January 7, 2022: Important update on the Omicron variant and research operations

Dear Colleagues, Staff, and Students:

Please find below a memo from Professor Stark Draper, our Interim Vice-Dean Research, regarding the institutional changes to research operations in response to the province’s modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen framework.

Accordingly, we will be required to return to a more restricted occupancy in our research spaces until January 31, 2022. This includes a requirement for 2m distancing during all activities, and a cap at 65% of usual lab occupancy. Personnel are also expected to work from home where possible and faculty should work with their teams to reduce on-campus presence as much as possible. Coming on-site should be restricted to essential in-person lab or related activities.

With the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant of concern, we have had multiple cases of COVID among our personnel in WB over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, in many cases contact tracing has been hampered by incomplete information in the SharePoint calendars. I am emailing to ask for your assistance in ensuring that your graduate students, researchers and staff who are working in WB/HA carefully and thoroughly track their schedules in the Departmental SharePoint calendar. As a reminder, the University requires that these records be available for at least 30 days. Needless to say, this information is critical for timely contact tracing, notifications to other personnel that may have been in close contact, and decisions regarding lab disinfection.

Actions:

  • PIs will need to review their lab occupancy and re-submit updated RAOR forms to reflect the reduced lab capacity, and any updates to personnel requiring access to on-site research facilities.
  • Researchers will need to communicate with their supervisors and with colleagues in shared research spaces to coordinate schedules and research plans, and are requested to complete the SharePoint calendars promptly, by no later than Wednesday each week, for the following week as well as ensuring that any revisions to the schedule for the previous week have been properly recorded. As noted in the memo issued by ChemE Health & Safety Committee on January 3, we will be undertaking regular audits of schedule entries and non-compliance may lead to suspension of lab access.
  • PIs are asked to check SharePoint calendar entries for their group at least on a weekly basis to verify that all personnel have entered shift information. We kindly ask that PIs notify ChemE H&S (safety.chemeng@utoronto.ca) by Wednesday of each week to confirm the accuracy of their group’s calendar entries.
  • PIs continue to be responsible for securing signed attestation forms from all non-employee trainees conducting in person research activities (on and off campus)
    • For new trainees joining research groups after October 15 2021, there is a revised graduate student and postdoctoral researcher attestation form, available here.
    • To save time, PIs do not need to include the attestations in any amendments submitted through the SharePoint site (only the updated list of personnel).
  • All Personnel must continue to use UCheck whenever coming on-site. It is vitally important that people stay home if they experience COVID symptoms.

I would like to thank you in advance for your dedication and support of these important measures, especially during this period with the virulent Omicron strain. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us at safety.chemeng@utoronto.ca if you have any questions.

Best Regards,

Ramin

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Dear Chairs and Directors,

This message is regarding yesterday’s memo from Prof. Lorraine Ferris, Associate Vice-President, Research Oversight and Compliance regarding updates on the Omicron variant and research operations.

Please follow the FASE implementation process below to comply with this memo.

  1. All research work that can be conducted remotely must be.
  2. If you conduct Human Participant Research, please see that section of the memo.
  3. All PIs that require in-person activities on campus should update and re-submit Request to Access On-Campus Research (RAOR) forms for approval by Chairs/Directors (Step I) and Dean’s office (Step II) via the FASE Share Point Research Hub. Please follow instructions to submit new requests and upload revised RAORs.
    • All research labs need to re-implement 2-metre distance per the Ontario Roadmap for Reopening Step Two. If required, RAOR forms should be updated to reflect that 2-metre distancing has been re-implemented.
    • For research spaces, the 65% of “normal occupancy levels” is determined by PIs. Pls should update their RAOR forms by setting maximum occupancy (line 51 – “Maximum number of individuals… at any given time”) to equal 65% of normal occupancy (line 49 – “Total number of individuals”).
    • For PIs that supervise multiple research spaces please ensure that, along with 2-metre distancing, the 65% is applied to each space
  4. The use of research space outside of normal operating hours require approval of the Department/Institute as additional cleaning may be required.
  5. All EHS/COVID-related guidelines are updated weekly. Please see most current information here.

We encourage PIs to review their critical operations and list of critical personnel as well as their rapid shut-down processes. For guidance, please see FASE Emergency shutdown procedures.

Sincerely,

Stark Draper

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