Carnegie Mellon University

July 9, 2020

Following our usual procedures for research communications, this message is being sent to Associate Deans for Research (or equivalents) in each college, who are asked to forward to department heads, faculty and researchers including research-related staff and graduate student researchers. A copy of this message is also posted on the OVPR Research Communications Page.

Dear CMU Research Community,

I am pleased to report that 106 Pandemic Safety and Preparedness Plans for CMU On-Premises Research and Non-Curricular Creative Work have been submitted, of which 88 have so far been approved. The remainder of the plans are still in the review process.

As research activities continue to return on-site through a phased approach, we are learning valuable lessons for both the research community and the broader university planning efforts. My team continues to add information to our best practices Google doc. In addition, we are working with the university COVID-19 coordinator, Daryl Weinert, and the university leadership council (Provost, VPs, Deans) to address important issues that have been raised through the weekly PI reports or more broadly by the research community. We are working on:

  • Giving additional clarity and detail on the roles, responsibilities and actions that people should and should not take if someone exhibits symptoms, has been diagnosed, and/or has had close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Providing increased transparency on confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the CMU community.
  • Communicating any new or updated policies on campus visitors, including human subject participants as well as expectations and policies on self-isolation following travel.

I anticipate communications and appropriate updates to the relevant sections on the COVID-19 Updates sites(s) in the coming weeks.

As our situation continues to evolve, so do our processes and protocols. Some new information from Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) that may impact your regular safety protocols:

  • Facial Covering Exemptions: The facial covering requirements have been updated to include exceptions that specifically identify times when a facial covering may be removed or not worn, including while eating or drinking, if a medical condition requires an exception from your healthcare provider, and if working outdoors during hot and humid conditions.
  • Close Contact Definition Update: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated their definition of close contact: it’s now defined as an interaction that brings individuals closer than 6 feet for 15 minutes or more (formerly 10 minutes or more).

I also want to alert you that university EHS will be conducting annual fire evacuation drills for Academic and Administrative facilities starting July 20th through July 30th. During these drills, all stairwells should be used for evacuation purposes regardless of the indicated direction of travel. Reach out to with any questions or concerns.

As additional activities return on-site, signage is an important tool to remind everyone of their obligations. We encourage anyone who has not already done so to post signage around their facility (you can order signs from CMU’s signage catalog). If you see a need for signage in common spaces, please email:

Facilities Management and Campus Services (FMCS), Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) and Procurement Services are coordinating in centrally procuring some PPE and cleaning supplies to support the return to campus planning efforts. Contact with any questions and requests to procure materials.

Finally, please continue to monitor the COVID-19 Updates researcher resources page for the most up-to-date information, including the most recent version of the return to research plan template. If you already have an approved plan in an earlier format, you do not need to update and resubmit.

I am optimistic that we can continue to return additional research activities on-site in a manner that demonstrates the CMU community can successfully manage the risks of COVID-19.

Thank you,

J. Michael McQuade
Vice President for Research