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Returning to the Lab During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Teri Surprenant, Senior Associate Editor

July 2020

COVID-19 caused a sudden mass exodus from traditional offices and laboratories alike. We have all been tucked away at home, working far away from our colleagues to prevent the spread of the virus. However, with the virus subsiding in certain areas around the world, some governments have given laboratories the ability to resume their work, but it is hardly business as usual.

While not all labs were shut down—some have functioned with very limited staff or were set up to only require weekly maintenance—others were completely shuttered. However, opening laboratories is not just a matter of unlocking doors. Various precautions must be put into effect prior to any personnel returning to work.

In reality, the entire process may consist of multiple steps conducted over several years before laboratories are back at capacity and, due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, there is no guarantee that operations will be back to what they once were. Since there is only so much data analysis one can do away from the laboratory, this LetPub article discusses some requirements that research facilities will be implementing in order to open, many of which will impact most researchers.

Planning and adequate distancing is a must.

To achieve the mandated requirement of physical distance between researchers, some labs may require extensive renovations to ensure that the allotted area offers adequate spacing between researchers. In addition to physical distancing, labs may stagger work hours to limit the number of people in one area at a time. Depending upon the type of research, individuals may be asked to work in teams for increased collaboration so not everyone has to be in the lab at the same time.

Continued limited in-person meetings.

Discussions and training sessions may need to be held remotely, at least as much as possible, during the initial period of returning to work.

Additional personal protective equipment will be required, along with increased health regulations.

By now we are all familiar with a face covering being a necessary accessory when we leave our homes. Researchers may also be required to wear gowns and gloves during times that they normally would not have had to while in the lab. More frequent hand washing and disinfecting will be needed as well as temperature monitoring before entering certain laboratory spaces. Ultimately, increased good hygiene practices will be enforced.

The uncertainty of COVID-19 is leading to stricter practices to ensure that all employees are as safe as possible from the virus.

In short, we must keep abreast of the pertinent COVID-19 information as well as other governmental recommendations for laboratory workers during this unprecedented time. After all, researchers share a common goal: to return to the lab as soon as possible so work can be completed.

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