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SCU COVID-19 Research Resumption Plan

In October 2020 we advanced to Stage 3 of SCU's Resumption Plan which allowed for the safe expansion of research activities, including more faculty and students returning to our laboratories.  The December 3, 2020 regional Stay at Home Order has required us to temporarily scale back most on-campus research activity.  We anticipate our research activity resuming to Stage 3 levels upon cessation of the Stay at Home Order. Read the Research Resumption Stage 3 Impact Report.


All Research Personnel who require the use of on-campus space and resources to conduct their research including laboratory and studio spaces, library access or other campus space. Research personnel include faculty, post docs, staff, undergraduate and graduate research students.


With safety as our guiding principle, SCU will begin a phased return to campus which strives to protect all members of our campus community.  During each stage of increased on-campus activities, new populations will be cleared for re-occupancy and new campus buildings and areas will be opened.  Progression to a higher stage of return will be contingent on the successful completion of the previous stage.

Our ability to gradually and sustainably return to full on-campus activities will depend on the discipline and dedication of everyone remaining committed to social distancing and adherence to all COVID-19 safety protocols.

State and County public health orders require us to comply with their provisions to slow the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the impact on the delivery of critical healthcare services. SCU has aligned its COVID-19 Research Resumption Plan with these requirements as well as those from CDC, Cal/OSHA and other recognized authorities.

SCU has set the following expectations for all faculty, staff and students to abide by:

✓ Complete daily symptom screenings
✓ Do not come to campus if you are sick or experiencing any COVID-19  symptoms
✓ Report positive COVID-19 test results at 408-554-5100, regardless of location
✓ Participate in SCU’s COVID-19 testing and contact tracing program
✓  Limit campus activities only those that are essential
✓ Wear face coverings at all times while on-campus - whether indoors, outdoors, alone or when with others

  • Face coverings do not eliminate the need to follow social distancing (6-feet minimum); wearing face coverings and social distancing must be done in tandem

✓ Practice social distancing (6-feet) minimum at all times - indoors and outdoors
✓ Wash or sanitize hands frequently throughout the day
✓ Practice responsible sneeze and cough hygiene
✓ Adhere to SCU’s campus phased return schedule and process for gaining campus access

By returning to campus, you are agreeing to comply with all SCU COVID-19 safety protocols.


SCU’s research resumption strategy aligns itself with the larger campus return schedule which emphasizes a reduced campus population for some extended period of time, gradually increasing the level of activity and density of our research spaces over four Research Resumption (RR) Stages (RR Stages 1-4).

The goal of our Research Resumption Plan is to enable a prioritized, gradual and sustainable resumption of on-campus research activity while maintaining adherence to local and state public health guidance and SCU’s COVID-19 Protection Plan.  This approach also accounts for the possibility of future shelter-in-place orders being enacted at any time. Consistent with SCU's gradual, phased campus return strategy, a continued emphasis on remote research work should continue as much as possible. All research that can be done remotely should continue to be performed in this manner, including most general office activities, computational, theoretical and non-experimental research, seminars, group meetings, etc. The initial stages of return are intended to focus on, and in support of, those research activities that require an on-campus presence.

While social distancing and low occupancy are critical components of our Research Resumption Plan, all existing laboratory safety policies, including working alone provisions, must be adhered to. Under no circumstances can personal safety be sacrificed and existing policies ignored due to the unique work environment implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Additionally, a lack of cleaning and disinfecting supplies, face coverings and other PPE, etc. are not an excuse to disregard the COVID-19 protection protocols.

Research faculty are responsible for ensuring full implementation and adherence to all COVID-19 protection protocols in their laboratories and studios and other campus spaces. All research personnel are expected to fully comply with the policies, protocols and guidelines outlined in this document as well as SCU’s COVID-19 Protection Plan requirements. Failure to do so will result in loss of research space access privileges and/or laboratory closures.

SCU’s Research Resumption Plan will prioritize a return to occupancy of on-campus experimental research labs, studios and other areas that require an on-campus presence to perform research.  While this Plan provides details for more traditional laboratory environments, the same basic protection protocols apply to any on-campus research space and will need to be tailored to those unique environments.  Field researchers should also apply the basic parameters of this Plan to their activities, customizing them accordingly, and abiding by any public health travel restrictions for local and destination areas.  Library access is available to all research personnel predicated on the Library's open status.

A number of research projects have successfully and safely transitioned to being fully remote (e.g. computational, theoretical and non-experimental research), requiring infrequent or no access to SCU spaces.  While equally important, they are not considered for return to campus during Research Resumption (RR) Stages 2 and 3. These forms of research are asked to continue operating remotely until RR Stage 4. RR Stage 2 served as our pilot expansion phase allowing us to refine our return resumption protocols as we move forward towards a full return (RR Stage 4).  As of October 19, 2020 we will transition to RR Stage 3.


Essential - Ramp Down (shelter-in-place)

Prioritized Pilot Ramp Up Lab Research Activity (less than 25% of research population on-campus at any given time)

Ramp Up Expansion Lab Research Activity (less than 50% of research population on-campus at any given time)

Full Resumption Per TBD “New Normal”

Because the possibility remains that new shelter-in-place orders could be enacted at any time, certain forms of research such as animal, plant and microbial growth studies should consider the ramifications to their resumption if a rapid ramp-down of research activities were required.

Each department will set the priorities for those on-campus research elements that they will request resumption of during RR Stages 2 and 3. Departments should lay out criteria for research faculty return to their laboratory or studio spaces, in the event that the occupancy restrictions in RR Stages 2 and 3 do not permit every faculty member to do so.

While departments are free to develop their own criteria for prioritizing research activity, the following is an example:

  1. Junior tenure-track faculty
    No further rankings or criteria will be used for faculty members at this stage, as allowing them access to their research spaces will be the top priority.
  2. Faculty with active external funding
    It is important that faculty carrying out externally funded work be allowed to resume research activities as soon as possible, as research progress is essential for generating publications and being competitive for grant renewals.
  3. Faculty who are nearing completion of a research component that would lead to a peer-reviewed publication or external grant application
    Although it is expected that this applies to the majority of faculty allocated a research space, those that can make a compelling case for their research program being at a vital stage would receive priority over faculty whose research programs are not at this stage.

To be allowed to resume on-campus research, each research faculty member must complete and submit for approval a COVID-19 Research Resumption Plan (RRP) as outlined in Appendix A. Research faculty that share research space with others should coordinate their RRPs accordingly.  Departments will submit RRPs to their respective school or college Dean for review and approval.

When evaluating RRPs, Departments and Deans are responsible for ensuring that combined research population occupancies do not exceed the limits for RR 2 and 3. Once approved, Departments and Deans are responsible for monitoring compliance with RRP implementation.

To be considered for approval, RRPs must provide details on the following to demonstrate compliance with SCU COVID-19 protection protocols:

  1. Space(s) seeking access to
  2. Personnel seeking access for each space
  3. Occupancy and distancing protocols for each space
  4. Space access schedule
  5. Personnel work shift schedule
  6. Face covering and PPE protocol
  7. Symptom checking protocol
  8. Space activity access tracking protocol
  9. Disinfecting protocol
  10. Training plan
  11. Ramp down plan

Research faculty are responsible for ensuring full implementation of their RRPs and adherence to all SCU COVID-19 protection protocols within their laboratories and among their personnel. Responsibility for RRP oversight and implementation cannot be delegated.


RR Stages 2 and 3 will emphasize a reduced campus research population in order to promote social distancing, limit close contact exposures and to avoid overtaxing campus services necessary to support laboratory activities while the majority of other campus activities continue remotely.  Even if approved to resume on-campus research activities under RR Stages 2 and 3, research faculty should continue to emphasize remote work wherever possible. 

RR Stages 2 and 3 will limit on-campus research personnel at any given time to 25% and 50% of normal, respectively.

Eligible personnel for RR Stage 2 include: 

✓ Laboratory based research faculty
✓ Laboratory based postdocs
✓ Laboratory support staff and research technicians
✓ Laboratory visiting scholars


Effective October 19, 2020, SCU will transition to RR Stage 3, allowing for an increase in the total number of research personnel allowed on campus in an already approved open research building where a compelling need to do so can be demonstrated.  Graduate and undergraduate student return to research laboratories can proceed following the RR Stage 3 research population and laboratory density restrictions. 

Revised RRPs must be submitted with updated floorplans and lab occupancy schedules that demonstrate compliance with the new laboratory density limits for RR Stage 3.

An emphasis on remote research remains in RR Stage 3 and on-campus research activity should be confined to that which can only be accomplished on-campus.  On campus research activity should be confined to SCU personnel.  Requests to increase individual laboratory occupant densities must be based on a demonstrated need for higher densities to advance research which can only be conducted on-campus.

Eligible personnel for RR Stage 3 include:

Those approved for RR Stage 2 with an increase to 50%

Note: The maximum allowable number of people in our buildings is restricted by the 250 gross square feet per person requirement per Santa Clara County, which must also be enforced.  Most of our research buildings are well under this limit but research resumption occupancies could be restricted beyond RR Stage 3 density restrictions to comply with the County order. 

Laboratory graduate and undergraduate students that actively participate in SCU’s COVID-19 testing program

Upon receiving approval by their respective school/college for resumption under RR Stage 2 or 3, implementation and adherence to research population density restrictions is best managed and monitored at the building level.  For example, in a given building under RR Stage 3, 100% of a building’s approved research laboratories could be active at 50% of normal occupancy or 50% of a building’s approved research laboratories. could be active at 100% of normal capacity, provided Social Distancing Protocols are followed (see next section).

Note: The in-lab occupancy density restrictions listed below for RR Stages 2 and 3 will likely prohibit normal lab occupancies in many research spaces until RR Stage 4.

 Research Resumption Stages Chart

Upon approval for resumption under RR Stages 2 and 3, research faculty are responsible for ensuring only those who actually need access to the lab, and are approved as part of a given lab's RRP, occupy their laboratory space(s).

Accommodation for visitors who are essential for the conduct of research (e.g. instrument repair technicians) must be approved and their visit coordinated by the building’s respective Laboratory Manager or Director of Laboratory Operations. Research faculty are responsible for ensuring essential visitors within their laboratory spaces adhere to all SCU COVID-19 protection protocols.


Laboratory Protection Protocols – Effective October 19, 2020

In order to promote social distancing, limit close-contact exposures and maintain reduced building occupancies during RR Stage 3, in-lab occupancy densities will be confined to the limits below and reinforced with the following practices.  Each laboratory RRP will outline the specific details of how the research faculty member will apply and adhere to these limits and practices. These distancing protocols must be followed on top of the defined research population allowed for RR Stage 3.

  • One laboratory occupant per 125 sq. ft of lab space
    • PIs must submit a revised laboratory floorplan with their desired new occupant densities prior to any increase in personnel being approved. Increased laboratory densities must be approved by the Dean’s Office.
    • Dean’s Office is responsible for verifying the density limits of each space based on floorplans submitted by PIs. PIs are responsible for enforcing compliance with laboratory occupancy limits. 
  • No more than one person in rooms less than 125 sq. ft at any time
    • No more than two people in rooms less than 250 sq. ft at any time
  • Minimum of 6 feet of bench space between occupants
    • 6 feet is the minimum bench space separation distance
    • Ideally one person per lab bench and not working directly across from each other
    • Use tape or signs to mark out separation space between workstations
    • Consider rearranging workstations and equipment to create distance separations
  • 6 feet separation maintained at all times during movement throughout the lab
    • Consider developing one-way traffic patterns in the lab to minimize close contact interactions, particular in narrow aisles
    • Research faculty must identify in their COVID-19 Lab Resumption Activation Plan any tasks/operations that prohibit adherence to social distancing requirements, such as moving heavy equipment, animal surgeries, etc.
  • Posted occupancy limits outside of each approved research space must be revised for approved increases in laboratory occupant densities
  • Access logs tracking the times of entry and departure of all lab occupants for a given lab space must be maintained and posted at the lab entrance.  These will allow for contract tracing should lab personnel test positive for COVID-19 or require quarantine.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting of lab surfaces conducted between each lab shift
    • A detailed cleaning and disinfection plan indicating all high touch contact surfaces must be submitted as part of each research faculty members RRP
  • If the number of individuals approved for return to a lab space under RR Stage 3 would exceed the allowable lab density limits for a given work shift, the research faculty member will be required to create a rotating shift schedule that is posted at the entrance to each approved research space, as described in their approved RRP.
    • Examples of approaches to establishing rotating shifts, could include:
      • Divide the day into two shifts – each lab occupant assigned an AM or PM shift
      • Divide the week into shifts – each lab occupant assigned set days per week
      • Minimize rotating individuals among shifts to reduce the number of unique direct contacts.
      • Allow adequate time between shifts to conduct cleaning and disinfecting of laboratory surfaces
      • Allow for at least 15-minute buffers between shifts to avoid contact of individuals during transition.
  • Gatherings, including group meetings and even one-on-one discussions should continue to occur virtually, even when on-campus, whenever possible
  • Limit in-lab research time to only the amount necessary and continue a remote research emphasis wherever possible
  • Face coverings required at all times 

Shared Research Spaces

Shared Research Labs 

Research faculty who share their primary research laboratory with other faculty must coordinate their RRPs accordingly.  An emphasis should be placed on consistency among safety protocols and a robust laboratory-wide scheduling system to ensure in-lab occupancy densities are not exceeded.  Access logs must be maintained and posted outside of shared research labs. 

Laboratory Support Spaces and Core Facilities

Laboratory support spaces and core facilities such as the vivarium, CNS, tissue culture/freezer/incubator/instrument rooms, etc. are spaces where several research personnel may routinely visit or interact with others in the same space that may not be under their sole control.  Each research faculty must identify the space(s) they need access to not under their direct control and coordinate their RRPs accordingly with other occupants and the corresponding Laboratory Manager or Director of Laboratory Operations. Schedules for use of these shared spaces are best coordinated at the building level. Access logs must be maintained and posted outside of these shared spaces.


The laboratory area should be disinfected at the beginning and end of every shift. Items to disinfect include high contact surfaces such as doorknobs, exposed surfaces, light switches, keyboards, microscopes, shared equipment, desk and bench surfaces and any other high contact surfaces.  SCU Facilities will supply some disinfecting materials to Lab Managers and Lab Operations Directors for distribution to laboratories.  These supplies should supplement existing building and department disinfecting materials already in-use as part of their routine laboratory disinfecting protocols. Disinfecting agents should be  EPA registered with an emerging viral pathogens claim.  Isopropyl alcohol (70%) is also an effective disinfecting agent.

Research faculty are responsible for ensuring their laboratory spaces are adequately supplied with disinfecting materials and that disinfecting protocols, as described in their RRP, are strictly adhered to. Research faculty are responsible for ensuring their research staff are trained on lab specific disinfecting protocols, per their RRP.


Early identification of cases and their close contacts is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19 to SCU and the surrounding community.  As required by State and Santa Clara County public health directives, SCU is implementing a strategy for conducting COVID-19 symptom checks, testing and contact tracing for faculty, staff and students aimed at identifying early cases and quarantining close contacts. Research personnel are expected to participate in SCU’s COVID-19 symptom checking, testing and tracing program.


Testing is required of all laboratory research personnel prior to approval to resume on-campus research activities.  Laboratory personnel are also responsible for participating in any ongoing testing protocols established by SCU.  PIs and Dean’s are responsible for ensuring their approved research populations have been tested.  Positive test results obtained from an external health care provider must be reported to SCU by calling 408-554-5100. 

Symptom Screening

Santa Clara County public health orders require that all research personnel entering our facilities be screened for COVID-19  symptoms at the start of their shift. It is preferred that personnel perform their symptom check prior to coming to campus rather than upon arrival to campus. Research faculty are responsible for ensuring that symptom screening protocols developed by SCU are adhered to by their personnel. 

Symptoms employees are required to monitor for, per the CDC, include the following:

➢ Cough
➢ Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
➢ Fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
➢ Chills
➢ Muscle pain
➢ Sore throat
➢ New loss of taste or smell 

If anyone in your lab experiences COVID-19 symptoms, they should remain home. If they are already on campus, they should go home. Per Santa Clara County public health directives, they must be tested and self-isolate at home until the results of the test are available. SCU's COVID-19 Protection Plan provides additional details about symptom reporting.

If they test negative for COVID-19, they may discontinue isolation and return to campus when symptoms have resolved.

Research Interruption

Research faculty should prepare for the potential interruptions to research activities that may result from self-quarantine implementation or prolonged illness to research staff.

Research faculty should also prepare for the possibility of temporary laboratory and building wide closures to allow for enhanced disinfection of areas where confirmed cases of COVID-19 have occupied them. These closures could last several days. 

Adherence to maintaining accurate and thorough room activity logs can help lessen the impact of these shutdowns by limiting the number of spaces that require enhanced disinfection to only those occupied by a known case and allows for targeted contact tracing.


All returning members of the SCU campus community are required by Santa Clara County public health orders and SCU’s COVID-19 Protection Plan to be trained on our campus and local area protection protocols.  SCU will provide a general COVID-19 awareness training module for all campus occupants to complete.  Research faculty are responsible for ensuring all their research staff have completed this training.  Research faculty are also responsible for training their research staff on each lab’s RRP. Completion of training is an acknowledgement that all research personnel will comply with SCU’s COVID-19 protection protocols and lab specific RRP.


RESEARCH RESUMPTION PLAN (RRP) - Updated October 19, 2020

RRPs should be considered an extension of existing laboratory safety plans and protocols. Research faculty are responsible for ensuring all research staff working under their approved RRP, have been trained, understand and adhere to all elements in it. RRPs should be submitted by the research faculty to their respective Department Chair for prioritization and forwarding to each school/college Dean for approval.

Provide the following details in your RRP to be considered for return in RR Stage 3 or expansion of an existing RRP for revised RR Stage 3 laboratory occupant densities:

  1. Rationale for request to resume on-campus lab research activities
    • For new RRPs, explain why your on-campus research work should be prioritized for RR Stage 3
    • For existing approved RRPs, demonstrate the need that higher laboratory occupant densities are necessary to advance research
    • For both new RRPs and revisions to existing RRPs, describe the specific research that can continue to be conducted remotely
  2. Faculty Researcher Information - Name and Department
  3. Space(s) involved in this request
    • Space(s) managed exclusively by you and for which you will be requesting access to:
      • Lab space 1, Lab space 2, etc. (building and room)
    • Shared space(s) managed with additional research faculty for whom you will be requesting access to:
      • Shared lab space 1, Shared Lab Space 2, etc. (building and Room)
        • Name(s) of additional research faculty each space is shared with
    • Laboratory support, core facilities and instrumentation outside of the above listed lab spaces you will be requesting access to:
      • Lab support/core facilities space 1, space 2, etc. (building and room)
      • Name(s) of laboratory support staff (Lab Managers in SOE, Director of Lab Operations in CAS) you have coordinated access and schedules with
  4. People you are requesting access for
    • Information of all research personnel you are requesting access approval for
      • Only request access for personnel in the approved categories for RR Stage 3
  5. Social distancing plan for each lab space managed or shared by you with other research faculty - see Social Distancing section for provisions
    • Provide a layout of the lab space (with square footage) and establish the maximum lab occupancy limit
      • Show gross dimensions of lab benches, aisle widths, desks and workstations that show available space for work and foot traffic
        • Note: SCU EHS can provide you with lab floor plans and square footages if necessary
    • Identify designated work locations for all lab personnel you are seeking access for, ensuring occupancy limits and space separation provisions can be met during each shift when multiple lab occupants are present
    • Provide a foot traffic plan to indicate how lab personnel will move around the lab while maintaining distancing requirements
    • Provide an initial weekly laboratory schedule for all members you are requesting access for, indicating work shifts as necessary
      • Schedules must ensure each space(s) maximum occupancy limit is not exceeded at any time and that distance separation requirements are met
      • Provide schedule for spaces managed by you exclusively
      • Provide schedule for spaces managed with additional research faculty
        • Schedules must be coordinated with all research faculty space is shared with
      • Provide schedule for lab support/core facilities
        • Schedules must be coordinated with Lab Manager/Director Lab Operations
    • Labs and facilities at SCU
  6. Describe laboratory disinfection protocols per the Disinfection Protocol section
  7. Describe laboratory health screening protocols per the Health Monitoring section
  8. Describe daily room activity use tracking process - each room must have an activity tracking log posted
    • Access Log Research Resumption Plan
  9. Describe face covering and PPE protocols
    • SCU requires the wearing of face coverings, face coverings are not laboratory PPE and existing lab PPE requirements must be maintained in addition to face covering requirements
  10. Describe the laboratory training plan per the Training section
  11. Describe the lab ramp down plan to account for potential operational interruption due to additional shelter-in-place orders, lab personnel illness and quarantine, lab closure due to enhanced disinfection