The emerging COVID-19 outbreak situation is evolving and VUMC guidance for all members of our community may change rapidly.  VUMC specific guidance is being updated regularly and can be found on the VUMC coronavirus webpage: www.vumc.org/coronavirus.  In addition, valuable advice is found on the Tennessee Department of Health website, including latest guidance from the CDC: https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov.html

  • For Vanderbilt employees in research and core labs: If you experience fever, cough or shortness of breath and/or are concerned about exposure to COVID-19, it is recommended that you stay home and call (888) 312-0847 to be assessed. More information is found on the VUMC coronavirus webpage: www.vumc.org/coronavirus/information-vumc-employees-and-patients 
  • Research continues at VUMC into the causes, treatment and prevention of COVID-19.  Learn more about basic/translational, clinical/interventional and population health research now in progress here: www.vumc.org/oor/vumc-covid-19-research-activities

June 8, 2020 Status:  VUMC Research Ramp Up transitions to Phase 2.
Refer to the Updated Guidance for VUMC Research Enterprise Functions section below for more details.

Updated Guidance for VUMC Research Enterprise Functions
Effective June 8, 2020: VUMC research enterprise operations are transitioning to Phase 2 as described in the following guidance:

  • Read the guidelines for phasing in research activities on campus. (distributed May 5, 2020)   
  • Transition to Phase 2 is not an immediate return to business; rather, it is a gradual first-step expansion of research that can be conducted safely with physical distancing and universal COVID-19 precautions. Wet-lab research teams should work with their VUMC Department leadership to stagger the start of research. 
  • Information posted here applies to individual research labs (comprised of trainees, research staff and faculty investigators) and research core facilities. Especially at this time of COVID-19 outbreak, all research lab and core leaders are encouraged to regularly review and update contingency plans for maintaining critical lab operations on site or via remote work from home, based on the specific needs for each lab.  

Reach out to Susan Meyn s.meyn@vumc.org at any time with comments, questions or concerns, and always be sure to monitor VUMC announcements and updates for the latest guidance.

May 13, 2020 Town Hall - Research Enterprise Transition to Phase 1.

This town hall provided guidance on research activities, animal care, biosafety, occupational health, and cores as VUMC transitions to Phase 1. 

5/13/20 Town Hall slide deck (download PDF)

Access the 5/13/20 Town Hall recording on the vDLS website (e-password required)

5/13/20 Town Hall Q&A edited transcript - (download PDF)

 

All lab personnel are encouraged to adopt prudent infection control practices including use of universal precautions.  

Download the VUMC infographic for sharing and posting across your areas.

This CDC poster is a helpful reminder of basic hygiene practices - print and display at lab entrances and benches.

This guide to preventative actions has been prepared by VU Basic Sciences (adapted from Yale and Berkeley websites).

Review the Updated Guidance for VUMC Research Enterprise Functions (May 5, 2020), and make a plan for your lab that meets the phased return to onsite work guidelines:
Read the guidelines for phasing in research activities on campus.

Additional guidance is found on https://www.vumc.org/coronavirus/employees, including:

Also helpful to review the following as appropriate:

First review Updated Guidance for VUMC Research Enterprise Functions (May 5, 2020):
Read the guidelines for phasing in research activities on campus.

Identify critical staff who must remain on site in an emergency, for example to ensure maintenance of cell lines, animals, or certain types of equipment.

For personnel who will remain on site, consider adopting staggered shifts or alternating day working on site or remotely, to allow for appropriate social distancing.  Spread out by using conference rooms, break rooms and lounge areas as office and dry lab space.  Review and apply the guidance found above in the Preventing Infection section.

Determine whether your team can continue to work remotely from home, if needed, including accommodations are needed to enable remote work (e.g. computing equipment, VPN and other software access, internet and/or voice call service).  VUMC IT guidance for technical requirements is found at www.vumc.org/it/vumc-it-guide-working-remotely, also linked from www.vumc.org/coronavirus.

PIs are strongly encouraged to work with their department administration for assistance in implementing work from home plans, to ensure alignment with HR and timekeeping requirements.

VUMC’s summer research programming, whether for non-clinical or clinical educational opportunities, is canceled for the summer and until further notice.  For more information, go to www.vumc.org/coronavirus/latest-news/summer-research-and-educational-programs-canceled-due-covid-19-pandemic or contact vumc.iso@vumc.org with any questions. 

Until further notice, all research experiences in VUMC labs for VU and other undergraduate students, high school students, other research volunteers and interns are suspended. This includes any clinical shadowing component. For questions, contact Medical Center Relations at vumc.iso@vumc.org

VUMC-employed postdocs should take their guidance regarding on-campus or remote work from their VUMC employer. Any questions about a trainee’s responsibilities, especially of those involving research operations, should be directly addressed by the faculty PI/mentor in concert with the departmental chair.

First review Updated Guidance for VUMC Research Enterprise Functions (May 5, 2020):
Read the guidelines for phasing in research activities on campus.

VUMC cores and shared resources will begin gradually ramping up operations to Phase 1 levels through the month of May.

Users of core facilities/shared resources should contact the facility manager in advance to plan for additional core-specific guidance and restrictions.

VEHS Biosafety has prepared an FAQ for cores:  Download the PDF

Cloth masks must be worn in VUMC public areas including research cores/shared facilities, which are considered public areas. 

Cores may:

  • Reduce onsite staffing to ensure physical distancing requirements (> 6ft), which could affect turnaround time
  • Prioritize COVID-19 related projects as needed related to staffing and capacity constraints
  • Require documentation of Biosafety Officer approval from core users before accepting new projects/samples
  • Restrict user access to core lab or equipment, wholly or in part
  • Require users to sanitize equipment and workstations before/after use
  • Require users to supply their own PPE and adhere to other biosafety requirements as applicable
  • Temporarily suspend services in response to supply shortages or other capacity constraints

Vanderbilt Environmental Health and Safety (VEHS) Biosafety has issued specific guidance for researchers planning to work with COVID-19 clinical specimens or SARS-CoV-2 associated materials. Importantly, researchers must work with VEHS Biosafety on a risk assessment before finalizing research plans or submitting a grant proposal. 

Visit the VEHS Biosafety website to learn more and submit an intake form for research with COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 materials, and to review the COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 material biosafety action grid to determine actions that will likely apply to your research plans. 

Contact Robin Trundy or Bettye Ridley for assistance or more information. 

Monitor the ACUP COVID-19 Response website for updates and status for animal facilities.

Confirm procedures for rapid shutdown of equipment, securing and storage of valuable samples, reagents and supplies. 

Considerations: Are computer workstations and data back-ups secured?  Are there automated processes that can continue with remote monitoring? 

If equipment cannot be shut down immediately or for a longer time, put procedures in place for remote monitoring or limited onsite supervision as needed, including freezers and cold rooms.

Review guidance regarding critical supplies in Updated Guidance for VUMC Research Enterprise Functions (May 5, 2020):
Read the guidelines for phasing in research activities on campus.

Researchers are encouraged to purchase supplies for their own labs via eProcurement as possible.

The following sanitizing supplies have been available from Fisher:

  • Item# 50371500:  Essendant CLOROX GERMICIDAL 8.25 121OZ (case of 3)

  • Item# 23-100-145: PDI™ Sani-Cloth™ Bleach Germicidal Disposable Wipes (1 PK)

  • Item# 06-665-24: Fisherbrand™ Clean-Wipes™ (each)

  • Item# 435553: BACDOWNGEL HAND SANITIZER 16OZ (case of 12)

Sources of cloth face masks are somewhat atypical.  The following companies have been used by VUMC labs:

 

At this time, delivery companies, vendors and instrument service engineers are allowed on site for essential, non-sales related, purposes. Visitors will be asked pre-questions, be temperature screened and given a sticker/badge noting they have been authorized to be on site. If the visitor is bringing equipment, it is recommended they enter at the main VUMC dock. If carrying a gear bag, they can enter through the PRB Cancer Center main entrance (facing the Children's Hospital). Screening stations are at both locations. 

Before scheduling service visits, lab personnel are encouraged to check for updated guidance on visitor policies on the VUMC COVID-19 information site: https://www.vumc.org/coronavirus/information-vumc-employees-and-patients 

In response to the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation, NIH recently published a number of resources related to policy modifications and administrative flexibilities for funding applicants and recipients. OSP has assembled a list of these resources on its blog, available here.

For questions or concerns, please reach out to your OSP specialist or directly contact Clint Brown by cell at 615-414-1473.

In case of delayed grant submission due to self-isolation, quarantine or sickness, you are strongly encouraged to discuss your specific situation with your agency Program Official and VUMC OSP administrator. More information on sponsor-specific policies for disasters and emergencies:  

Sick leave and other paid absences that are permitted under VUMC policy may be charged to a grant, per VUMC indirect cost rate agreement with the federal government.

If the PI or Key Personnel named in an award will be absent from the project for greater than 90 days, Federal agencies require notification. While this is not expected, be mindful of this prior approval requirement and notify OSP sponsoredprograms@vumc.org for guidance.

VICTR has provided a set of FAQs containing information about COVID-19 as it relates to the conduct of clinical investigation, operations, and sponsored projects.  Learn more here.

Updated guidance from the Human Research Protection Program is found here: www.vumc.org/irb/covid-19-updates-research

The Vanderbilt Center for Immunobiology has set up a Slack workspace for researchers to connect and share virtual expertise. Research Matching serves as a communication and networking platform for researchers, to help connect need with expertise.

To join this virtual matchmaking network:

1) Click here to join the "Research Matching" workspace. Slack will verify your email address. If you do not have a Slack account you will be prompted to create one. If you do have a Slack account please log in as usual. 

2) Type "researchmatching" into the workspace box.

3) You will be in the "general" public channel and will have access to the "needsomeonewho" channel to see how you can assist or post.

For questions, contact Summer Brown at summer.brown@vumc.org