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Update on Restarting the Research Buildings

June 15, 2020

Dear Pratt faculty, staff and trainees involved in the research mission:

The university began to re-open research buildings on campus and two major downtown research facilities (Carmichael and Chesterfield) in mid-May, utilizing a phased re-opening.  All research buildings have been reopened and our research labs in clinical locations are being opened now, with the following measures undertaken to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19:

  • All labs were required to submit plans which adhered to published Operating Guidelines including mandatory masking inside the buildings, physical distancing, reduced in-person interactions, frequent hand-washing, and symptom monitoring via a daily survey.   
  • Hand sanitizer stations were installed in all areas identified by the Occupational and Environmental Safety Office.
  • Our important colleagues in Environmental Services have worked with us on changes to cleaning procedures, including restocking sanitizer stations.  Cleaning as often as we need to is now a “team sport”, especially in common areas.
  • Loading dock receiving is currently coordinated by rotating departmental personnel in each building, as we’ve moved back to lab-specific receiving and away from the Golden Street central solution.

We are extremely appreciative of the cooperation of our faculty, staff and trainees – adherence to the Guidelines has been excellent, and we have thus far had no confirmed positive cases in the research areas since April, and no cases of workplace transmission.   The gradual ramping back up of lab activity in the research buildings is going well, and we expect this to continue in the weeks ahead, within constraints of the spacing requirements outlined in the Operating Guidelines.  Reopening of additional offices and buildings is primarily limited by constraints with Employee Health resources and sanitizing supplies for buildings with large numbers of employees. We expect that if the current positive trends continue, that in July faculty will be able to return to their offices to work, with doors closed.

It is important to note that our ability to increase our occupancy of buildings for the research mission, and our ability to maintain occupancy, depends on our willingness to remain diligent with masking, distancing and appropriate hygiene measures.  This means our preventative measures are more important than ever, including the use of the on-line prescreening system.  This system allows us to quickly identify individuals who need to be tested, and then in conjunction with the badge access data we can do efficient contact tracing. It is also your direct link to Employee Health for your screening and testing, should that be necessary. We will be contacting those labs in which individuals appear to not to be completing the health checks, so that we can reach 100% compliance.

We hope and work for 100% adherence to our Operating Principles. However, in the event you are aware of instances of non-compliance, please address them with your supervisor, department leadership, or building coordinator. If that is not possible or if you still have concerns, contact the Duke Speak Up Program. This anonymous hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-826-8109, or visit the Office of Audit, Risk and Compliance website to submit the online form. 

As of the date of this letter, hospitalizations statewide are at or near an all-time peak, and the percentage of positive tests in North Carolina are among the highest in the nation.  For this reason, we must not let our guard down.   If we maintain diligent use of masking, hand washing and physical distancing, we will continue to make excellent progress in our important research mission. 

George A. Truskey, Senior Associate Dean, Pratt School of Engineering
Lawrence Carin, Vice President for Research