Research buildings at KU to gradually reopen with increased safety measures

photo by: Associated Press

Students cross Jayhawk Boulevard in front of Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

As part of its gradual plan to reopen campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Kansas announced Friday that its research buildings would slowly begin to reopen — with increased safety measures and cleaning procedures.

Most notably, everyone in the lab must wear a mask or face covering at all times — a glimpse at how the campus may look during the five-phase reopening plan KU officials announced last week.

All research work that can be completed remotely should still be done from home, Vice Provost for Operations Mike Rounds said Friday. And all research buildings will continue to be closed from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day so they can be thoroughly cleaned by custodial staff.

On Monday, four labs at the Multidisciplinary Research Building on KU’s west campus will open before the entire building completes an expanded opening on May 18.

The rest of the research building reopening plan is as follows:

• May 26: The Life Sciences Research Laboratories, Engineering LEEP 2 laboratory, the Integrated Science Building and the Earth, Energy & Environment Center will start to reopen.

• June 1: Shankel Structural Biology Center and Higuchi Hall will start to reopen.

• June 8: Haworth Hall, Malott Hall and Simons Biosciences Research Laboratories will start to reopen.

Researchers in each building will be told whether or not they have been designated to return prior to the reopening dates.

“Ultimately, the risk to your health and the health of your colleagues is reduced by following designated protocols,” Rounds said. “By following physical distancing and other protocols you will help ensure our planned expansion of on-campus research progresses without setbacks, and your research can continue uninterrupted.”

Currently, KU is not planning on taking the temperature of everyone who enters research buildings, Rounds said.

Though the buildings are slowly reopening, they will operate far differently than before the pandemic. Stairwells will be designated as either up or down, only one person should be on an elevator at a time, multiple workers shouldn’t be in a lab at the same time, and no visitors will be allowed in research buildings without approval.

Should a research employee test positive for COVID-19, the university has established a protocol that all members of the employee’s lab will self-quarantine for 14 days, and KU will support contact tracing efforts to determine if others in the building should also self-quarantine.

Employees who test positive will be allowed back to work only after being cleared to do so by a personal physician.

Restarting in-person research was one of the first priorities identified in the university’s reopening plan announced on May 1. The five-phase plan does not yet have a timeline, and will instead be guided by testing metrics and advice from local and state health officials.


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