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Guidance for Responding to a Covid-Positive Test for a Research Laboratory

Laboratory research poses unique challenges in responding to a Covid-positive case in a laboratory research worker. Existing Georgia Tech policies clearly define a path for those who test positive and the follow-up contact tracing process. This guidance defines a process for ensuring laboratory safety and the appropriate notification path for laboratory workers and their supervisor (PI) while simultaneously protecting the privacy of the infected individual.

A laboratory researcher is anyone who works in a research laboratory at Georgia Tech. This includes research staff, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and undergraduates. A majority are paid employees, many of which are students. Laboratory safety practices apply equally to all laboratory workers regardless of student or employee status.

A supervisor is an individual responsible for directing activities in a given research lab. This may be a PI or a research scientist or a staff member. Their supervisory responsibilities include all staff and students and visitors who work in the laboratory.

 

If a laboratory researcher tests positive:

The laboratory researcher follows the Georgia Tech process for a faculty and staff member who tests positive, as defined at http://health.gatech.edu/coronavirus/campus-guidelines. In particular, the laboratory researcher must notify their supervisor (as defined above) as soon as possible.

The supervisor should take the following actions:

  1. Do not disclose the identity of the employee testing positive when taking steps to ensure the safety of other lab members.
  2. Contact EHS as soon as possible at ehs@gatech.edu. EHS will work with the supervisor to develop a plan of action that may include temporarily closing the lab as well as disinfecting.
  3. Inform members of the lab that the laboratory space is temporarily closed for access until further notice for assessment by EHS. Do not disclose health information about infected individuals. If critical experiments require time to shut down or put on hold, work with EHS on a plan to perform those tasks safely and communicate that plan to the laboratory.
  4. Follow up with laboratory members on any EHS-related laboratory activities and the timeline for safely returning to the laboratory.

Other laboratory researchers should respect the privacy of any infected individuals. They may be approached by a contact tracer if they are identified as having had close contact with the individual testing positive for Covid-19. Please respect the privacy of the health information of any co-worker and do not disclose that information to anyone.

 

Below are Approved Message Templates

Email to lab personnel

Dear Lab: 

Access to the laboratory is temporarily suspended until EHS determines that it is safe to resume research in the lab. If you have ongoing laboratory experiments, please contact me immediately and we will work with EHS to develop a timeline for pausing or shutting down experiments. I will follow up when it is safe to re-enter the lab.

I understand that many of you may be curious about why this happening. Please accept that there are sound safety reasons for doing so. Please avoid engaging in rumors that may risk the privacy of any member of our lab team.  

Thank you for your support, patience and understanding. 

Signed: Lab Lead/PI

 

Lab posting

This laboratory is closed until further notice for assessment by EHS. Please do not enter. If you have any questions, please contact (INSERT PI and LAB SAFETY CONTACT(S) HERE)

 

- Posted October 12, 2020, Updated October 21, 2020

 

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