Phase I of Research Resumption

Published by David B. Roth, MD, PhD, on May 29, 2020

May 29 Update: From the Chair

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

In case you missed the virtual town hall meeting with our CEO and UPHS leadership last week, you can watch it at this link here (PennKey required). If there is one important take-away message from the meeting, it is that we will get through this together.

One significant step toward our new normal will be the initiation of Phase I of Research Resumption, which has been targeted for Monday, June 1. The process is evolving, but the safety of our entire community – our health care providers, our staff, our faculty, our students, our trainees, and our patients – remains our highest priority. The Executive Vice Dean for Research/Chief Scientific Officer has put together the critical guidelines for the safe return to campus (PDF). In doing so, we must abide by applicable regulations. I want to reiterate that the policy states: "We will resume research on campus in alignment with University policy and guidance, recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and mandates from other relevant Federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the City of Philadelphia."

Of particular importance, there are some key items that require your attention before a return to campus:

  • Completion of a Resumption of Research Training for Lab Personnel developed by Environmental Health and Radiation Safety (EHRS).

  • For Principal Investigators (PIs) with wet laboratory space, submission of an individual lab resumption plan. (A personalized link to this plan was sent to all PIs with wet laboratory programs). NOTE: A copy of this completed form should be sent to Warren Pear, Vice Chair for Research (, as this is currently not happening automatically.

  • Upon approval of the lab resumption plan by the department chair and/or center/institute director, the PI or Lab Safety Coordinator must complete the Resumption of Research Notification webform on the EHRS website.

  • For graduate students and postdocs, an opt-in process for the voluntary return to campus was communicated directly to those individuals on May 27. Opt-in is voluntary during Phase 1 & 2.

  • For anyone entering any of our buildings via the four consolidated entrance points, there will be an expectation and understanding that each person entering will attest to the following prior to arrival to campus each day: that you are symptom-free (including self-administered temperature check), consent to the opt-in health policy, and agree to comply with all safety measures on and between campuses, both inside and outside buildings.

  • Entrance to PSOM facilities will be limited to the Biomedical Research Building, Johnson Pavilion, Stellar-Chance, and Smilow. Controlled access readers at all other building entrances will be disabled, and these locations are to be used for exit only. You should not hold or prop open exterior doors for any other person. 24/7 access is available at Johnson Pavilion and the HUP main entrance.

  • Please remember (and remind the members of your laboratory) to wear masks at all times when you are in the research areas, unless you are the only person in a private office with the door closed. The other exception is in the areas pre-designated for eating (these areas likely are a higher risk for transmission and alternatives - such as eating outside or before/after work - should be considered).

Here are the six basic principles to emphasize and re-emphasize to all of your lab members:

1.  Masks, worn properly covering mouth and nose, at all times in the lab. (Only exception is eating in the break room, which should be discouraged).

2.  Maintain 6 ft. social distancing at all times.

3.  20% occupancy at any time during Phase 1.

4.  Wash hands frequently.

5.  Emphasize and require the use of a lab-based Google calendar for login and out.

6.  If they need to eat, emphasize that it's best to avoid common areas and instead to go outside or to a larger space.

I want to commend our Department faculty for their agile, flexible, and inventive ways in which they have incorporated COVID-related work into their ongoing research efforts. By my quick estimation, there are 21 faculty members who are doing COVID-related research right now. In addition, four are working on test development, eight faculty are working on therapeutics (six of those are PIs), 12 have applied for COVID-related grants or supplements, and five are actively involved in clinical trials (of which two are run by PIs on our Department faculty).

Finally, another reminder (in the spirit of re-emphasis): All individuals entering Penn Medicine facilities are required to wear a face covering or medical mask.

Many of you have been pushed outside of your comfort zones. Others have been making heroic efforts on behalf of others. Be sure to spend some time taking care of yourselves. If you don't take care of yourself, sooner or later you may not be able to take care of someone else.

David Roth

David B. Roth, MD, PhD, is the Simon Flexner Professor and Chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these blog columns are those of the authors or other attributed individuals and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Department, Penn Medicine, or the University of Pennsylvania. Health information is provided for educational purposes and should not be used as a source of medical advice or diagnosis.