COVID-19 Updates

Stay up to date with the latest research restart guidance and follow Pitt's response to the outbreak.

COVID-19 Updates and Resources

Please go to the Research Restart webpage for more details about the return of onsite research to campus.

As Pitt continues to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak, please stay informed by visiting the Public Safety and Emergency Management Office for real-time updates and precautions taken by the University. Additional information on pandemic preparedness for researchers is available through the office of Environmental Health and Safety. 

Below are resources to help the research community stay up to date regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Page last updated 7/1/2020.

Research Restart Update

Please go to Research Restart for more details about the return of onsite research to campus.

PPE and Supplies to Support COVID-19 Mitigation
The safety and health of all our students, faculty, researchers, and staff remains the highest priority of the University. As we continue to execute essential functions on campus and prioritize the expansion of research functions, PantherExpress has been working with Pitt Research and Environmental Health & Safety leadership to identify safety requirements. They have been consolidating requirements and securing large quantities of high-quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supplies to support COVID-19 mitigation from trusted sources. The Panther Express website has detailed information regarding the availability of PPE & supplies to support COVID-19 mitigation. 
Guidelines for Essential Research Personnel, Including Graduate Students

While scientific research and development continue at the University of Pittsburgh, all in-person work must be deemed essential and conducted in a manner fully consistent with guidance to minimize transmission risk of COVID-19. Consistent with Governor Tom Wolf’s orders, the following guidelines apply to all University of Pittsburgh research activities:

Essential Activities. Access to research buildings is permitted for the following activities:

  • research on COVID-19;
  • work for which a stop or delay could cause harm to research participants’ well-being;
  • work for which a stop or delay could cause harm to animal populations or other vital living collections;
  • work whose suspension would cause a critical loss of unique or irreplaceable materials or data; or
  • management of equipment, instruments, or research infrastructure where the lack of maintenance could create damage or endanger safety; or
  • work for which a stop or delay would adversely impact critical national security efforts as described in DoD’s Defense Industrial Base Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce memorandum or disrupt other essential critical infrastructure operations as described by the Director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the March 19, 2020 guidance on the COVID-19 response.

Building Access. Beginning 5:00 PM, Monday, March 23, access to a subset of research buildings is limited to authorized personnel only. All other campus office and research buildings are closed.

Deans, upon the advice of department chairs, will identify essential research personnel whose authorized access will be as limited in time and location as is practical to carry out essential activities. Facilities Management will reduce electronic access to authorized personnel only. All DLAR and EH&S personnel are essential employees and do not require approval for access. For buildings without card access, Public Safety will check an individual’s requests for access against each school’s list of authorized personnel. Principal Investigators can appeal their department chair’s designation of in-person activities as non-essential to their Associate Dean for Research (or equivalent).

These are:

Further appeals to the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research are final, and can be made, if necessary, by submitting relevant information to: researchcovid@pitt.edu.

Trainees May Be Essential Personnel. Principal Investigators may designate graduate students or other trainees as essential personnel who may be asked to carry out any enumerated research activity. Guidance from the Office of the Provost, which includes an appeal process for trainees concerned about the request process, can be found on the Guidelines for Designating Trainees as Performing Essential Lab Activities During COVID-19 Restrictions page. Trainees who fall within any of the CDC-defined high-risk groups (e.g., asthmatic, diabetic, immune-compromised) should not be assigned essential activities.

Safety Guidelines for Essential Research Personnel. Guidelines developed by the University of Pittsburgh Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) for essential research and laboratory activities may be found here. Continue to follow existing safety practices, and only alter your lab’s safety practices after consultation and approval by EH&S. EH&S remains available via e-mail and phone (safety@ehs.pitt.edubiosafe@ehs.pitt.edu; 412-624-9505) to provide assistance.

We understand the situation is changing rapidly. If other questions arise in the planning, execution, or provisioning of any Pitt’ essential research, please send inquiries to: researchcovid@pitt.edu.

CTSI Coordinating COVID-19 Research and Piloting Funding Grants

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) has launched a pilot grant program that aims to help fund investigators developing novel solutions to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding—up to $50,000 to up to four projects—will support new research initiatives that will make immediate progress towards reducing the harm to individuals, groups and society from the new coronavirus. Additional details were written up in a March 27 @Pitt story, CTSI Piloting Funding Grants

Research teams at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC have mobilized to plan and implement studies that are submitted to the IRB for review related to COVID-19. Principal investigators planning or conducting COVID-19 related studies, please submit a brief description of your proposal. 

For more detailed information, please visit the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) COVID-19 research coordination site

Proposals

Unless a sponsor has released a communication or posted an update to their website, proposals should be submitted by the posted deadline. The Office of Sponsored Programs requires complete proposal applications to be routed to it in MyFunding by no later than four business days before the sponsor’s due date.

Office of Sponsored Programs is fully operational. Beginning March 16, 2020, OSP will be working remotely until further notice. OSP can be contacted by via phone or email, and staff are available for virtual meetings. Transaction requests and their related communications should continue to be sent through OSP electronic systems (MyFundingMyRAContraxx, etc.).

Federal Agency Responses
National Institutes of Health (NIH): 
National Science Foundation (NSF):
  • Guidance on NSF S-STEM awards – NSF encourages the reallocation of funds to increase the support for scholars who are facing unexpected additional financial need while adhering to the requirements of 1) scholarship support cannot exceed $10,000 per academic year, and (2) scholarship support cannot exceed unmet financial need or the cost of attendance. Reallocation of funds must be in accordance with University and NSF policies and procedures. For additional details, please see the NSF S-STEM communication.
  • Special report on coronavirus information 
Department of Defense (DOD): 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memos:

​For other federal and non-federal responses related to COVID-19 please visit the Office of Sponsored Programs COVID-19 page. 

Funding Opportunities for Research on COVID-19

The Office of Sponsored Programs provides real-time, updated information on all funding opportunities for research on COVID-19.  

Human Subject Research

All questions regarding COVID-19 and human subject research should be directed to askirb@pitt.edu. Please see the HRPO COVID-19 information page for specifics related to protocol operations and modifications.  

Human Research Protection Office (HRPO) operations update:

  • If you need to visit the office in person, please email askirb@pitt.edu in advance.
  • All on-campus research work is restricted, where possible, to only essential activities.
  • There will be no anticipated disruptions of the IRB Committee meetings or review of applications. Meetings are being held virtually according to the published schedule. 

Enrollment of new subjects on existing research studies should be paused in many cases. This will be decided on a study-by-study basis (refer to essential information to ramp down research involving human subjects).

Continuing your research depends on the details of your research study. In general, in-person contact is strongly discouraged. Some studies that are critical to a particular population need to be sustained for treatment or ethical reasons, while other studies (e.g., those not targeting a direct therapeutic benefit) should be paused. If your research or scholarship can be conducted remotely or entirely online, you are free to sustain these activities as resources allow. Please visit the HRPO COVID-19 information page for more details.

Modification of studies for certain types of changes related to COVID-19 may need to be submitted to the IRB prior to implementation.  Other minor changes may not need to be submitted or may need to be submitted through another mechanism. Please visit the HRPO COVID-19 information page for more details.

Petitions to the IRB to continue enrollment or to continue in-person visits can be made through the RNI process in PittPRO. Refer to "How do I petition the IRB for an Exception". 

If a subject reports possible COVID-19 exposure or symptoms during a study visit, follow institutional policy. If possible, place a surgical mask on the subject and direct them to a private room with a door that can close. At UPMC locations, contact the Infection Prevention Team through MedCall at 412-647-7000. At non-UPMC locations, contact the local health department for guidance (Allegheny County Health Department: 412-578-8062).

Animal Research

In general, all animal ordering is suspended, and experiments on animals that were not previously manipulated are not allowed. Personnel should only enter animal facilities to provide treatments of animals that were previously manipulated, and to manage the minimal breeding of rodents required to maintain the integrity of strains.  To request an exception (e.g., if you are conducting research related to COVID-19), please complete this request form. A subcommittee will evaluate this request and provide a decision in less than three business days. 

Plan to ensure animals will continue to receive care. Our top priority is the health and welfare of the animal colony. Pitt’s Division of Laboratory Animal Resources (DLAR) has a disaster management plan that includes care of animals during a pandemic.

Preparing for possible supply shortages:

  • DLAR will have a sufficient reserve of feed and bedding to accommodate short term delivery interruptions.
  • Due to public utilization of personal protective equipment (PPE) some of these supplies are currently in short demand. DLAR currently has enough PPE supplies, but they ask that you DO NOT take DLAR PPE for your personal usage and only use the PPE that is required for your work.
  • The DLAR veterinarians are closely monitoring for potential drug shortages and will alert the research community if veterinary drugs become unavailable. If there are questions about veterinary drug availability, please contact your facility veterinarian. 

Potential risks regarding the susceptibility of different animal species to COVID-19 infection:

  • At the present time the American Veterinary Association (AVMA) states that there is currently no evidence of natural transmission from humans to animals but advises that anyone who is sick should avoid animal contact.
  • The DLAR veterinarians are closely monitoring available information on disease susceptibility in a wide range of species. DLAR is also closely monitoring the health of the colonies for signs of respiratory disease.

For all users who breed rodents, consider cryopreserving your transgenic lines. This would be a good time to consider doing so to prevent the possibility of losing these lines completely. This is also a highly recommended general practice to ensure the security and preservation of your valuable strains. The University has two core facilities that can assist you with these efforts and all the major rodent vendors also offer these services. DLAR encourages you to reach out to them if you are interested in this service. 

Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC) meetings and review of protocols will not be disrupted. There will be no anticipated disruptions of the IACUC committee meetings or review of protocols. Meetings are being held remotely and the IACUC staff is working remotely. If you have any questions, email iacuc@pitt.edu.

Most in-person training classes are postponed. DLAR is postponing most in-person training courses. However, they are conducting small group trainings for research volunteers whose help may be needed in the event of DLAR short staffing. These trainings are on basic husbandry and cage procedures only.

Core Facilities:

Transgenic and Gene Targeting Core, Department of Immunology
Contact Chunming Bi: chunming@pitt.edu

Genome Editing, Transgenic, and Virus (GETV) Core, Magee Woman’s Research Institute
Contact Yi Sheng: ysheng@mwri.magee.edu

Commercial Vendors for Animal Research

The Jackson Laboratories
Charles River Laboratories
Taconic Biosciences
Envigo
Research Facilities and Laboratories

The Environmental Health and Safety Office website has detailed information on laboratory safety and services provided. They have created a Pandemic Preparedness Guide for Researchers which includes a series of questions designed to guide through a self-examination of preparedness. It is strongly encouraged that you review this guidance and implement a plan to manage research activities during this crisis and preparation for any future events.

The Office of Public Safety & Emergency Management  provides up-to-date information on the current status of the COVID-19 crisis.

Bench Research

No new bench research should be initiated, although experimental procedures (e.g., cell culture) initiated prior to March can be continued until the ongoing experimental procedures are concluded.

Travel and Visitors

The University's Academic Visitor Guidance, which can be found here, contains current information about visitors to campus. University hosts should exercise prudence to ensure that any inbound travel for foreign visitors adheres to CDC guidelines, and does not expose the traveler or campus to undue risk. 

All domestic and international travel conducted on behalf of the University has been restricted until further notice. Please visit the University’s Emergency COVID-19 Travel and International Student web page for more information.

In cases involving H1-B, H1-B1, L-, and O- visas, the Office of Trade Compliance provides a mandatory I-129 deemed export review as part of the visa process through the Office of International Services (OIS). University members should continue to follow OIS guidance related to all visa applications and sponsorships.

Domestic and International Shipping

The University utilizes the ProShip system, a convenient and secure web-based shipping platform that allows users to rate shop and generate labels from their own computers.  There are no current modifications or restrictions to this system, but other factors may affect your ability to mail an item, especially items shipped to a foreign location. Please consult the University’s COVID-19 Response website and major carriers such as UPS, DHL and Fed-Ex to check for any restrictions that may affect your shipment.

Invention Disclosures and Licensing

The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute will continue to carry out its core functions during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, many of our events and programs will be either postponed or provided remotely. We will continue to accept and process invention disclosures from Pitt faculty, students and staff. If you have a question regarding an upcoming item, please email us at innovate@pitt.edu. For more information visit the Innovation Institute.

Center for Research Computing Remote Access & Time Allocation

Increase of computing time is available to COVID-19 researchers. If you are conducting computational research related to COVID-19, we will prioritize your needs by providing a supplemental allocation and higher priority. Contact crc-team@list.pitt.edu or Brian Connelly at bgc14@pitt.edu.

Accessing CRC Computing Clusters:

  • All users working under an active account can remotely access the CRC computing clusters. The clusters are accessible securely from almost anywhere in the world via a Virtual Private Network (VPN), a service of CSSD. The VPN requires certain software to run on your system, and multiple alternatives are available in order to cover almost all systems and configurations
  • If you use CRC’s H2P computing cluster (MPI, SMP and GPU computing), please follow these steps to connect to the VPN and then to the cluster.
  • If you use CRC’s High-Throughput (HTC) cluster, please follow these steps to connect to the VPN and then to the cluster.

Receiving Help from a CRC Consultant:

CRC Workshop Updates:

Conflict of Interest Disclosure Update

Pitt’s conflicts of interest disclosure requirements were recently incorporated into a new online reporting system, MyDisclosures. It was to be launched in March on a pilot basis. That rollout has been paused in light of the national and local efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The University of Pittsburgh and the UPMC deadlines for routine annual filing of conflict of interest disclosures have accordingly been deferred from the customary April 15 to a date to be determined. 2019 COI disclosures will continue to be accepted until MyDisclosures is activated, and a new disclosure deadline is established. As a reminder, all those acquiring or becoming aware of a new financial interest (SFI) are required to update their disclosure using the SuperForm system within 30 days of becoming aware of the new financial interest. Disclosers should not make routine annual updates on this site. 

More details are found on the Conflict of Interest website.

Continued Updates for All Researchers

For questions, please email: researchcovid@pitt.edu