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Fall 2021 Research Guidance

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Updated Aug. 19, 2021


Virginia Tech requires students and employees to be vaccinated, with exemptions for medical reasons and religious beliefs. More information about how to register your vaccination can be found, here.

In alignment with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on masks, Virginia Tech requires the proper use of masks by all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors in designated public areas. This mask requirement does not apply to private workplaces, which may include research laboratories.

Unvaccinated individuals must always wear masks indoors and be separated by more than 6 feet at all times, but more space is desired when possible.

Consider instituting staggered or alternative scheduling to reduce the number of unvaccinated laboratory personnel present at any given time.

All approved undergraduate paid, for-credit, and volunteer research and instruction may be in person, provided appropriate approvals and protocols are in place (i.e., PPE use, lab hygiene, IRB approvals, etc.). 

All graduate paid, for-credit, and volunteer research and instruction may be in person provided appropriate approvals and protocols are in place (i.e., PPE use, lab hygiene, IRB approvals, etc.). This includes students participating in project/thesis/dissertation work.

Masks are required when indoors in designated public areas, regardless of vaccination status. These include lobbies, foyers, atriums, hallways, and elevators accessible by the general public, as well as auditoria, arena, theater, museum, concert hall, or other areas used for a performance or an exhibit. Classrooms, instructional laboratories, and training rooms are also designated public areas.

Masks requirement does not apply to private workplaces that are not accessible to the public such as research laboratories, offices, work areas, or employment meeting space that is not open to the public in the normal course of business. Principal investigators and laboratory managers may determine mask requirements based on unique work-related circumstances. In such cases, team members should discuss specific circumstances under the guidance of their supervisor or unit head.

Unvaccinated individuals must adhere to appropriate use of PPE with continued strict adherence to safety/hygiene and physical distancing requirements.

Research conducted in labs must have approval from the appropriate lab manager and principal investigator. It is the responsibility of the lab manager or principal investigator to determine appropriate protocols in the laboratory, depending on the vaccination status of individuals in their lab.

Principal investigators should consult current CDC and university guidance regarding mask-wearing and social distancing requirements, taking into account factors such as research location (e.g., inside or outside), building and room ventilation, and duration of in-person interaction.

Core facilities should be at full operation.

Individuals who are at high risk (existing medical condition, age, recent potential exposure, including travel to a high risk zone, possible COVID-19 symptoms, or cohabitating with someone in one of these categories) may choose to not work in the lab. Persons with these concerns should contact the Division of Human Resources.

Research with human subjects is allowed as permitted. IRB guidance can be found, here.

Travel, aligned with federal and state regulations, is allowed with approval from the department head.ers and study staff who will be interacting with participants should be vaccinated, and be willing to disclose their vaccination status to participants.

Cleaning and sanitation procedures developed for COVID-19 laboratory standard operating procedures should be retained to the degree possible, based on CDC and university recommendations. This applies to shared equipment, commonly touched surfaces, more frequent changing of HVAC filters, and shared clothing.

Safety Requirements

Researchers should not come to work if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever (temperature >100.4°F) 
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Cough
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

Researchers with a fever are not allowed in laboratories/research spaces at any time. If they have a temperature and demonstrate any of the additional COVID-19 symptoms, they must report it to their supervisors and not come to campus.

Researchers who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 must remain in isolation for at least 14 days from symptom onset or until free from unmedicated fever for 72 hours, whichever is longer — or follow current public health official’s guidance. Individuals awaiting test results must remain in isolation.

Vaccinated individuals who have come in close contact with confirmed cases or returned from travel do not need to quarantine unless they become symptomatic.

Unvaccinated individuals who have come in close contact with confirmed cases must remain in quarantine for 14 days.

Non-laboratory Based Research Work

Virginia Tech faculty represent a variety of disciplines that have different research practices and in various research spaces. The same safety requirements and considerations performing non-laboratory research include: proper physical distancing, personal hygiene including wearing masks when indoors in designated public areas, and contact surfaces cleaning as described under key safety expectations.


All visitors to research spaces and labs must adhere to the guidance listed above and in accordance with lab specific protocols.

For questions regarding other health and safety concerns, contact Virginia Tech’s Environmental Health and Safety office: 540-231-3600.