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May 21, 2020
Over the past few weeks, we have developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to guide faculty, staff, and trainees through key considerations for ramping up research and scholarly activities at the University of Miami. The primary purpose of this SOP is to model a gradual return to on-campus research and creative endeavors while accounting for the continued threat of COVID-19 to our operations.

Our first priority must remain public health. A rush to re-populate our studios, laboratories, and other work spaces may lead to new COVID-19 infections with significant implications for the health and well-being of our University and broader South Florida communities. Therefore, we will resume “non-critical” research and scholarly activity in phases that align with the re-opening of other parts of the University and reflect guidance from federal, state, and local government and/or public health authorities.

The SOP is organized around four key principles: 1) Low population density in our buildings and on our campuses; 2) Physical distancing; 3) Personal safety; and 4) Environmental hygiene. These principles reflect known, evidence-based approaches for reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection. Together with increased access to testing for University employees with COVID-19 symptoms and ongoing contact tracing, these principles, if adhered to completely and consistently, can keep us as safe and healthy as possible during this uncertain time. However, please note, ramping-up of research and scholarly activity is always reversible. Even with full University-wide compliance to SOP guidelines, we must be prepared to return to a lower level of work at any point, given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We understand that during this ramp-up some employees may feel unsure or uncomfortable returning to on-site work. Employees with these or other concerns should consult with their Human Resources partners; graduate students should contact Dean Willy Prado (Office of Graduate Studies). Undergraduate (non-medical student) researchers will not be allowed in any laboratories/studies/workspaces during this time (i.e., while residence halls are not operating).

SOP Overview

The SOP is a living document and will be revised to account for new knowledge about COVID-19 and/or strategies to further reduce disease risk. The current SOP is designed for use in faculty/unit planning, and provides easy-to-implement guidelines for the first phase of ramp-up. It can be accessed here. Using the online smart form, each faculty member can tailor the SOP to match the needs of their own program of research/scholarship. We have also created a slide deck that covers the key principles of the SOP and can be easily used by faculty to instruct their team members about the expectations for this phase of ramp-up. The slide deck can be accessed here.

Phases of Ramp-Up

As specified by the SOP, Phase I enables non-critical research and scholarly activities to resume on campus at a measured pace to keep population density low. Work that can be performed remotely should be, and any on-campus activity should be limited to that requiring key resources or equipment not otherwise accessible. Each faculty member with an independent program of study or creative endeavor should plan for a personnel density no greater than 1 person/200 sq. ft. We anticipate that this limited and incremental increase in activity in University laboratories/studios/workspaces will result in hundreds of new people on our campuses each day. This increase in the personnel density of our buildings, hallways, elevators, equipment rooms, and other shared spaces raises the possibility of new infections, underscoring the importance of adhering to the key steps outlined in the SOP. Phase I will commence no earlier than June 1, 2020. Formal notification of the actual start date will be communicated before then. A second phase of increased density will be considered at a later date, based on the local prevalence of COVID-19 infection, as well as our collective ability to achieve the SOP’s established guidelines.
Jeffrey L. Duerk, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
John L. Bixby, Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Research
Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., MPH
Co-Vice Provost for Research
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