CALS guidance on new allowable research lab square footage spacing limits

This message was sent to chairs and center directors on 3/25/2021 by Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs Bill Barker.

As you may know, on  March 24, 2021 Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education Steve Ackerman announced a new and smaller limit for minimum allowable square footage per employee working in indoor environments (please see his email below).  Campus research continuance policy now allows for density plans incorporating a 113 square feet per person space allotment in labs (a radius of 6-feet of separation).

Please understand that your unit is under no obligation to increase the density in your indoor research areas should you feel uncomfortable in doing so.  With adequate and robust testing, increasing vaccinations, and the technology afforded by the Safer Badger app, increases in density might well be warranted, but please recall the dual threats to human health posed by the novel coronavirus variants of concern (two of which are  known to be circulating in Dane County), as well as the unknowns associated with asymptomatic transmission by vaccinated individuals.  I will support you in your decisions, either way.

While CALS PIs are no longer required to submit or update OVCRGE research reboot forms, please continue to require faculty in your departments to keep their COOP plans current and work through your departmental approval process for any changes in research continuance plans.

CALS PIs must continue to inform CALS HR of new employees so they  can centrally track who is approved to work on site and assist with the hiring process.

Original message from Vice Chancellor Ackerman:

Dear Colleagues,

In response to COVID-19, campus leadership previously decided that campus research spaces should be staffed to maintain a density of one person per 200 square feet of research space (or one person per room for rooms less than 400 square feet) to help maintain the required physical distancing.

Based on recent CDC recommendations, changes to campus gatherings policies, abundant testing and implementation of the Safer Badger Badge, and increased vaccinations, we are revising the spacing requirement in labs to 113 square feet per person (a radius of 6-feet of separation). This change is effective immediately.

Researchers should continue to limit the length of time spent working in shared spaces. All participants must follow current campus safety protocols including following the prescribed testing frequency, maintaining a green badge for building access, wearing face coverings and gloves and maintaining the required physical distance while working in the lab. Depending on the research activity, surgical masks or other type of respiratory protection may be more appropriate than cloth face coverings.  Lab coats and face shields may also be required.

Individual units may implement additional guidelines for conducting in-person work while minimizing the risk of virus transmission. This may include considerations due to the layout of research spaces, HVAC systems and the specifics of individual research protocols.

Thank you very much for your work in helping campus combat COVID-19 and stave off transmission in our campus and extended communities.

Steve Ackerman, Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education