisor, staff and/or the Office of Research Compliance with questions.
- A Level 2 research operations plan template is available as Appendix A
- Consider key laboratory functions or field work that must remain in working order for your research to survive a prolonged shutdown (e.g., cell lines, animal colonies, transgenic lines, equipment needing liquid nitrogen, etc.).
- Consider mitigation plans to prevent loss of critical supplies, reagents and other materials.
- Determine if you can work without certain shared resources being available on campus (i.e., mail services, fiscal shared services, janitorial work, routine pick-ups, etc.).
- Consider working with IT proactively to ensure access to data remotely.
Level 2: Modified Operations with Approved Exceptions
- A lab or field-work research slowdown or shutdown plan (or exemption from slowdown)
must be submitted to the appropriate department head or director and Office of Research
Compliance within 24 hours of the announcement of Level 2.
- A Level 2 research operations plan must designate no more than three lab members as essential staff, unless adequate justification can be provided and social distancing can be maintained.
- This plan must outline procedures (e.g., rotations, driving separate vehicles, etc.) to ensure social distancing.
- Essential experiments allowed under guidance of an approved plan (see Appendix A) – those experiments that, if discontinued, would generate significant financial or data loss.
- All research buildings will be locked and should only be accessed by the PI and lab members designated as essential staff. Do not prop open any doors or allow anyone that is non-essential to piggyback in.
- Maintenance and access of key shared resources continue under appropriate guidelines and approved plans (i.e., animals, plants, cell lines, liquid nitrogen, etc.)
Level 3: Mandatory Shutdown with VPREDGE-approved Exceptions
- Under a Level 3, there will be a mandatory laboratory and field-work shutdown for all research labs, unless designated by the Office of Research Compliance and the Office of the Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Graduate Education.
- No new experiments, unless approved by Office of Research Compliance.
- Initiate the Outbreak Response Operations for the Animal Resources Center ABSL1 and ABSL2, Jutila Research Laboratory ABSL3, and the Johnson Family Livestock Facility ABSL2. For additional details for animal care, refer to ARC Human Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan that was distributed on Feb 28, 2020.
Level 4: Mandatory Shutdown with Presidential-approved Exceptions
- Under a Level 4, there will be a mandatory laboratory and field-work shutdown for all research labs, unless designated by the Office of Research Compliance, the Office of the Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Graduate Education, and the Office of the President.
- Maintain and modify as needed the Outbreak Response Operations for the Animal Resources Center ABSL1 and ABSL2, Jutila Research Laboratory ABSL3, and the Johnson Family Livestock Facility ABSL2. For additional details, refer to ARC Human Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan that was distributed on Feb 28, 2020.
Available for download below is a document listing the Research Operations levels above with an appendix containing a template that researchers can use to plan in case the university needs to proceed to levels 2-4.
Information current as of May 1, 2020.