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COVID-19 FAQ for Faculty and Staff

From Dr. Curt Bennett, Richard D. Green Dean of CNSM

Updated April 7.

Dear CNSM Faculty and Staff,

Thank you for your continued work in helping our students, each other, and the college during the pandemic. Also thank you for your continued patience with the ever-changing rules.

On Monday, the President stated "our physical campus is closed," and this morning the LA County Health Department is urging people to stay home and not even go to the grocery store this week.

In consultation with the safety office, the associate deans, and the department chairs, under this new phase, the definition of essential functions is much more rigid. In this new situation, until further notice all labs must hibernate as soon as possible and no later than Wednesday April 7, 5:00pm. Hibernation means:

  • No Student (Graduate or Undergraduate) Involvement in Research Labs. We need to ensure that as few people are on campus as possible.
  • Maintenance Activities Only. We need to do the bare minimum of what is required to not upset the research (keeping organisms alive, preserving cell lines, protecting equipment, etc.). No research. No experiment or analysis. No data production. Concerns about funding or getting a paper out are not exigent.

Those of you who are concerned about grant-funded projects, please look to the funding agencies and the program officers for guidance – the agencies are aware that almost all research in the country is going into hibernation.

Those of you who are concerned about graduate student research that is to be completed by spring or summer, note that the President has stated that all instruction is virtual. This includes student research. We must provide research students with some kind of alternative method for completion should we stay on the current "safer at home" for too long. Those looking at spring graduation should be writing.

I recognize that many of you feel that it is perfectly safe in your laboratories. However, the purpose of this order is not simply for your safety. It is to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. It is to protect others who must come to campus to ensure that the machines don’t break down, to ensure we all get paid, and to ensure that the university can resume operation after the pandemic. Every person who comes to campus transports germs to and from their home location and campus, by what they touch, breathing in enclosed spaces, etc.

The next two weeks are crucial. Health agencies are telling us that each person who self-isolates reduces their risk of infecting others dramatically. The difference this can make to the health care system, nursing homes, families with elderly or immune-compromised individuals is vitally important.

Unprecedented times test our strength and our commitment to one another. I have no doubt that if we each do our part, the college will survive and rebound from this difficult time.

Must all required synchronous activities happen during my scheduled class time?

Yes. You may only give exams or expect students to be online in your class during its scheduled meeting time.

What about students who have limited access to the internet?

This is a real concern. The university has been working on it, and students should be directed to the university COVID-19 page www.csulb.edu/covid-19 (or if they have no internet, you can read it off to them). We haven't fully solved the issue, but it is constantly on the minds of the administration. Unfortunately, because of the need to be "Safer at Home" and avoid a health care crisis, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We have to move forward as best we can.

I'm worried about those students, what should I do?

Part of what I love about our faculty is that you worry about this. I think what we can do is to ensure that those students will have the ability to catch up once the access issue is figured out. Suggestions for this include: recording your lectures so students can watch them later; ensuring that students who can't participate synchronously have other options through alternative assignments, YouTube videos; reducing the number and/or length of assignments (a good idea for everyone given the added stress and how overloaded with everything we all are); being flexible with due dates, etc. My number one request is that we all be very understanding of the myriad stresses on our students and on each other.

Should I really not come to campus?

Everyone should work from home if at all possible. Currently the state projects that "25.5 million people in California will be infected over an 8-week period" (see Los Angeles Times story). It is paramount that we work to decrease this number or at least ensure that the subsequent hospitalizations are spread out so as not to overwhelm our health care system.

What if I have limited internet at home?

If you are 64 or under, then you may come to your office to hold your classes. However, we need to strongly limit the number of people in each of our buildings, so only come in for your classes. Contact your department chair about when you want to come in to teach, and see if we can accommodate that time.

If your department chair gives you permission, please fill out the CNSM Building Occupancy Survey. In addition to this survey, please fill out the COVID-19 Pre-Screen located on Single Sign-On. The pre-screen form must be completed by essential staff who are physically reporting to campus. Essential staff should complete the form each work day prior to leaving for work. Do not complete the pre-screen form if you are working remotely.

With so few people on campus will it be safe?

We are doing everything in our power to make it so. This is a major reason for why the buildings are "closed" and locked. It is another reason we want to have information on who's on campus in which buildings.

The buildings are locked and the entrance I usually use has a disc over the keyhole. Why?

The campus has multiple concerns. First, with the limited number of people on campus, we want to ensure the buildings are safe. Locking the buildings and limiting the number of entry points on each building helps ensure only those who are supposed to be in the buildings are there. Currently the entrances are: HSCI front entrance across from the bookstore is open and the MLSC entrance from the courtyard. I also want to warn you now that to decrease the workload on our limited custodial staff, in each building there will only be one floor with open bathrooms (typically the 2nd floor).

What about my research lab?

Until further notice all labs must hibernate as soon as possible and no later than Wednesday April 8, 5:00pm. Hibernation means: 

  • No Student (Graduate or Undergraduate) Involvement in Research Labs. We need to ensure that as few people are on campus as possible.
  • Maintenance Activities Only. We need to do the bare minimum of what is required to not upset the research (keeping organisms alive, preserving cell lines, protecting equipment, etc.). No research. No experiment or analysis. No data production. Concerns about funding or getting a paper out are not exigent.

Those of you who are concerned about grant-funded projects, please look to the funding agencies and the program officers for guidance – the agencies are aware that almost all research in the country is going into hibernation.

Do I need to tell anyone I'm coming to campus?

Yes, we ask that researchers fill out the CNSM Building Occupancy Survey so that we know who is on campus at what time. In addition to this survey, please fill out the COVID-19 Pre-Screen located on Single Sign-On. The pre-screen form must be completed by essential staff who are physically reporting to campus. Essential staff should complete the form each work day prior to leaving for work. Do not complete the pre-screen form if you are working remotely.

Wait, how do my purchases get delivered?

We have a hiatus on purchasing stateside. If you must order something from your grants, you need to deal with pick up. Please contact Receiving at 5-8119 after 10am once you know the items have been delivered to campus for pickup. The college office will not be open for deliveries. There is a strong likelihood that we will receive more information that will change how Foundation-side purchasing will happen for the time being.

What about my students in my research lab?

To promote social distancing and to ensure that essential CSULB personnel is able to safely support remote operations, we are closing MLSC, HSCI, and FO3 buildings to all research students, both undergraduate and graduate, effective Monday April 6, 8:00am.

If you have a research student currently authorized to work in your research laboratory and the student has the building/laboratory key, they may enter the building to collect their belongings before Wednesday April 8, 5:00pm. The student must first contact you in advance and request authorization before coming to campus.

Since we lost 8 class days, can I require students to meet over spring break?

No. Spring break is still spring break. Since we lost a little more than a week of class, you should change your course accordingly so that less material is covered.

Anything else?

YES, If at all possible, do everything you can from home. Please be safe and be well.