COVID-19 Research Related Frequently Asked Questions

Questions related to research at Cornell during the coronavirus pause. 

Academics and Students

Compliance Committees (IRB, IACUC, IBC, FCOIC)

The Compliance Committees (IRB, IACUC, IBC, FCOIC) are all reviewing research and functioning as normally as possible from our remote locations.

Please see the pages below to find answers to commonly asked questions pertaining to specific compliance office functions and oversight of research during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Essential Research

During the research pause, research activities that can be conducted remotely will continue. Only essential research activities will be conducted on campus. Staff, graduate students, faculty, and other researchers conducting essential research activities are essential research staff. Deans and the Vice Provost for Research decide what research activities are essential. For guidance on what activities may be considered essential see Further Guidance on Essential Research. For activities related to animal care, see the CARE COVID-19 Resource Page and CARE Pandemic Response Plan.

The minimum number required to conduct the essential activity safely. Stagger schedules to minimize the number of people present at one time and follow social distancing guidelines.

Yes. 

Yes. 

Yes, within the limitations established for essential research activities.

No new animal orders may be placed (with exceptions for COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 research), and it would be wise to limit all other sensitive orders in case further restrictions or illness prevent delivery of materials.

For research efforts relating to COVID-19, please see the Rapid Research Response page. As a first step, researchers are encouraged to connect with one of six expert faculty members who can advise on the proposed research and who can, if deemed appropriate, collaborate with the investigator to achieve the stated goals of the project. Before commencing the research project, approval must be sought from an ad hoc research approval committee (chaired by Paula Cohen paula.cohen@cornell.edu) through the submission of a brief written request as detailed on the SARS-CoV-2 Research Approval Process page. Following the committee’s recommendation, approval of this research will also require the consent of the Chair of the home department in which the research personnel reside.

Further restrictions may occur, but as of March 22nd, care for animals including continuing treatments, research manipulations, or special feeding that is necessary to maintain critical animal models, which can be carried out with minimal contact with other researchers and appropriate precautions for biosafety, may continue. Preparing new animals for ongoing or new experiments must stop now. Procedures on existing animals that may cause complications or involve extensive follow-up such as surgery should be avoided. This is important to ensure that animals are treated humanely since it is possible that personnel may be unable to properly care for animals due to illness or further restrictions.

The goal is to prevent personnel from coming into contact with the virus. People who are infected may be asymptomatic for several days and shed the virus into the environment. CDC has identified that person-to-person spread may occur through inhalation of infectious droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes.

Additionally, the virus may be deposited onto common surfaces where another person may contact it and self-infect. Virus lifetime on hard surfaces is currently thought to be limited to approximately 4 days and on porous surfaces up to 24 hours. Facilities Services has increased the frequency that common touch surfaces are sanitized; it is important for employees who are onsite to clean common work areas (lab benches, etc.) with an appropriate sanitizer.

The University requests your assistance to identify labs that have been approved to continue with essential operations. This is important to ensure ongoing operational support such as building care, fume hood testing, maintenance prioritization, and health and safety.

Please send an email to askEHS@cornell.edu identifying the locations your unit has approved to continue with essential operations. The email should list active locations by building AND room number, for example: Biotechnology: 231, 232A, 134 OR Weill: G54, 133, 158.

This process will allow EHS to provide status reports of active labs to the various operational support organizations.

In the future, if your unit approves new locations for essential operations, or if locations discontinue operations, please send a similar email to askEHS@cornell.edu identifying just the changes.

Facilities

In order to relieve some of the burden and stress on Cornell community members who must be on campus during this public health emergency, Cornell Transportation will not enforce regular parking permit restrictions, with the exception of a few areas, March 17 through Friday, April 10, 2020.

People may park in most permit-restricted or Park mobile spaces during this period, with no permit or payment required. Cornell Transportation will continue to enforce fire lanes, loading zones, no parking areas, accessible spaces, and reserved spaces, including the client spaces at the Veterinary College. Cornell Transportation will continue to monitor the availability of parking and will make a final determination as to the resumption of regular enforcement by April 10. Please visit parking.cornell.edu for updates and announcements. If you have any questions, please contact Cornell Transportation at 607-255-4600 or transportation@cornell.edu.

Buildings with essential activities are cleaned daily. Cleaning is focused on active areas and high touch points. Any plan to ramp up operations on campus will involve a comprehensive cleaning effort prior to spaces being occupied. The virus is a lipid enveloped virus and fairly easy to kill with standard disinfectants. The untreated lifetime right now is projected to be 4 days on hard surfaces and 24 hours or less on dry, porous surfaces. For further information see: “Is Cornell using enhanced cleaning practices?” on https://www.cornell.edu/coronavirus/faq.cfm

Yes. 

Please check with your building facilities management to see how building security is being handled at each location.

Yes, but with some limitations for hard copy. For further information see: https://www.library.cornell.edu/covid-19

Pursuant to direction from Empire State Development (ESD), qualifying projects that have been deemed essential may move forward with construction activity.  At Cornell, the Capital Funding & Priorities Committee (CF&PC) makes the decisions on what is deemed essential, and FCS Engineering and Project Management communicates these decisions. Please check with your project manager or unit facilities director to confirm if your project has been approved to proceed.”

This process varies in each college. However, each facility manager should check with their local department administrators to confirm this information.

Yes, but only for equipment to support approved essential functions and preservation of research (e.g. -80 freezers, animal cage washers, autoclaves, etc.)

This condition varies in every facility. Please check with your local unit facilities team to confirm how your building’s HVAC system is configured.  For further information see: “Are special air filtration systems needed to stop the potential spread of COVID-19 in residence halls and academic buildings?” on https://www.cornell.edu/coronavirus/faq.cfm#campus

This service will vary somewhat in every facility, but most unit facilities teams are providing some level of routine building walk-throughs to check all areas, focusing on labs and mechanical rooms. Please check with your local unit facilities team to confirm the specifics.

Human Resources

The campus is currently open and access to facilities will be maintained for personnel who provide essential services, including essential research activities and for faculty who have received an exemption from their Dean allowing access for preparation and delivery of virtual instruction. If you are providing essential services or have an exemption for instruction, please contact your building coordinator for specific access questions.

If the campus were to be closed, the campus community would be notified immediately through CornellALERT messages and at https://emergency.cornell.edu.

President Pollack has announced that Commencement will be delayed, with more details to be shared at a later date. Summer session has not been altered, but this is a rapidly evolving situation. It is best to continue checking the Cornell Novel Coronavirus Resources and Updates page for new announcements. The Coronavirus Research Continuity Guidance page contains information for researchers.

Everyone other than those providing essential services, essential research activities, or have received an exemption from their Dean allowing access for preparation and delivery of virtual instruction, must work remotely. However, it is not possible for all staff to work remotely. All remote work questions should be directed to the Human Resources Business Continuity website.

For those working from home, it may be useful to note that some local internet providers are offering cost savings on their services to help support their customers. Check your provider's website for further information.

All travel related questions should be directed to the university FAQ site: https://www.cornell.edu/coronavirus/faq.cfm#travel-restrictions

Keep in mind that export control laws restrict the release (whether done electronically, via shipping or hand carry) of items and information regulated for reasons of national security, foreign policy, anti-terrorism or non-proliferation. Controlled items include (but are not limited to) certain chemicals, reagents, viruses, bacteria, high level encryption tools, process design kits and proprietary technical information. More information can be found on Cornell’s Export Control page. Please consult with Cornell’s Export Control Officer prior to leaving the country with, or sending out of the country, any item to which controls may apply. In addition, the access of controlled technical information from a foreign location, whether by a U.S. citizen or a foreign national, is considered an export. No controlled technical information may be accessed from abroad, or transported on a device taken abroad, without first receiving clearance from the Export Control Officer.

Moreover, U.S. sanctions impose comprehensive prohibitions against certain countries, and therefore any work or study done in any of the following countries, must first be reviewed and explicitly approved in writing by the Export Control Officer: Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and the Crimea Region of the Ukraine. Please note that, in most cases, a specific or general license from the U.S. government will be required.

IT/Communications

Keeping research computers running and ensuring online instruction and meetings go smoothly are considered essential services. Support services will continue as usual.

Purchasing

Staff in Business Service Centers, Procurement Services and Sponsored Financial Services are working remotely, and are available to process orders.

New York State recognizes that universities must maintain core campus utilities. Please check with your local unit facilities team to see how mail and shipping/receiving is being handled within your building.

Sponsored Awards and Finance

Grant funds may be used to support GRAs, postdocs and other project personnel working remotely, or for leave consistent with the university’s policies and practices. Typically, rebudgeting authority exists, as long as it is within the project’s scope. Major federal agencies are emphasizing flexibility, and consistency with institutional practice. Contact sfs-help@cornell.edu if you have a specific allowability scenario. We hope to know more about summer appointments in the coming weeks. See also https://hr.cornell.edu/covid-19-pay-practices

We encourage finding alternative work that can be done remotely. Such work could include, documenting laboratory procedures, developing laboratory management protocols or, for more advanced personnel, performing literature reviews, developing data management plans or examining methods of rigor and reproducibility. Some federal agencies have approved the use of funds even where work cannot be performed, as long as it is consistently treated across funding sources. OSP and SFS, along with HR are reviewing the implication of recently issued federal guidance. See https://hr.cornell.edu/covid-19-pay-practices and https://researchservices.cornell.edu/news/coronavirus-updates-federal-agencies.

If your research is slowed down or halted due to the COVID-19 crisis and you are approaching the end date of your grant or contract, please contact your Grant and Contract Officer (Who is my GCO?) to explore the possibility of requesting a no-cost extension. If you are working on a cooperative agreement or a contract, it may be important for you to reach out to your Program Officer to discuss a revised scope of work or revisions to the deliverable dates. Federal, State and other agencies are taking a flexible approach to deliverables and report due dates.

Yes, the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) has transitioned to a remote work environment. OSP staff members will continue to support faculty and staff in their research administration needs during this time. We do not anticipate any changes in our level of support. The OSP office hours remain 8:30 to 5:00. The easiest way to reach us is via email, however most staff members have their office phones forwarded to their cell phones. Everyone is checking their voice mail on a regular basis.

Yes, the IRB has a process in place for fast-tracking modifications to protocols (e.g., moving from in-person interviews to Zoom/phone interviews), and swiftly reviewing new low-risk studies related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please contact the IRB at irbhp@cornell.edu.

Yes. OSP Grant and Contract Officers (GCOs) are reviewing and submitting your grant proposals from their remote workspaces. Please be aware that due to the extent of remote work occurring across the country, some sponsor systems are experiencing slowdowns or other issues that may impact proposal submissions. While many sponsors have mechanisms for addressing such issues up to an including a missed proposal deadline, all applicants should take proactive action and submit proposals well before the published deadline. This will allow for necessary troubleshooting and documenting of issues if/when they occur. In addition, some agencies are publishing extensions to deadlines. Please reach out to your assigned Grant & Contract Officer with any questions or concerns. See Who is my GCO? for current assignments.