March 20: MBL Coronavirus Update

Dear Colleagues,

As we close out our first week of reduced on-campus staffing, I want to thank all of our faculty and staff for your cooperation, adaptability, and commitment to the MBL. The Coronavirus has disrupted daily life for every member of our community and has required each of us to significantly adapt to ensure that the MBL continues its essential work while also protecting ourselves, our families, our colleagues, and our community. We recognize that this presents a new set of challenges—from concerns for those for whom remote work is not possible, to the need to care for dependents who are at home and no longer in school. The MBL stands ready to fully support you.

Today, we announce a plan to help all MBL employees navigate this uncharted territory. During the pandemic, employees will be eligible for up to six weeks (based upon regularly scheduled hours) of additional paid time off that can be used for all reasons related to COVID-19 including the inability to work remotely, personal illness, and the need to quarantine or provide family care. At the end of this six-week period we will evaluate the plan and announce any additional measures which might make sense for our community. We will provide detailed information on the COVID-19 Plan early next week including how to report this time in UltiPro, communication with supervisors, as well as documentation which will be required.

With positive COVID-19 cases now documented on Cape Cod, it is important that we all be aware of self-isolation guidelines in the event of contact with someone who has tested positive. Self-isolation guidance, adapted from University of Chicago materials, is attached. Please note, the CDC does not recommend testing, symptom monitoring, or self-isolation for people exposed to asymptomatic people with potential exposures to COVID-19, such as “contacts of contacts.” If you have specific questions about if and when you should notify the MBL of illness, please contact Human Resources at hr@mbl.edu

Just as we have all had to adapt our individual work and research, the MBL as a whole must continually review and adapt our operations and programs with the health and best interests of our entire community in mind. As such, following guidance of the CDC and the MA Department of Public Health, and after careful consideration of public health and travel restrictions, we have decided to cancel all Advanced Research Training courses with April, May, and, June start dates. This includes Analytical and Quantitative Light Microscopy, Frontiers in Reproduction, Workshop on Molecular Evolution, Neural Systems and Behavior, Neurobiology, Embryology, Biology of Parasitism, SPINES, and Physiology. In addition, the Grass Foundation and MBL have cancelled the 2020 Grass fellowship program and the MBL’s Logan Science Journalism Program has been cancelled. The Whitman Fellowship Program and Whitman Center program is suspended through May.

We will continue to monitor state and federal guidance regarding future programming and will make decisions on July and August courses as well as Whitman Fellowship and Whitman Center research in June, July, and beyond as the situation evolves.

In addition to these programmatic updates, additional operational changes have been made and are outlined below. These measures are aimed at reducing our on-campus footprint and preparing the MBL in the event of a statewide shelter-in-place order. Should a shelter in place order be made by Governor Baker, MBL access would be restricted for those staff who are not required to be on campus. Managers should be sure their staff is aware of who is authorized to be on campus. Should a shelter-in-place order go into effect, the MBL would provide a grace period for staff to enter buildings and labs to ensure an orderly transition and further guidance would be shared.

The following items outline additional operational changes:

Research – As noted earlier this week, Principal Investigators have developed staffing and work plans that ensure that animal care and other core functions are maintained with the minimum number of people physically on campus.

Library – Library offices are closed and physical access to the stacks and reading rooms is suspended until further notice. Patrons should visit mblwhoilibrary.org to access online collections. No books will be due until the Library reopens. Please keep all books, including Interlibrary Loans, until Library reopens. Contact library@mbl.edu for more information.

Facilities and Services – Facilities will continue to provide essential services critical to maintaining laboratory operations with the following changes, effective Saturday, March 21:

  • Security – Security will be operational 24/7, but with reduced staffing.
  • Environmental Services – Staffing will be reduced to one person per day, Monday through Friday. Common areas in sections of buildings that are occupied with staff will be cleaned daily. Unoccupied areas where staff are working remotely will not be cleaned to allow thorough cleaning of occupied areas. Please note, in some cases, Environmental Services staff will be working on an alternate shift schedule and not necessarily a typical day shift. If any department has cleaning needs, contact Chad Baptiste directly at cbaptiste@mbl.edu.
  • Mail & Shipping – Mail will be picked up and dropped off at the Woods Hole Post Office twice a week (Monday and Friday) instead of daily. We will temporarily suspend direct mail delivery to departments. Instead, incoming mail will be sorted in the Lillie basement mailroom for departments to pick up in labeled cubbies.

    Packages will continue to be delivered directly to departments as they are received. Outgoing package shipping will continue during the hours of 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Any questions should be directed to Bob Kaski at rkaski@mbl.edu.

  • Plant Operations and Maintenance (POM) – POM will have two people on staff 7 days a week from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  The staff will be performing rounds of all mechanical spaces as well as continuing to address all critical preventive maintenance needed for building systems. Administrative POM staff will be working remotely. Contact Bill Brosseau at wbrosseau@mbl.edu. For urgent POM needs, contact Security at 508-289-7217.
  • Dining Services – Swope Dining is closed until further notice
  • Vending Services – Swope Center machines will remain operational and stocked. Loeb and Lillie machines have been emptied in order to consolidate service and reduce waste.
  • Housing – The Housing office is closed and all staff are working remotely. For any questions or needs contact Kerri Mills at kmills@mbl.edu.

As always, for questions or concerns, please contact your supervisor or Human Resources Department team members at hr@mbl.edu. We will continue to keep you updated on additional changes or modifications.

Paul Speer PhD
Chief Operating Officer
Marine Biological Laboratory