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The University of Delaware is preparing for a safe, gradual reactivation of research on campus in June, in alignment with state guidance.
Only 10-15% of UD’s research community — several hundred researchers at most — are anticipated to return to research labs on campus, at partner facilities or field sites during the first phase of the reactivation, according to Charlie Riordan, vice president for research, scholarship and innovation.
Riordan announced guidelines and groups who will be prioritized for access, including graduate students and postdocs nearing completion of degrees or appointments, in a letter issued to the research community on Monday, May 18.
UD ramped down to only critical, essential research operations on March 17. Since then, research has been limited to COVID-19 studies and the development of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers.
All work that can be performed remotely should continue remotely, Riordan said. Phase 1 is directed to time-sensitive research, where further disruption would cause catastrophic data loss or delays, with examples being seasonal fieldwork and long-term longitudinal studies.
While Phase 1 is expected to launch during the first half of June, there is no set timeline for opening additional phases of research, Riordan said. Decisions will be based on a variety of factors, including the status of the COVID-19 situation, state guidance and the success of previous phases. Additional communications will be issued to the research community in advance of each phase as it prepares to open.
“The safety and wellness of our community is paramount,” Riordan said. “The campus that researchers are preparing to return to is different from the one they left. While the Blue Hen family has always been a caring one, now more than ever — to beat this pandemic — we need to protect each other by diligently practicing safe social distancing, face covering and hygiene protocols.”
To that end, researchers will be asked to complete additional safety training online before returning to campus. And once back on campus, they can expect these changes, Riordan said:
A daily health questionnaire and on-site temperature checks
Cloth face masks as the norm
Highly controlled access to buildings/facilities and the traffic flow within them
Closure of common areas/shared spaces
An initial density of no more than two researchers per 1,000 square feet, potentially necessitating shift work at some facilities
Increased cleaning of bathrooms and high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, etc.
Researchers can access more information at this webpage and share thoughts and questions at UDresearch@udel.edu or at a future research town hall. The next one will be held Tuesday, May 19, from 1-2 p.m. Register here.