March 20 Message to Faculty: Essential Personnel and Planning for Possible Additional Restrictions

Dear University Researchers,

I know you are receiving many messages from the university at this time. I’m writing today to affirm the importance of your cooperation to protect the health and wellbeing of our community, and to thank you for all you have done so far.

As we work to continue as much research activity as is practicable under these difficult circumstances, please take a few minutes to reflect on the following prioritized considerations:

  1. Who among our community members is essential to the physical and operational functions of our campus buildings?  
  2. Who among our community members is essential to completing studies in person (with social distancing and staggered schedules) as opposed to being able to work from home?
  3. Who among our community members is essential to preserve the animals, cell lines, sensitive equipment, and other valuable and perishable resources that are part of our research?  

These are the only people who should be required to come to campus at this time, and even they should minimize the time they are here. We recognize that sheltering in the home is the safest route, and we appreciate your cooperation in minimizing their time on campus. Everyone else should be working from home.

The university has approved additional compensation (compensatory time for salaried employees and 1.5x pay for hourly staff) for those who must come in to work. We have indications that funding agencies will reimburse us for these expenses.  

We understand that some of those working from home may need assistance to redeploy their time. We encourage them to avail themselves of online training tools and other work-related content to stay active. Human Resources has assembled a list of links with online professional development content we encourage you to share with your staff.

Wherever possible, we ask that you find ways to continue to make your research productive without physical access to campus and while complying with health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Ohio Department of Health, Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, and our university. As we consider creative and flexible ways to continue our research without significant presence on campus, we should try to be open to new practices, processes, and tools to help us achieve our goals.

With your cooperation, we are optimistic that research in campus facilities may continue in limited fashion, with on-campus staffing reduced to a minimum. If we heed the safety guidance given for social distancing, are flexible with schedules for work hours, and embrace other ways to slow the spread of COVID-19, we have a far greater likelihood of preventing more severe impact to research progress.

Nevertheless, we also should be prepared for a potential order to halt even our most important research functions. Because of that possibility, if you have not done so already, I ask that each PI/Lab Director create a plan for the further reduction of research operations, to be shared in writing with their chair (or dean in schools that do not have departments). In some instances, your dean or chair already has determined the format for these plans; please consult with them if you are unsure about how to format and transmit the requested information.  

Your plans should include the following:

  1. Physical location of your lab (building and room number).
  2. Names of all lab personnel (faculty, staff, graduate students) indicating who (if any) is deemed essential. For essential personnel, please also include email and phone number.
  3. List of specialized equipment/instrumentation that notes which would have to be turned off/taken offline if research activities had to be restricted even more than today. In addition, that list should describe the consequences of doing so for each item. Finally, it should identify what equipment/instrumentation should remain on even if people are not permitted in the building.
  4. List of valuable/perishable resources that would need to be secured/sacrificed/disposed of, and how you would handle this need.
  5. Safety precautions to be taken (such as securing volatile or otherwise dangerous materials).

We sincerely hope not to have to activate these plans. But we feel it would be irresponsible not to prepare for the possibility that they become necessary.

As always, please contact me directly with any questions at


Suzanne M. Rivera, PhD
Vice President for Research and Technology Management