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April 6, 2020

Using sick leave to managing child/parent care
From Tufts University:

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the university will advance sick time for up to 20 days to benefits eligible staff who have no remaining sick time. Staff who are advanced sick time may use this sick time to stay home during a COVID-19 illness or during an illness resulting from COVID-19 without losing pay and/or to attend to dependent care responsibilities. Please refer to the FAQs below for details on use of advanced sick time and extended benefits for family and/or dependent care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If employees have sick time balances, they may continue to use that time for their own illness according to standard policy.  For family and/or dependent care, benefit-eligible staff are normally permitted to use 10 of their available sick days per year. While the COVID-19 FAQs are in effect, the university will permit staff to use a total of 20 days of their sick leave to attend to childcare and other dependent responsibilities during this time.

If employees need to use advanced time, there are no special codes needed.  Please ensure that you continue to report the use of family sick time using earning code 235, and that all sick time that an employee uses for their own illness is reported as usual.  This will allow us to see that employees are getting the advanced time as needed, and will help us for reporting purposes.  As always, please check with TSS if you have questions about time entry, and with your HRBP if you have questions about Employee Policies and Procedures.

Thank you for your efforts to maintain accurate time records.

Q: If I have no available sick time, can I just work from home if I have COVID-19?

A: If you are sick, you should get rest and take care of your health for a speedy recovery. If you are sick with COVID-19 self- isolation is recommended by the CDC to avoid any further spread of the virus and as set forth in prior FAQs, medical clearance will be necessary to return to work if you have had confirmed COVID-19.

If you do not have sick time or do not have enough sick time, speak to your supervisor; the university will advance sick time for up to 20 days to benefits eligible staff. You may use this sick leave so you may stay home during a COVID-19 illness or during an illness resulting from COVID-19 without losing pay. Any advanced sick time will be deducted from future sick time provided under university policy. If you exhaust your sick time (including the additional 20 days advanced), and you are unable to work, you may be eligible for other paid time off. If not, please speak to your Human Resources Business Partner.

Q: If my child or other dependent is not sick, but their school or care facility/provider is closed for a period due to COVID-19 and I need to care for them, can I be paid while I am out?

A: We understand that many schools, day care centers and other dependent care facilities or care options have temporarily closed or moved online due to this emergency.

If your children are at home and particularly if they are of the age that they require your direct supervision, or if you have other dependent care responsibilities while you are at home, we recommend you use family sick time available to you to attend to these responsibilities.

All benefit-eligible staff are normally permitted to use 10 of their available sick days per year for family and/or dependent care. The university will now permit staff to use a total of 20 days of their sick leave to attend to childcare and other dependent responsibilities during this time. While these FAQs are in effect, this time can be used intermittently to balance work and family responsibilities. As set forth in the prior FAQs, benefits eligible staff who do not have 20 days of sick time are eligible to receive an advance of sick time from the university; this same advance may also be used for dependent care. Staff who are advanced sick time may use this sick time to stay home during a COVID-19 illness or during an illness resulting from COVID-19 without losing pay or to attend to dependent care responsibilities. Any advanced sick time will be deducted from future sick time provided under university policy. If family sick days have been exhausted or sick time is exhausted (including any advanced sick time), and a staff member is unable to work, you may be eligible to use other paid time off. If not, please speak to your Human Resources Business Partner.

If you have new or increased caregiver responsibilities as a result of this public health crisis or if you require flexibility during your usual workday to attend to dependent care, please feel free to speak with your supervisor or Human Resources Business Partner about how these responsibilities can be best managed alongside your work responsibilities.

March 27, 2020

Thanks to the 134 people who participated in our first virtual staff meeting.  I really appreciate that Zoom allows us to see each other (in our natural habitats). I recommend everyone who has the capability should consider using the video feature in Zoom.  I took great joy in seeing so many faces – especially nice in this period of physical isolation.

The HNRCA is a strong community and we are open for business! Let’s continue to share resources and experiences to keep ourselves resilient and move the research forward.

March 23, 2020

GIFT OF TIME

As they say, every challenge is also an opportunity. So now is the time to catch up on the reading, writing and training that you’ve been wanting to do. Without the demands of commuting and some of the day-to-day dynamics that can be so time consuming, you should have time for these kinds of professional development. This week we will designate someone to assist people seeking training options.

Tufts University learning tools
The University provides an assortment of training opportunities. Please check out some of these options and reach out to your supervisor for suggestions:

  • LinkedIn Learning

This online learning platform (formerly called Lynda Campus) provides all students, faculty, and staff with free access to tutorials on improving professional skills such as communications, leadership, and project management as well as mastering productivity functions such as Excel, PowerPoint, etc.  Check it out at www.linkedin.com/learning  – the extensive array of offerings is impressive.

  • Tufts Learning Center

Hopefully you’ve used these university training resources in the past. Now is the time to check out what they have to offer online:http://learncenter.tufts.edu.

HNRCA social media channels

Follow HNRCA social media channels for pertinent posts interesting ways to stay engaged and to engage with your colleagues and the public.

External resources
Check out your professional societies and other research leaders such as NIH and catch up on meetings, webinars and publications you had to pass on because of conflicting demands on your time.  A few notable links:

  • NIH VideoCasting

https://videocast.nih.gov/FutureEvents

https://videocast.nih.gov/PastEvents

  • National Academy of Medicine publications

https://nam.edu/publications/

Catch up on your reading

Now’s the time to get back to all those articles and books you’ve been setting aside. To get you started I’ve attached two articles that were shared with me by colleagues. This could be the beginning of a new journal club!

GRANTS AS USUAL

I’m so delighted that there has been no interruption in service for progress reports and grant submissions. Kudos to the Research Administrators and PIs for respecting immediate deadlines.

The RA team is all working remotely to continue supporting the labs’ pre award and post award activities. They are available to support you so continue to work with them by e-mail during regular business hours. They are also available to meet via WebEx and Zoom. The RAs are prototyping novel approaches to virtual teamwork and have been holding their regular meetings and training sessions using videoconferencing.

Progress reports:  Please continue to update and work with your RA on upcoming sponsor progress reporting. Never hesitate to contact your RA and Meghan with questions regarding your specific progress report.

Grant Submission Deadlines: Please continue to work toward currently set sponsor due dates. Your RA will send updates regarding any changes to sponsor due dates as quickly as possible.  It should be noted that the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has extended deadlines for its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). We have four AFRI submissions in progress and the RAs are working with those PIs to adjust for the new deadlines.

NIH Submissions:  A reminder that the NIH has released new application forms for due dates on or after May 25th. The RA team has been trained on the new forms. Please update your RA if you are planning a NIH submission for June or July, they are ready to work with you. I look forward to seeing a record-breaking number of submissions!

WEEK AHEAD:

Staff meeting via Zoom to be held Thursday at 10 a.m. – everyone is expected to participate

  • This will allow you to connect with colleagues, ask questions and provide insight on effective ways to work remotely
  • Watch for an invitation to this virtual event
  • If you have any questions that you want to forward in advance, please send to: CenterDirector-hnrca@tufts.edu

Keep up your sense of humor, and stay healthy and safe.

March 20, 2020

We have successfully transitioned to being a virtual workplace! Thanks to everyone for being patient, cooperative and inventive.  Mark and I conducted nine conference calls with you this week and were impressed with the attendance and level of participation.

As difficult as the past few days have been, I urge you to anticipate more challenges as we watch this public health emergency unfold. The greatest unknown remains the extent of the crisis please be patient; we will most likely be operating in this new mode for weeks, not days.

I am committed to keeping you informed and supporting efforts to keep the HNRCA community connected. Each week we will send a general email on Monday morning that forecasts the week ahead and another email on Friday. Any urgent announcements/news will be shared via email and subsequently posted on our website.

Additionally, we will schedule periodic all-staff meetings using the Zoom platform – the first will be Thursday, March 26 at 10:00 a.m. (invitation to follow).

I recognize many of you are caring for small children/elderly parents and may have taken on home-schooling responsibilities. During this period of working from home, please remember your obligation to declare any time away from your availability to work as “Leave.” (Personal, vacation, sick, as appropriate). It is important that you keep your manager aware of your schedule and availability.

UPDATES:

I. All efforts to transition to working remotely should be complete

  • The building is still open for any emergencies – if you must come in to pick up files please limit your presence in the building to a minimum. Please notify your supervisor in advance. This policy is subject to change at any time.
  • Scientific computing is available to assist you with computer technology issues. Please send your requests to: hnrca-ithelp@tufts.edu.

II. All staff and trainees will continue to receive wages and benefits

  • Tufts University is committed to paying all wages and salaries. Hourly earners will be required to submit timesheets that reflect previously-established hours.

III.    All human and animal studies have been suspended

  • The CBU staff will continue to provide daily rodent support including basic feeding, cage changing, sanitation and health monitoring.
  • Only CBU staff will have access to the animal facilities; Tufts DLAM is available to provide support, if necessary.

IV. All laboratory equipment emergencies will be handled by HNRCA facilities staff

  • Our intention is to support the maintenance of equipment (e.g. liquid nitrogen tanks) that must remain active and cannot be managed remotely. Please send information about such needs to: Tom Carlier (thomas.carlier@tufts.edu).

V. Do not order any supplies

  • All standing orders (e.g. bottled water) should be canceled immediately.

VI. All staff meeting via Zoom to be held March 26 at 10 a.m. to allow all HNRCA employees an opportunity to connect and ask questions supplies

  • Watch for information and instructions about this easy-to-use platform – to be sent from the Center Director email.

VII.  These are challenging times for everyone

  • This WBUR story reflects our reality:

'It's Quite Painful': Research Labs Shut Down Non-Coronavirus Work Amid Outbreak

I encourage everyone to maintain your responsibilities to your family, neighbors and community. Don’t forget we have posted on our website resources collected by Tufts for you to use if you believe you have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

Keep up your sense of humor and stay healthy and safe.


March 16, 2020

From Caroline Attardo Genco, PhD, Vice Provost for Research

As a follow-up to my communication on March 13th, I am writing to thank you for the efforts you have made to ramp down research and switch your focus to work that you can do remotely.  With other major cities in the U.S. implementing shelter-in-place orders, we must shift our focus to more long-term planning in order to ensure research continuity during the coming weeks and months. Careful planning now will also guarantee our ability to restart research safely and with a minimum of loss.

All on-campus research activities should be suspended effective immediately and no later than March 20th at 5PM.

  • Essential care for animals or plants;
  • Maintenance of equipment that cannot be shut down or maintained remotely, such as liquid N2 tanks and shared computational networks or servers; and
  • Responding to a laboratory or freezer emergency.

All other on-campus research activities must cease, and no new experiments should be started unless they can be done remotely. Animal orders, imports and exports will be stopped. Critical animals/cages or those requiring treatment should be labeled, and consideration should be given to reducing cage census. Cell culture work must stop and cell lines must be frozen. Biological samples, chemicals and other hazardous materials must be properly stored. A checklist is being prepared to aid researchers with the process of suspending on-campus research activities. The checklist will be posted on the OVPR website once available.

There will be a very limited number of exceptions to the suspension of on-campus research activities, including:

  • Clinical and human subject research studies where:

o   the research holds the potential for direct benefit to the subject (e.g., investigational drug, devices or surgical procedure) and the interaction is required to deliver that potential direct benefit;

o   there is collection of safety data (based on clinical judgment of the importance of the visit to detect potential adverse events);

o   the PI determines that an in-person visit is vital to the subject’s safety and/or well-being,

o   there is Emergency Use / Compassionate Use / Human Use Devices (HUDs); and/or

o   the research has direct relevance to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the research cannot be conducted at another time (must be approved by the dean).

  • Clinical veterinary research studies where:

o   the research holds the potential for direct benefit to the subject (e.g., investigational drug, devices or surgical procedure) and the interaction is required to deliver that potential direct benefit;

o   there is collection of safety data (based on clinical judgment of the importance of the visit to detect potential adverse events);

o   the PI determines that an in-person visit is vital to the subject’s safety and/or well-being; and/or

o   the research has direct relevance to the current COVID-19 pandemic and research cannot be conducted at another time (must be approved by the dean).

o   NOTE: The above listed scenarios are only permitted provided that the owner or client is not required to be within the clinic building and there is no face-to-face contact. Also, new patients that present to the clinics for essential or emergency care may be enrolled in on-going trials, but no new clinical trials may be initiated.

Exception requests must be approved by the respective school-based research dean and/or dean/center director and subsequently by, theResearch Continuity Committee. The committee has been tasked by the University to provide guidance to the community and serve as a governing body on issues of research continuity and is composed of members of the OVPR and other areas in the University.

For funded research activities, granting agencies are starting to issue guidance on charging or not charging expenses to a sponsored award when activities are suspended or performed remotely due to the effects of COVID-19. The guidance is evolving and fluid so there may be changes. We will follow-up with more information on this topic next week.

Our goal is to work closely with your schools to minimize the impact on your professional advancement and the advancement of our students and staff. We urge you to focus your research on work that can be done remotely, off campus and without human contact. We need to be creative and respond to the collective need to reduce the community spread of COVID-19 and preserve needed resources in order to protect the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students.

We will be hosting a town hall meeting via Zoom on March 20th at noon to answer questions and address concerns:https://tufts.zoom.us/j/658007454 or 1-646-558-8656, Access Code: 658007454. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me orovpr@tufts.edu should you have any immediate questions or concerns.

Thank you for your patience as we manage the rapidly evolving circumstances related to COVID-19. These are truly unprecedented times.

March 16, 2020

In response to COVID-19 precautions, please read below.

I.  All HNRCA staff must transition to working remotely
• Please wrap up all work in the building within the next 24 hours and bring home all appropriate technology and files
• Scientific computing is available to assist you in setting up remote access. Send your requests to: hnrca-ithelp@tufts.edu

II. ALL studies are being suspended – there are no exceptions
• Only CBU staff will have access to the facilities they manage.

III.  All new Tufts University COVID-19 related policies will be posted to the HNRCA website.

IV. HNRCA Leadership will be providing regular communications from the Center Director email

 V. Teleconferences will be scheduled with the Center Director’s Office to allow all HNRCA employees  an opportunity to connect and ask questions
• Starting Tuesday, invitations to specific groups will be sent by email and Outlook Calendar. Please check your email and/or Outlook Calendar daily