Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
November 21, 2020

Research Considerations Related to Updated Commonwealth and County Guidance

This message was sent to the Associate Deans for Research (ADR) for distribution in their colleges and provides information related to:

  1. new travel restrictions and impact on research activities and
  2. the approval of new and amended research plans.

Please read this message in its entirety and reply to with any questions

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to all members of the research community to follow-up on the November 20 message from the CMU COVID Coordinator, Daryl Weinert. As the holiday season approaches, starting with Thanksgiving next week, it is important that CMU’s research community continue to remain vigilant against the spread of COVID-19 by adhering to your research plans and University-wide travel protocols. To date there is no evidence that our research activities and facilities contribute to COVID-19 infection and spread. The ability of the research enterprise to continue on-site activities directly depends on continuing that trend.

New Travel Restrictions and Impact on Research Activities

As has been highlighted in the news, COVID-19 case counts continue to increase throughout the country, including here in Allegheny County. Effective Friday, November 20, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania updated its travel guidance.

Given this new travel guidance, I want to reiterate the message in the CMU COVID Coordinator’s email and strongly discourage any travel at this time. If you absolutely must travel, please think about the following as it relates to your research:

  • If you are traveling out of state keep in mind that a 14 day quarantine will be required upon your return. You must plan in advance of your trip for the subsequent resumption of your on-campus research activities. For example, if your research requires regular, periodic activities in the lab that would be interrupted by having to self-quarantine for 14 days (e.g. sustaining living organisms) you must make appropriate arrangements to ensure that these activities are either temporarily suspended or can be covered by others already on an approved plan.

  • Exceptions to the self-quarantine requirements following all out of state travel will not be granted. If you are in a situation where there is no available coverage and suspending research activities to fulfill quarantine requirements would lead to a compliance violation or cause irreparable harm to a research program (e.g. sustaining living organisms), contact your ADR to help identify possible solutions.

Approval of New and Amended Research Plans

After a one week pause we are resuming submission of new research plans and amendments (including changes in personnel) to existing plans, effective Monday, November 23. Plans and amendments must continue to outline a conservative approach to the amount of time spent on site and the number of people simultaneously accessing research spaces, even for brief periods of time. Deans, ADRs, and the OVPR will continue to scrutinize these aspects of new and revised plans.

Similarly, given Allegheny County’s stay-at-home advisory, I strongly encourage all researchers on existing plans to take steps to minimize their physical presence on campus during the coming weeks. While on campus, minimize research activities that require in-person interactions or presence in shared spaces.

In addition, I am asking that all researchers review the shutdown procedures outlined in their return plans.

I would like to reiterate that our research community has done a terrific job of maintaining our pandemic safety while executing on-site research. With aggressive adherence to our safety requirements, including the protocols detailed above, we can continue to do so. However, we are actively monitoring case counts and positivity rates in the immediate area and surrounding region and if these metrics continue on the current upward trajectory and/or there is any indication that CMU community spread is happening or likely to happen, we must all remain ready to quickly change to a more restrictive posture to ensure the safety and well being of our campus community.

Thank you again for your vigilance over the past months. I understand that we are all feeling pandemic fatigue in so many ways, but it is more important than ever to not let our guard down and become complacent in implementing our own safety protocols.

Finally, let me send to all of you my best wishes that you can find time to relax and connect virtually with family and friends over the Thanksgiving break. Stay safe.

With best regards,

Michael McQuade
Vice President for Research