Updates regarding COVID-19

News and updates

Province wide Shutdown will not impact Research

Colleagues, as you know the Government of Ontario will be imposing a Province-wide lockdown beginning at 12:01 a.m. on December 26th.  Linked here for your information is the Ministry of Health guidance document: https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-provincewide-shutdown.

A careful review of the lockdown restrictions and conditions indicates that research activities will be allowed to continue as presently undertaken at RGN and PM.  Though research activities will be able to continue uninterrupted, we encourage you and your team to continue to exercise great caution to minimize the risk of spread and outbreak.  We would like to take this opportunity to remind you that:

  • 2 meter physical distancing must be strictly followed whenever possible.
  • Procedural facemasks must be worn on site at all times.  The exception is during lunch or coffee breaks in designated spaces or in private offices.
  • At RGN, “wet-labs” can have 45% maximum of their approved staff on-site at any one time, with each lab allowed to have up to 90% of their approved staff on-site over the course of the day. 
  • At PM, approved staff on-site is through departmental scheduling.
  • Access to RGN and PM during the holiday period will be by cardkey access only.
  • On site access will be restricted to only research activities that must take place on campus (e.g., wet-bench work and access to restricted database portals). Any work that can be conducted off site should be performed at home.

Please note that the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) has recommended that Ontarians stay home to the fullest extent possible and limit close contacts to your household.  However, if you or your lab members are travelling over the holidays please be aware of CMOH’s recommendation that any individuals returning to Ontario from other provinces during the Province wide Shutdown period (December 26, 2020 – January 23, 2021) should self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.   Similarly, if travelling within the province to COVID-19 red zones, it is also advisable to self-isolate for 14 days before returning to the University campus and your labs.  Self-isolation for 14 days remains mandatory for all international travelers.

We recognize self-isolation recommendations are challenging and can be disruptive for your research team. But given the seriousness of the situation, we ask that everyone respects recommendations. It is only by working together that we can keep our greater communities safe and research open.

Wishing you a wonderful and relaxing holidays!

 


UPDATED - FALL 2020

Return to Research Guidelines for Roger Guindon Hall

 
While complying with health and safety requirements and in accordance with the Province of Ontario’s Framework for Reopening Our Province, and relevant sector specific guidelines, the University of Ottawa and the Faculty of Medicine have continued planning and evaluation to support our progressive and phased approach to return to research for the Roger Guindon Hall. 


As research teams have been outstanding in adherence to guidelines and because there has been no transmission of Covid-19 onsite, we are pleased to announce we will be increasing wet lab research capacity of the Faculty of Medicine to 90%. 


Starting on Monday November 23rd, each lab can have 45% maximum of their approved staff on-site capacity at any one time with each lab allowed to have up to 90 % of their approved staff on-site over the course of a day.  


This will require shift work and supervisors are responsible for establishing a schedule that ensures 2m physical distancing of staff/learners in the labs.  It is also the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that all staff/trainees are aware of all R2R guidelines and comply with onsite safety policies.  It is highly recommended that labs consider cohorting of staff in shifts whenever feasible (i.e. scheduling the same group(s) together to limit possible exposures).


With increased researchers on site and higher occupancy levels it is highly encouraged that Principal Investigators consider being on site 2 days each week to ensure supervision and compliance of their lab team to all COVID19 protocols.   


Please review the following guidelines and ensure that all staff and trainees are aware of the health and safety measures in place at RGN. As a reminder, two key guiding principles remain at the forefront for safely increasing onsite capacity for operational and research activities:

  • The health and wellbeing of our uOttawa Faculty of Medicine community will be placed above all other considerations and will comply with all health and safety recommendations. 
  • The phased approach must be equitable to all research teams and adequately supported by research services and facilities.  
 
GENERAL GUIDELINES
  • It is understood that if an outbreak occurs, whether locally or nationally, that all research activities at RGN and PM can be immediately halted.  When planning research activities, researchers must consider that an immediate halt to research may occur at any time that may be more restrictive than the original COVID-19 restrictions. 
  • Researchers, staff, students who can conduct their research or administrative activities off-campus should continue to do so.  All activities (including but not limited to writing, analysis, reviewing, videoconferencing and marking) that can be completed from home must be conducted off-campus.  
  • On site access will be restricted to only research and learning activities that must take place on campus (e.g., wet-bench work and access to restricted database portals required for certain projects in SEPH).  
  • Access to shared offices will not be permitted as physical distancing requirements cannot be met.  Office activities such as writing, analysis, reviewing, videoconferencing, marking must be conducted off-campus.  
  • If a faculty member opts to use their office space (for work that absolutely cannot be performed off-site), this activity will be counted towards the daily / weekly occupancy count of the lab, as described below. 
  • Only approved faculty/staff/trainees (undergraduate, graduate students and PDFs) who have completed all necessary laboratory safety training (eg. biosafety, lab safety training, autoclave safety) including new COVID-19 training modules released by the Office of Risk Management will be allowed on-site. For details on the process to add new staff to your ‘approved staff’ list, please see ‘LAB PROCEDURE FOR RETURN TO RESEARCH’ below 
  • Visiting scientists/collaborators are now allowed onsite.  However, to maintain occupancy numbers any lab visitors/collaborators must be scheduled within an individual lab’s daily occupancy limits.  If the visiting scientist/collaborator requires access to your labs for extended periods of time (e.g. weeks or months) PIs may request changes to lab approved list and must follow the procedure above for addition of new staff/trainees.  Permission will only be granted for visitors with a formal status with the University (e.g. visiting scientist on sabbatical).  
  • Lab occupancy signs must be posted for each lab. The Research Office will issue a maximum lab occupancy sign that is to be posted on the door of closed labs or in the bay area of open labs.  We recognize that in some cases labs are spread over multiple rooms, however the maximum occupancy number still reflects the upper limit of staff from a single lab on site at one time.  This occupancy sign will aid in the active monitoring of lab on site numbers and not necessarily specific rooms.   
  • Unpaid volunteers are not be allowed onsite until further notice  
  • No other visitors will be allowed on-site including relatives and children.  Exceptions will be granted for service personnel and vendors.  All service personnel must be accompanied by approved faculty/staff and adhere to physical distancing and PPE guidelines at all times. 
  • No in-person meetings of more than 3 participants are to be conducted until further notice (including lab meetings / seminars / conferences / thesis defences / meetings with external groups/ etc.).  Video or teleconference should continue to be used until further notice. If one-on-one meetings are required (maximum of 3 participants) physical distancing must be respected and face masks worn. 
  • uOttawa restrictions on international travel will remain in place until specifically lifted.

 

LAB PROCEDURE FOR RETURN TO RESEARCH


Starting on Monday November 23rd, each lab can have 45% maximum of their approved staff on-site capacity at any one time with each lab allowed to have up to 90 % of their approved staff on-site over the course of a day.  

If there are no changes in lab’s staffing levels, there is no need for action from the Principal Investigator.  


For the addition of new staff/trainees to their approved list, Principal Investigators must submit to resmed@uOttawa.ca and their basic science chair*: 

  • new staff form 
  • updated September 2020 Emergency plan including phone numbers of new staff
  • signed COVID19 checklist from new staff/trainee 

* Members of the KRC and NRI should also copy Rashmi Kothary and Tammy Troy.


Please remember that all new staff must complete all mandatory and lab-specific training, including the Office of Risk Management’s COVID19 training module.  It is also the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure all their team are aware and compliant with COVID19 Return 2 Research Protocols.


Once your new staff have been on-boarded, the Research Office will provide you with a new NOD outlining your lab’s:

  • Weekly total of # staff allowed on site based on 7 days
  • Maximum total # of staff allowed on site each day
  • Maximum # of staff allowed onsite at any one time

 

ACCESSING RGN 
  • All learners, staff and faculty members going on campus, whether scheduled or on a day pass, are advised to complete the Ontario COVID-19 self-assessment prior to arriving on campus every day. 
  • If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have come into close contact with a confirmed or presumed case of COVID-19, please follow the guidance below: 
  • If you are a graduate student (with campus course(s) or research activities), please: 
    • Immediately go home or stay home
    • Contact your local physician, Ontario Telehealth (or Quebec equivalent) or Complete Public Health Ontario’s self-assessment questionnaire.
    • If instructed to do so, self-isolate and get a COVID-19 test. If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 immediately get a COVID-19 test. If you are asymptomatic (not showing symptoms) and have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, get a test no earlier than 5 days after the initial close contact with a confirmed case. For more information please visit: Ottawa Public Health 
    • If you receive a salary as a TA or RA send an email to HR wellness to report that you have been instructed to self-isolate. 
    • All other students receiving a stipend from their supervisors or receiving an external scholarship should send an email to safety@uottawa.ca.
    • Follow the reporting protocol of the research facility/institution you are working at
    • If mental health counselling is required, please contact SASS 
    • To report your sick leave and for academic accommodations please email Karen Littlejohn
    • Do not return to campus until you have tested negative or completed 14 days of self-isolation and no longer exhibit symptoms

 

  • If you are an undergraduate TMM student (with campus course(s) or research activities), please: 
    • Immediately go home or stay home
    • Contact your local physician, Ontario Telehealth (or Quebec equivalent) or Complete Public Health Ontario’s self-assessment questionnaire.
    • If instructed to do so, self-isolate and get a COVID-19 test. If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 immediately get a COVID-19 test. If you are asymptomatic (not showing symptoms) and have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, get a test no earlier than 5 days after the initial close contact with a confirmed case. For more information please visit: Ottawa Public Health 
    • Email safety@uottawa.ca to advise that you have been instructed to self-isolate
    • Follow the reporting protocol of the research facility/institution that you are working at
    • If mental health counselling is required, please contact SASS 

 

  • If you are an employee (including research staff paid from grants such as PDFs, Research Associates, and Technicians), please: 
    • Immediately go home or stay home
    • Notify your supervisor and the wellness office (hrhealth@uottawa.ca or santerh@uottawa.ca) by email 
    • Follow the Wellness Office instructions, which may include testing at a local assessment centre and self-isolation
    • If you have contacted the wellness office after hours and/or on weekends, you should complete Public Health Ontario’s self-assessment questionnaire and follow its advice which may include testing at a local assessment centre and self-isolation. 
    • Any employee who may have been exposed to, or who is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will not return to campus until they have been cleared to do so by the appropriate medical authority. 

 

  • Researchers/staff/trainees who have been identified by public health authorities as having potentially been exposed to the virus must follow the recommendations of public health and are not to return to work until they have received medical clearance
  • Failure to report COVID-19 symptoms or possible exposure will result in immediate and indefinite removal of access to RGN.  
  • Designated Entry and Exit points must be used.  Entry of research staff into RGN will be by front doors only. 
  • Access to RGN and PMC will be limited to 7am to 9pm. 

 

Physical distancing measures and face mask requirements


Given Ottawa Public Health Guidelines and the physical limitations of our working environment, all research staff on site must follow the outlined requirements:

  • Face masks (surgical or cloth) will be required for all researchers, staff and students. Face masks must be worn in RGN. Wear your mask AND keep 2m physical distancing. It is everyone's responsibility to wear a mask at all times when with others, or in common areas and spaces.  Masks should only be removed when actively eating/drinking, or when alone at your desk or office.
  • All workers on site whenever possible must maintain a minimum of 2m physical distancing.
  • As presently required by Faculty of Medicine health and safety, all researchers working in a lab are required to wear safety glasses and lab coat.  
  • Gloves should continue to be used as required following recommended laboratory safety procedures established pre-COVID-19.  They are to be used in lab facilities as normal but gloves should not be used on door handles or in hallways, except where a one glove policy is required for safe handling of laboratory materials.  In specific common equipment or core facilities, specific policies may be posted.  
  • All lab doors should remain closed at all times to enable the building’s ventilation system to properly balance.  Fume hoods and return air ducts play a vital role in removing airborne contaminants from our labs and workspaces.  It is recommended that researchers on site wash their hands immediately on entering the lab and again prior to leaving.  Handwashing should preferably be done frequently with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. 

 

Elevators
  • The use of elevators continues to be restricted to members of our community with mobility issues and for those transporting equipment and carts.
  • Elevators will have increased maximum capacity limit of 2 and those using elevators must maintain 2m physical distancing.  
  • Failure to adhere to new maximum capacity limits will result in restrictions of access to site.

 

Kitchenettes
  • Microwaves and Fridges in kitchenette areas will be reinstalled/plugged in.
  • Cleaning supplies will be provided in each kitchenette area.  Users of the microwaves, fridges, sinks, kettles etc. must decontaminate any touch surfaces before and after use, e.g., door handles, faucet taps, and microwave controls.
  • To maintain cleanliness of kitchenettes, no dishes/cutlery are to be left piled in sinks, drying racks, or on countertops.  Wash what you use, then put it away or take it home.  We reserve the right to dispose of anything left behind.
  • Physical distancing measures must be adhered to in kitchenette areas at all times. Occupancy numbers will be posted for each kitchenette and must be adhered to. 
  • Minimal amounts of food and beverages can be kept in fridges and all items must be labelled with owner.  They are to be used to store lunches/snacks brought from home and small amounts of milk, beverages.  If the pandemic forces the closure of site again, fridges will immediately be shut down and all items disposed of. 
  • Failure to adhere to break/lunch measures will result in restrictions of access to site.

 

Hallways and Stairs
  • In many areas of the buildings there will be new traffic flow measures that will be clearly marked including:
  • One-way entrances and exits
  • One-way hallways
  • Stairways designated solely for up or down traffic.
  • Failure to follow traffic flow measures will result in restrictions of access to site.

 

Washrooms
  • Guidelines for each washroom are clearly posted and procedures must be followed.

 

RESEARCH SERVICES 

Common Equipment & Technical Services (CETS)

Technical Support, Autoclave & Glassware washing Services
  • Current on-site shift work will be increased to meet research needs while prioritizing safety of staff and users.
  • All requests for technical support must be submitted via email or by phoning our pager number (613-719-0317). 
  • To minimize trips to 4201 (autoclave/glassware washing facility), CETS staff has resumed pickup/delivery of items.  This will extend to delivery of sterilized items and may include scheduled drop-off times for biohazard waste bags in gray bins left behind the elevators on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors.
Common Equipment Areas
  • Signage has been posted outside all common equipment rooms, to indicate how many people can be in the room at one time, and which instruments can be used safely at the same time (>2m apart). 
  • To optimize equipment access while maintaining safe physical distancing, some instruments have been moved. 
  • Booking procedures will be tightly monitored to accommodate the limited work times. Over booking or failure to utilize equipment when booked may result in future limited access to equipment of the user and/or lab. 
  • Decontamination procedures will be clearly marked for each piece of equipment.
 
Core Facilities
  • Please contact the core facility you wish to use to make arrangements for booking and training procedures. COVID19 restrictions may impact operations for some facilities.

 

MedPURCH
  • MedPurch has resumed normal levels and hours of service.

 

Facility Management
  • Medfaci has resume normal hours of service.
  • Requests for new installations, modifications and moves will require justification and will only be reviewed if critical to current activities or for preparation of next reintegration stage.

 

Keeping it clean in labs and office areas


Coronaviruses on surfaces can easily be cleaned with a common household disinfectant. 
Increased cleaning and sanitization frequencies, particularly in high traffic areas and with shared tools and equipment is important.  High traffic areas AND personally used tools, equipment and work areas should be cleaned and sanitized at minimum twice a day.  Shared tools and equipment should be cleaned pre and post use.

  • Housekeeping services within RGN have been modified to reflect the new COVID-19 crisis and emphasis is on wiping down door handles, railings and other highly used surfaces with approved disinfectants.
  • As usual, housekeeping services will not be cleaning lab benches, desks, tables or any research equipment.  
  • PI’s lab specific plans must include a daily plan outlining in detail who is responsible for the decontamination of common surfaces/equipment with 70% Ethanol. It is recommended that labs ensure the decontamination procedure used does not result in damage to research equipment.  These areas/surfaces include, but are not limited to:
    • Equipment such as: incubator handles, BSC/fumehood glass, keyboards, microscopes, centrifuges, etc.
    • Lab benches, pipettes, faucets. 
    • Signage will be posted reminding staff to wipe down areas.
  • It is recommended that research staff refrain from sharing any personal tools and/or equipment

 

Human Resource Considerations
  • No staff, faculty or student should feel compelled or obligated to return to campus and will have the ability to share their concerns with their Faculty, ORM, OVPR, union.
  • Researchers, staff, students who can continue to conduct their research activities off-campus must do so.  Until further notice, the use of faculty or student offices for writing, videoconferencing, analysis, administrative duties, marking etc. is not permitted.  
  • PIs/Supervisor must take into consideration the needs/limitations of lab members with health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19 complications and plan work schedules accordingly. 
  • PIs/Supervisors must schedule personnel required on campus based on maximum occupancies and will retain responsibility for team members under the principle of duty of care.  It is the PIs responsibility to ensure that all COVID-19 guidelines are being respected by team members.
  • When assigning work shifts to researchers/staff, PIs/Supervisors should take into consideration transportation challenges to/from work.  Ideally staff/trainees should take all precautions to decrease COVID-19 exposure, including:
    • Taking private transport to and from RGN, such as personal cars, biking, walking and running.
    • Reduce use of car-pooling and car sharing
    • If public transport is to be used, consult the reduced schedules prior to planning work shifts
  • When scheduling, PI/Supervisors must remain understanding of challenges associated with child or elder care.    

 

Monitoring


In order to ensure the safety of our uOttawa community and their families, all COVID-19 guidelines must be strictly adhered to by all research staff on-site and compliance will be monitored.  All members of the uOttawa community have the right to a safe work environment and anyone can report any real or perceived non-compliance to their supervisor, chair of department, medsafety@uottawa.ca or medfaci@uottawa.ca.

It is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that their team is aware of and compliant with COVID19 Return 2 Research Protocols. Confirmed non-compliance may result in limiting access of individuals or labs to research facilities.
 

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