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COVID-19 SOPs, Guidelines and Checklists

FASER lab member Liam Chapin has helped coordinate efforts to 3D print and laser cut face shields. Photo: Peter Means for Virginia Tech.
FASER lab member Liam Chapin has helped coordinate efforts to 3D print and laser cut face shields. Photo: Peter Means for Virginia Tech.

Updated: April 1, 2020 at 11:51 a.m.

Standard Operating Procedures



Virginia Tech Research Preparation Guidelines

Updated: 03/24/2020

Virginia Tech Research Preparation Guidelines (PDF - Download)

Review and implement the following guidance in planning and conducting your research activities:

  1. Virginia Tech research is continuing, but all activities should be functioning differently to maximize physical distancing or stay at home practices. All faculty, staff, post docs, graduate students, and undergraduate students should work with their supervisor to take the following steps:
    • All research and scholarship activities that can be conducted by teleworking, should be conducted off-campus. 
    • Any activity that requires access to campus facilities should be modified to follow CDC social distancing or stay at home recommendations while maintaining safe practices.
    • Research involving in-person human subject studies must be paused immediately to reduce the risk of exposure to both participants and researchers. 
    • Research administration services that support researchers remain available through phone, email, and video methods.
    • Follow tips to stay healthy, including frequent handwashing and surface sanitization:
      • Stay home if you are sick.
      • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
      • Wipe down frequently used touch surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
      • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
      • Avoid crowded areas.
      • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
      • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  2. All researchers should immediately develop contingency plans to prepare for curtailing all but the most essential on-campus activities. Your plan should address:
    • How research might be altered or slowed to prepare for a reduction in personnel or operations, and what you would do if the work had to be placed on hold with short notice.
    • What steps would be required to prepare for an extended period without personnel available to care for and support sensitive equipment, facilities, and animals. 
    • How you might structure your group’s work to maximize productivity at a remote location through computational or theoretical work; paper and publications; and other planning activities.
    • How to cross-train employees to avoid single points of failure for critical tasks and conduct training remotely.
    • How you will connect with your department leadership and IT staff to let them know if you and your team have capabilities to meet virtually and maintain effective communication in the possibility that the impacts on operations will be long-term.
  3. Researchers should work with their department chairs, research center and institute directors, and associate deans for research to determine whether their research activities should:
    • Continue through telework arrangements; 
    • Be modified to conduct minimal on-campus or field/farm-based research while maximizing social distancing and reducing the environmental, health, and safety risks;
    • Be suspended.

    *Researchers please be sensitive to the needs and concerns of graduate students when making decisions and plans.

  4. Principal Investigators should communicate with sponsors on any delays that might occur with their research.
  5. Researchers should follow best practices to prepare their laboratories for reduced operations and for disinfecting their laboratories.
  6. Stay up-to-date with the latest news, and use all resources available to you:

COVID-19 Guidelines for Laboratory Disinfection (PDF - Download)

Laboratory Disinfection Guidelines

Environmental Health & Safety Directory of Services

Contact Name Phone Number
Assistant Vice President for Environmental Health and Safety 1-540-231-9044
Hazardous Materials Management 1-540-231-2982
Laboratory Safety 1-540-231-8758
Occupational Safety and Health 1-540-231-5985
Radiation Safety 1-540-231-5364
Biological Safety 1-540-231-5864
Main Office Number 1-540-231-3600

Guidelines for COVID-19-related lab disinfection products include any EPA product that is effective on flu, cold, or corona virus strains. Specific products are listed on the Center for Biocide’s Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)—Fighting Products pdf (03.20.2020).

Laboratory personnel should choose a product for both ease of use and one that is appropriate for surfaces that will be cleaned (i.e. will not damage, will work for a hard surface or absorbent ones if those materials are allowed in the lab). Do not forget about offices, especially any offices that are shared by two or more people. The same cleaning guidelines are appropriate for offices.

Laboratory personnel should determine whether wipes or sprays are best for their situation. Some surfaces/items will do fine with being soaked by a spray, others may need to be wiped off so as not to ruin electronics.

This framework has been adapted for labs and offices using CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting households with an infected person. Please see CDC guidelines.

With information changing almost daily, it is difficult to provide accurate information on the survival of the novel corona virus on surfaces. But the most current information shows that the virus may live for a few hours on metal, up to a day on cardboard, and possibly several days on plastics. Therefore, it would be wise to establish a daily cleaning schedule for high touch surfaces.

Virginia Tech building public areas are already getting extra cleaning attention via housekeeping staff. This is a common occurrence each year for seasonal flu. The guidelines in this note are only for labs or offices that will not get increased attention from housekeeping.

Understand that cleaning and disinfecting are different:

  • Cleaning: Removes particles (virus, bacteria, dust, dirt) but does not kill them. Removing particles from all surfaces is extremely important as it is the most effective method in preventing infections. Any soap is acceptable for cleaning hands or surfaces. If disinfectants are hard to locate, soap products can be used for surfaces that are not associated with a biological lab or when COVID-19 has not been verified in any lab personnel.
  • Disinfecting: Kills virus or bacteria on surfaces. If a spray is used to disinfect a surface, it will not remove any concerning material, but can kill sufficient organisms to make the surface safe to touch. When using a disinfectant, the label directions regarding contact time are critical. If the chemical will be wiped off, never wipe the surface before the full contact time has been completed.

Surfaces to focus on include high-touch areas and areas that may accumulate virus from respiratory particles.

High-touch - any surface that is touched frequently:

  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches (even if motion activated, they may still be touched)
  • Chairs
  • Pens/pencils (recommend each person keep a writing tool with them so none are shared)
  • Computer keyboards
  • Computer touch screens
  • On/off switches for lab equipment
  • Knobs/switches for adjusting settings on equipment
  • Lids or doors for lab equipment
  • Any wires or other items that may need to be handled often for operating lab equipment
  • Benchtops
  • Cabinet and drawer handles
  • Chairs (especially the backs and arms)
  • Any other surface in your space that might be touched frequently

Potential areas of accumulation of respiratory particles:

Any area that might not be considered a high-touch location, but personnel might stand/sit in the lab to watch a process, read a screen for several minutes. If items in these areas will be touched, cleaning those items daily is a good idea.

Please be very conscientious to maintain the recommended social distancing practice. Stay 6 feet away from colleagues at all times while working in the lab or sharing an office. Fully cover incidental coughs or sneezes and wash your hands immediately (or cough into your elbow); go home and stay home if you experience the onset of symptoms compatible with those of COVID 19.