2019 Novel Coronavirus Information

COVID-19 2019 Novel Coronavirus - Updates, FAQs, Resources

Last updated: March 27, 2020

The University of Guelph continues to closely monitor developments relating to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Office of Research is committed to supporting University of Guelph’s research community as our institution addresses the evolving outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19. The health and safety of University of Guelph researchers and our broader group of research stakeholders remain top priority for the Office of Research.

The situation can change quickly so researchers must also prepare to delay and potentially shut down research activities. The University is encouraging social distancing as a measure to help disrupt the chain of transmission of COVID-19 in an effort to protect vulnerable individuals and to reduce overburden on our health care system.

In the Office of Research, we understand that members of the research community are concerned, and we want to assure everyone that we are doing everything we can to ensure the health and safety of our research community, and the long-term, continued success of University of Guelph’s research enterprise.

We continue to provide existing research services to ensure research continuity; thus, all Office of Research units (Office of Research Services; Research Innovation Office; Office of Research, Agri-Food Partnership; Animal Care Services; and the Research Ethics Board) remain operational.

During these exceptional circumstances service delivery may be delayed, and we appreciate your patience. 

Guidance note for research continuity, scale back, and shut down

Consistent with public health policy, and following consultation with colleges, the Office of Research urges, in the strongest terms, the significant scale back of research activities, with the aim that scale back is done to reinforce social distancing.

Following extensive consultations and guidance, and consistent with public health policy, the Office of Research has issued the following directives pertaining to ongoing research until notified otherwise:

  1. Any research that proceeds must comply with these guidance notes from the Office of Research.
  2. Any research that proceeds must not contravene the directives provided by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies detailed at this link.
  3. All research activities must abide by University of Guelph policies pertaining to workplace health and safety, including required adjudication and approvals at the departmental/school, college, and university levels.
  4. Research should not proceed without appropriate supports, including custodial, administrative, financial, and others needed to sustain the research activities.
  5. No research is to be conducted with human participants that requires face-to-face contact (e.g., physical assessments, in-person interviews). If a researcher is concerned that this directive will impact the health of study participants, an exemption request may be submitted for review and institutional approvals.
  6. Research that is not impacted by social distancing policies, such as research that can be completed remotely (e.g., online), may continue provided that normal approval processes for such activities have been followed.
  7. Current, on-going animal studies may be completed, provided that adaptations to protect staff, namely social distancing and limiting the number of researchers in the animal facilities, can be implemented. Any animal-based research requiring intake of new animals will be undertaken only on a very limited basis, and not without consultation with managers of research animal facilities. Priority will be given to research that has a very narrow window in which it can be initiated or which are COVID-19 studies.
  8. No new research that requires access to University of Guelph-operated facilities should be initiated. Exceptions to this may be granted for research assessed as critical and/or time sensitive (for e.g., research supported by emergency COVID-19 funding; research focusing on COVID-19 or pandemics; research dependent on the seasonal nature of crops and/or livestock, etc.). Researchers seeking exemption for critical or time-sensitive research should use the form found at this link, and submit their case to their Chair/Director (or their designate) for submission to the Office of Research through their ADRGS, or, in the case of Research Centre and Institutes, to the Dean of their primary college affiliation for submission to the Office of Research.
  9. Information on ongoing, scaled-back research activity should be shared with and approved by the Chair or Director (or their designate) of the academic unit to which the researcher is appointed. In the case of Research Centres and Institutes, information on ongoing, scaled-back research activity should be presented to, and approved by, the Dean (or their designate) of the college to which the centre or institute is primarily affiliated.
  10. Researchers must develop plans to close down existing research within university facilities on short notice, including plans for waste disposal and identification of essential services to maintain research samples, facilities and infrastructure where appropriate. The shut-down plans should take guidance from these notes provided by the Office of Research. Shut-down plans should be shared with and approved by the Chair or Director (or their designate) of the unit to which the researcher is appointed. In the case of Research Centres and Institutes, the plan should be presented to, and approved by, the Dean (or their designate) of the college to which the centre or institute is primarily affiliated.

Staying informed

Faculty members have a responsibility to their staff, students, and research participants to ensure that certain precautions are taken.

The University's COVID-19 webpage has updates, answers to frequently asked questions, and general information about COVID-19, including how to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission. The University will continue to monitor the 2019 novel coronavirus situation and provide updates on this page as needed. 

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Research Services and Continuity

These FAQs have been created and will be reviewed and updated daily, as necessary, with the latest available information on how to minimize impact on research operations, while maintaining health and safety.

Please read the guidance note for COVID-19-related research continuity, scale back and shut down

Research that continues should be done in a manner consistent with the many known practices for mitigating the spread of the Covid-19.

Alternative procedures for ongoing projects that do not disrupt scientific merit and integrity (e.g., changing in-person interviews to phone interviews) must be considered.

Participants in other interactional research and all individuals that need to be present in our research environments must be asked to self-assess using the screening questions below and notify the research team whether they should not come to campus. Screening Questions:

  1. Are you experiencing any flu-like symptoms, including a fever (i.e. temperature > 37.8°C)?/li>
  2. Have you travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days, or been in contact with someone who has a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19?
  3. Have you been told to self-isolate?

If yes to any of the above, research participants or visitors should notify the researcher and not come to campus.

Ensure that research is conducted safely and in accordance with applicable requirements and best practices.

It is important to discuss planning with your research team. Ensure that you have up to date contact information for your research team and clear action plan directives.

  • Identify all non-critical activities that can be scaled back, suspended or delayed.
  • Identify personnel able to safely perform essential activities.
  • Do not order any new research materials except those items needed to support minimal critical functions.
  • Cancel orders for non-essential research materials if they have not yet shipped.
  • Contact applicable building/department/mail services personnel to learn of changes to procedures and/or notify them of any expected incoming shipments.
  • Ensure windows are closed as applicable.
  • Researchers must develop plans to close down existing research within university facilities on short notice, including plans for waste disposal and identification of essential services to maintain research samples, facilities, and infrastructure where appropriate. The shut-down plans should take guidance from the notes provided on these pages (see below).
  • Shut-down plan should be shared with and approved by the Chair or Director of the unit to which the researcher is appointed.
  • In the case of Research Centres and Institutes, the plan should be presented to, and approved by, the ADRGS of the college to which the centre or institute is primarily affiliated.
  • Turn off appliances, computers, hot plates, ovens, and other equipment. Unplug equipment if possible.
  • Elevate equipment, materials and supplies, including power bars and chemicals, off of the floor to protect against the risk of flooding.
  • Inspect all equipment requiring uninterrupted power for electricity supplied through an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) and by emergency power (emergency generator).
  • Turn off all water (e.g. to Milli-Q water filtration systems, vacuum filtration, etc.).
  • Check that refrigerator, freezer, and incubator doors are tightly closed.
  • Surface decontaminate the inside work area of biosafety cabinets, close the sash and power down.
  • Clear the fume hood of all hazards and shut the sash.
  • Shut down and unplug sensitive electrical equipment.
  • Freeze any biological stock material for long term storage.
  • Consolidate storage of valuable perishable items within storage units that have backup systems.
  • Fill dewars and cryogen containers for sample storage and critical equipment.
  • Properly store all hazardous materials clearing from fume hoods and benchtops. Ensure all flammables are stored in flammable storage cabinets. Refer to Laboratory Safety Manual.
  • Ensure that all items are labeled appropriately.
  • Submit request for waste pickups for any chemical wastes.
  • Remove infectious materials from biosafety cabinets, and autoclave, disinfect, or safely store them as appropriate.
  • Confirm inventory of controlled drugs or substances and document in logbook and return to secure storage.
  • Ensure all radioactive materials are locked/secured inside a refrigerator, freezer, or lockbox.
  • Ensure all gas valves are closed. If available, shut off gas to area.
  • Check that all gas cylinders are secured and stored in an upright position. Remove regulators and use caps.
  • Decontaminate areas of the lab as you would do routinely at the end of the day.
  • Operations with respect to the management of chemical (hazardous) and biological wastes remain unchanged.   Chemical (Hazardous) waste and Biological Waste pick-ups will continue.  There are no interruption or changes to the current process with the exception that we please ask that the Hazardous Waste Disposal Request Forms not be submitted in person to the EHS office but rather be  faxed to (519) 824-0364 to EHS  or e-mailed to ehs@uoguelph.ca.
  • Lock all entrances to the lab. Ensure personnel who will support critical functions have appropriate access.
  • Secure lab notebooks and other data.
  • Take laptops home.
  • Log out of and shut down remaining computers.
  • Create contact list including all lab personnel and principal investigator including out of hours contact information. Ensure that this information is available to your group remotely.
  • Ensure that lab emergency contact information has been provided to your department and posted within the lab and/or are maintained within your safety binder.

Please refer to the University of Guelph Office of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies webpage for updated information pertaining to specific policies related to graduate student research.

Graduate students completing thesis-based research should, in partnership with their supervisor, review their research plans to address how to adapt research-related activities if necessary.

Undergraduate students involved in research projects should, in partnership with their supervisor, review their research plans to address how to adapt research-related activities if necessary. They should take guidance from departmental / program policies with regards to degree-related research projects at this time.

All individuals that need to be present in our research environments must be asked to self-assess using the screening questions below and notify the research team whether they should not come to campus.

Screening Questions:

  1. Are you experiencing any flu-like symptoms, including a fever (i.e. temperature > 37.8°C)?
  2. Have you travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days, or been in contact with someone who has a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19?
  3. a. Have you been told to self-isolate?

If yes to any of the above, research participants or visitors should notify the researcher and not come to campus.

  • There are changes to the biosecurity protocol for animal facilities managed by the Office of Research.
  • All livestock facilities are closed to non-essential personnel, and researchers are asked to limit the number of different people in contact with the animals.
  • Students, researchers and essential staff who have travelled outside of Canada should self-isolate for 14 days and be free from symptoms of illness prior to entering an animal facility.
  • No tours of animal or livestock facilities will be scheduled until further notice.

The AFL and AHL remain open. The AHL and AFL are provincial testing laboratories, they have plans for business continuity of essential testing in times of both reduced staff and interruptions in supply chains of required laboratory equipment.

  • Travel to off-campus field work sites, including at sites throughout Canada, is still allowed. Such travel should be done only if deemed necessary and should follow standard protocols (e.g. (https://www.uoguelph.ca/hr/system/files/new-field-research-safety-plan-form-_jan11_.pdf).
  • People arriving or returning to Canada from any international destination, whether for business or personal reasons, must self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate for 14 days, in keeping with the Government of Canada’s directive. Monitor for fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and report any symptoms to your health care provider or to Public Health.
  • Please review the University of Guelph’s COVID-19 travel FAQs for on-going updates.
  • Please review the Tri-Agencies notice to researchers about the eligibility of travel fees for disruption caused by COVID-19. Consult the CIHRNSERC, and SSHRC websites regularly for updates.

The agencies confirm that the reimbursement of non-refundable travel fees from agency funds is acceptable considering the impacts of COVID-19. This applies to the travel of both principal investigators and research personnel, when cancellation occurs as described above.

Current, on-going animal studies can be completed, assuming that adaptations to protect staff, namely social distancing and limiting the number of researchers in the animal facilities, can be implemented.

Any animal-based research requiring intake of new animals will be undertaken only on a very limited basis, and not without consultation with managers of research animal facilities.

Priority will be given to research that has a very narrow window in which it can be initiated or which studies COVID-19.

There are important changes to the biosecurity protocol for animal facilities managed by the Office of Research in consideration of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The present risk necessitates modifications to our biosecurity protocol to protect staff and ensure continuity of animal welfare and care.

As the COVID-19 outbreak evolves, this guidance may change. The risk will be re-assessed regularly by the Office of Research biosecurity committee, comprised of University of Guelph infectious disease experts and senior administrators.

Please visit uoguelph.ca/alliance/biosecurity regularly for updates.

  • ACS veterinarians in their role of providing veterinary oversight in animal facilities and at Ridgetown, will continue to provide service as normal, but with facility visits suspended, or conducted in compliance with the research stations/animal facilities pandemic plan for access.
  • In the cases of ACS veterinarians providing clinical care to research or teaching animals, this will be addressed on a case-by-case basis given highest priority to addressing concerns of animal health and wellbeing, monitoring of undue pain and distress, and making clinical judgements on the application of humane endpoints.
  • Post-Approval Review (PAR) meetings with faculty and research staff will continue as normal using a secure host for video conferences/meeting.
  • PAR Research Animal Care Assessment (RACA) visits and PAR Procedure visits, both of which must be conducted on-site in the animal facility or in procedure rooms, are put on hold, or are conducted according to the pandemic plan for access at research stations and animal facilities on campus or at regional campuses.
  • Training program components through online Courselink (Core modules) will run as normal. Participants will continue using the standard registration site, and training completion will be monitored by the ACS office.
  • Training program components consisting of facility orientations and hands-on workshops, commonly held at the research stations or at campus animal facilities and with facility staff members involved, will be suspended, or conducted in compliance with the pandemic plan in respective station/animal facility.
  • Some research protocols may need to be paused/suspended if conducted at research stations or at campus animal facilities where pandemic plan is in effect. Training of research team members may be suspended, which may affect their ability to perform animal-based procedures.
  • The Animal Care Committee (ACC) will continue to meet to review and approve protocols.

The Office of Research Services continues to provide administrative support to the U of G research community. Research proposal submissions and review and negotiation of agreements will continue. Workshops and events will be postponed. In-person meetings will be minimized. Staff will be available to meet remotely or by telephone.

Research Alerts will continue to be used to reach the research community.

The Research Alerts system will continue to be used. If you are not registered to receive Research Alerts, please find instructions on Research Alerts help page.

Research Innovation Office operations continue. To help prevent virus transmission while going about day-to-day activities, the following non-essential activities will not take place: workshops, events, and in-person stakeholder meetings, and drop-ins. In-person meetings will be minimized. To provide essential services, staff will be available to meet remotely via MS Teams, Webex, or telephone.

The Office of Research, Agri-Food Partnership operations continue, including the delivery of the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance programming. The following core services will continue:

  • Agreement research programs (intake, review, awarding, reporting) and fiscal reporting.
  • Management of properties belonging to Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO) and the livestock herds housed on those properties.
  • Laboratory Services Division (LSD) comprised of the Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) and the Agriculture and Food Laboratory (AFL).
  • Central Animal Facilities (CAF) and Isolation Facility.

To help prevent virus transmission while going about day-to-day activities, the following non-essential activities will not take place: workshops, events, staff meetings, meetings with stakeholders (internal and external), drop-ins from clients (i.e. faculty members), and in-person meetings and consultations with other key personnel. To provide the core services, staff will meet remotely to coordinate as required.

Research proposals for future research submitted without an award/agreement may be submitted to research.services@uoguelph.ca with an OR-5 form as per usual process.

For changes to NSERC program deadlines or adjudication processes please visit the NSERC website.

For changes to SSHRC program deadlines or adjudication processes please visit the SSHRC website.

For changes to CIHR program deadlines or adjudication processes please visit the CIHR website.

The Research Alerts system will continue to be used to communicate information on research funding opportunities and all other information from research sponsors.

If you are not registered to receive Research Alerts, please find instructions on how to do so by visiting the Research Alerts help page.

Research sponsors, including the Tri-Agencies, are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic can affect funded research projects. See the above weblinks to the SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR webpages for the most up to date information.

Please contact the Office of Research Services (research.services@uoguelph.ca) to address the situation with sponsors other than the Tri-Agencies.

  • Award-holders should contact research.services@uoguelph.ca if travel or project milestones cannot be met due to COVID-19. A no-cost extension to an awarded SSHRC SIG project will be permitted, upon request, to allow researchers time to for planned activities. Funds should not be re-purposed to activities not covered in the original grant application.

For changes to CFI program deadlines or adjudication processes please visit the CFI website.

All human participant research that requires face-to-face contact (e.g., physical assessments, in-person interviews) has been suspended at this time.

It is imperative that measures are taken to help slow the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable populations. Therefore, all researchers must postpone or cancel all in-person study visits and recruitment activities until further notice. Research that is not impacted by social distancing policies and can be completed remotely (e.g., online surveys, Skype or phone-based interviews) may continue. If an existing study requires protocol or consent process changes to conduct research through non-contact methods, please consult FAQs below regarding protocol amendments and technologies that can help support researchers.

If a researcher is concerned that this directive will impact the health of study participants, an exemption request may be submitted for review and institutional approvals using the form.

No research is to be conducted with human participants that requires face-to-face contact (e.g., physical assessments, in-person interviews). However, if a researcher is concerned that this directive will impact the health of study participants, an exemption request may be submitted for review and institutional approvals using the form.

Please contact the REB at reb@uoguelph.ca for more information.

The General Research Ethics Board and the Natural, Physical, and Engineering Sciences Research Ethics Board are currently working as normal and meeting monthly. The Ethics Office and Research Ethics Board committees have provisions in place to work and meet remotely and review of new studies will continue. However, please be aware that response times and reviews may be affected by volume or staff changes and these delays will be communicated to researchers.

Please note, new research studies that require campus access cannot be initiated (even with ethics clearance), unless assessed as critical and/or time-sensitive (e.g., research supported by emergency COVID-19 funding; research focusing on COVID-19 or pandemics). Researchers seeking exemption for critical or time-sensitive research must receive appropriate institutional approval before proceeding and will be given priority over other new submissions. Please use the exemption request form and submit for institutional approvals.

Amendments to ongoing studies in order to eliminate personal contact will also be prioritized. Consultations by research ethics staff with researchers about amendments and new studies related to COVID-19 will also take priority over consultations and meetings about other issues. For questions and concerns about this process, please refer to FAQ on protocol amendments or email reb@uoguelph.ca.

We ask that any emails sent to the REB in relation to COVID-19 include “COVID-19” in the subject line so that they can be more easily tracked and managed.

We are advising researchers to replace in-person interactions with other means such as online, Skype or phone contact wherever possible. Revisions to existing REB application forms, participant consent forms or consent addendums may be required (e.g., to update privacy considerations with use of different communication channels).

Please note that study amendments submitted to eliminate in-person contact will be prioritized for review. The REB should be notified prior to implementing changes to an existing protocol via a study amendment. However, when notification to the REB is not possible and immediate changes are required in response to the COVID-19 emergency, these changes may be executed without prior notice to or approval from the REB. This exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (TCPS2 - Article 6.15) and researchers will need to provide justification for not seeking approval prior to implementation.

If urgent revisions are required:

  1. You will need to ensure that you are not introducing other risks, and you may need to ask participants to sign revised informed consent forms.
  2. The changes must be reported to the REB within 10 business days. If a full revised protocol cannot be completed, a document that describes the changes and explains how they will protect participants can be submitted, along with copies of any new or revised subject-facing materials.
  3. Notification to the sponsor of the study, where applicable, is required. This is the responsibility of the Investigator.

Please ensure emails sent to the REB in relation to COVID-19 include “COVID-19” in the subject line so that they can be more easily tracked and managed.

In-person interactions are restricted at present for all research studies. However, the University of Guelph offers various technological solutions for consideration as you redesign or amend protocols. Please see below for proposed systems and software:

  1. Videoconferencing Options:
    1. Skype for Business is a feature-rich web conferencing tool that allows participants to connect with others anywhere in the world through the use of video and/or audio as well as content sharing. (https://www.uoguelph.ca/ccs/services/skypeforbusiness)
    2. Webex is also a feature-rich web conferencing tool that allows participants to connect with others anywhere in the world through the use of video and/or audio as well as content sharing. (https://www.uoguelph.ca/ccs/webex)
    3. Microsoft Teams can be used by research groups to securely communicate and file share. This program is supported by CCS. (https://www.uoguelph.ca/ccs/services/office365/teams)
  2. Consent Modifications:
    1. Verbal consent can be obtained via telephone or teleconference. A verbal script and plan for documenting consent such as audio-recording must be submitted to REB.
    2. Written consent may be obtained via email attachment. Please note that per CCS standards, data must be transmitted via secure wired, wireless, cellular or other network. Please ensure participants are provided clear direction about secure transmission of data and include the statement, “Please note that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed when data is transmitted over the internet” within the consent document.
    3. Incorporate consent into beginning of online survey via Qualtrics (https://www.uoguelph.ca/ccs/service/online-surveys). Participants will review consent prior to completing any survey and would indicate their consent by an action (i.e. “by clicking ‘next’ you consent to participate in this study”).

 

Name

E-mail Address

Sponsored research proposals & agreements

Jill Rogers
Katie Meyer-Beck

research.services@uoguelph.ca

Human participant research

Katelyn Wadleigh

reb@uoguelph.ca

Animal Care

Marcus Litman
Anna Bolinder

acc@uoguelph.ca

Office of Research Services (all other queries)

Karina McInnis

avpres@uoguelph.ca

Biohazards

Gausiya Khan

bso@uoguelph.ca

Radiation Safety

Karan Virdi
Daniel Cardenas

radsafe@uoguelph.ca

Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance – Research Stations

Remo Pallottini

remop@uoguelph.ca

Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance – Research Programs

Laurie Halfpenny-Mitchell

laurieha@uoguelph.ca

Office of Research, Agri-Food Partnership and the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance

Beverley Hale

avpagrfd@uoguelph.ca

Animal Health Laboratory

Maria Spinato

mspinato@uoguelph.ca

Agriculture and Food Laboratory

 

John Melichercik

 

jmeliche@uoguelph.ca

 

Central Animal Facility

Mary Fowler

mafowler@uoguelph.ca

Research Innovation Office

John Livernois

live@uoguelph.ca

Research risk and regulatory compliance Jennifer Wesley jwesley@uoguelph.ca

Laboratory Safety

Alicja Zachertowska

labsafe@uoguelph.ca