COVID-19: Guiding Principles for Working Safely with Research Animals in the Vivarium

June 10, 2020

Last Updated: Monday, April 12, 2021 

Read the latest communication about important topics impacting U-M research and scholarship activities sent from U-M Vice President for Research Rebecca Cunningham on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

COVID-19 Virus: Safeguarding & Supporting Your Research Operations

Research Re-Engagement

Leaders from across the three University of Michigan (U-M) campuses continue to incorporate public health guidance into plans to safely expand research and scholarship activity.

Additional information about institution-wide guidelines and planning resources can be found on the U-M Office of Research (UMOR) Research Re-Engagement webpage

For detailed guidance on managing your animal-related project(s), please click on the links below to jump to a specific FAQ topic:

Frequently Asked Questions

Research Re-Engagement 

Changes to laboratory and research space densities, which were first announced in the March 2021 VPR Update, went into effect on April 1, 2021. These changes have resulted in the following adjustments to entry/exit procedures for all animal facilities:

  • Gloves are no longer required for entry into the vivarium(s). Instead, you will find hand sanitizing/washing stations throughout the facility. Consistent with current public health guidance, individuals should continue to follow appropriate handwashing and hand sanitizing practices on a regular basis, especially after handling any shared equipment or devices.
  • Specific traffic flows throughout the vivarium, which were instituted during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, are no longer required.

Effective April 1, 2021, there is no longer a mandate to maintain 144 square feet per person in laboratories and research spaces. Therefore:

  • All occupancy signs for animal rooms have been removed EXCEPT FOR rooms in which six-foot social distancing is not possible due to overall room size. For these spaces, personnel should still expect to see Room Occupancy Signs posted outside the animal room door.
  • ULAM continues to maintain an online room reservation tool for booking time in animal housing and procedure rooms (see additional FAQ below)
  • For all other rooms, and in all other spaces, researchers must continue to maintain at least six feet of separation at all times and wear face coverings (see additional FAQ below).
  • If your research requires you to perform complex procedures where six-foot social distancing cannot be maintained, then you must still submit an Exception for Performing Complex Procedures Request Form to be reviewed and approved by both EHS and ULAM.
  • If you already have an approval on file with ULAM, then you do NOT need to submit a new request unless your procedures change.
  • Effective April 1, 2021, new and existing approvals for performing complex procedures that ONLY pertain to violation of room density requirements are no longer required.

Yes, as long as six-foot social distancing can be maintained OR you are able to conduct procedures with the same number of people that have already been approved on an Exception for Performing Complex Procedures Request Form for distancing ONLY.

  • Regardless of vaccination status, all students, staff, faculty, and visitors must continue to wear a face covering that covers the mouth and nose while anywhere on campus grounds. For more information, please refer to the U-M Face Covering Policy for COVID-19.
  • U-M research re-engagement guidelines do not supersede any more stringent or heightened lab or other safety requirements – including any related to the use of specific PPE – applicable to a given research project, which must continue to be followed at all times.
  • Individuals should review the signage posted on the outside of each vivarium entrance/animal room door for information about the specific types of PPE required for entry into that room.
  • Studies that can be done safely while following all of the required social distancing guidelines are permissible. Please see the following FAQ for additional information and guidance on how to request an exception for performing complex procedures that may violate existing six-foot social distancing directives.

  • Research interaction with animals and space within ULAM and animal housing rooms must be carefully scheduled/coordinated to ensure mandated social distancing directives. ULAM has developed an online reservation tool for booking time in both animal housing and procedure rooms. Specific, step-by-step instructions on how to access this tool have been emailed to all individuals listed on an active animal use protocol.

Some complex procedures that involve multiple personnel (e.g., large animal surgery) cannot physically be performed while maintaining six-foot social distancing. However, evidence suggests that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) similar to that used in Animal Biosafety Level 2 (ABSL-2) research effectively minimizes the potential transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Therefore, such procedures may be permissible under the following conditions:

  • Standard, laboratory-provided surgical garb, which includes a gown, hair covering, gloves, and a cloth or surgical face mask with the addition of a face shield, must be used when at least six feet of social distancing cannot be achieved. Surgical masks may be re-used but should be replaced if the mask becomes wet or visibly soiled. Face shields should be discarded or decontaminated after each use and stored in a clean area.
  • Use of this PPE regimen in lieu of six-foot distancing is only permissible in situations where distancing is physically impossible; otherwise, social distancing expectations must be maintained. If at any time during the procedure social distancing is possible, it must be practiced.
 

HOW TO REQUEST AN EXCEPTION

To assist with assessing the requirement for such exceptions, a request must formally be submitted, reviewed, and approved by both EHS and the ULAM Clinical Veterinarian (or their designee) assigned to the facility/building where the procedure(s) will occur. Complete the Exception for Performing Complex Procedures Request Form to request an exception.**

Each request will be used to review procedures already described in an IACUC approved protocol that, when done properly, may violate the existing six-foot social distancing directives in place via State of Michigan Executive Orders.

**Note that more than one protocol may be included on each form submission.
You should expect to receive a response from EHS/ULAM regarding the status of your submission within 5 business days.

  • To support equitable access to animal resources, housing, and procedure space(s), ULAM will monitor PI and room census and, in certain situations, may need to limit housing space, animal orders, and procedure room reservation time to accommodate as many laboratories as possible.

  • ULAM has developed an online reservation tool for booking time in both animal housing and procedure rooms. Specific, step-by-step instructions on how to access this tool have been emailed to all individuals listed on an active animal use protocol. To reserve time:

    • Access the tool (calendar) using the link provided in the original email invite you received or by navigating to U-M’s Google Drive. Note that you must have valid Level-1 U-M login credentials and be listed on an active animal use protocol in order to view the Room Reservation Schedules.
    • We strongly recommend that each lab designate one member of their team to serve as the primary point of contact for booking rooms.
    • Only those procedure rooms listed on your approved protocol(s) should be reserved.
    • Please be considerate of your fellow researchers by providing adequate contact information for shared spaces, reserve only the minimum amount of time needed for your research needs, and close the reservation calendar when you are finished.
  • If you have questions about how to reserve rooms, please contact your facility’s ULAM Husbandry Supervisor. For troubleshooting issues pertaining to calendar access, please email ulam-questions@umich.edu.

  • Effective August 15, 2020, ULAM husbandry staff in SPF rodent rooms will be wearing a long-sleeved shirt that will serve as our vivarium-dedicated uniform. Yellow gowns will still be worn by all lab/research staff and by ULAM in rodent rooms, including containment, C. Bovis-free, contaminated rooms, etc., which require a gown to be donned before entry. Lab/research staff PPE requirements have NOT changed; research staff will continue to wear a gown to enter these rooms and should always refer to the room entry signs posted on every animal room door. These changes have been made in order to preserve the disposable (yellow) gowns for lab/research staff to use during a product shortage.

  • U-M research re-engagement guidelines do not supersede any more stringent or heightened lab or other safety requirements – including any related to the use of specific PPE – applicable to a given research project, which must continue to be followed at all times.

  • Individuals should review the signage posted on the outside of each vivarium entrance/animal room door for information about the specific types of PPE required for entry into that room.

  • Until further notice, the U-M requires all students, staff, faculty, and visitors to wear a face covering that covers the mouth and nose while anywhere on campus grounds. For more information, please refer to the U-M Face Covering Policy for COVID-19.

  • If you are interested in using electronic, video, or web-based alternatives (e.g., online training modules, Zoom webcasting, and/or recorded videos) for any training or procedures involving animals, please contact the ULAM Training Core at ulam-trainingcore@umich.edu to discuss available solutions.
  • Additional guidance and information about close proximity research and training that does NOT involve animals can be found on the Medical School Office of Research website.

Animal Ordering & Acquisition 

All animal orders are being accepted and processed per standard procedures. Placing orders for animals should be conducted using existing methods (e.g., all animal orders must be submitted through eRAM via an Animal Purchase Request).

  • All animal orders are being accepted and processed per standard procedures. Placing orders for animals should be conducted using existing methods (e.g., all animal orders must be submitted through eRAM via an Animal Purchase Request).

  • ULAM is able to order supplies for laboratories on a limited basis. Orders will be placed weekly and any lab placing an order will receive additional follow-up communications about when to expect the supplies and how they will be made available for pick-up.

  • A limited selection of non-controlled substances may be purchased through ULAM via the Non-Controlled Substances Purchase Request Form.

  • If you have specific questions about ordering or procurement, please contact ulam-questions@umich.edu.

IACUC/ACUO Operations & Compliance 

  • Yes, all federally-mandated annual reviews will continue to be processed and reviewed through eRAM. Animal Care & Use Office (ACUO) staff and Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC) members will facilitate and conduct these reviews remotely.

  • If you are unable to complete your annual renewal online, there are alternate methods for conducting the review. Please email the Animal Care & Use Office at acuoffice@umich.edu for more information. In the event that we need to contact you, please ensure that the best contact information is included in your email.

  • The Animal Care & Use Office (ACUO) continues to provide services remotely. Should you have any questions, please use the same processes you have normally used to contact the office (e.g., send an email to acuoffice@umich.edu, contact your Research Compliance Associate directly), or call the main office line at (734) 763-8028.
  • If you need to provide an alternate means of communication, please update your alternate phone and email within the Personnel Page on the protocol. If you are unable to update your information in the eRAM system, please send an email to the ACUO at acuoffice@umich.edu with the relevant updates.

  • Suspected cases of animal abuse, misuses, or mistreatment should be submitted via the Animal Concern Hotline.
  • The IACUC, through the Animal Care & Use Office (ACUO), continues to review submissions (i.e., protocols and protocol amendments) to the Committee, pursuant to normal processes. PIs can submit, and committee members can review, submissions to the IACUC using eRAM.
  • Members (e.g., the Research Compliance Associates – RCAs) of the ACUO continue to provide service to researchers remotely. Please contact your RCA directly or the ACUO (acuoffice@umich.edu) for additional guidance or assistance.

Other ULAM Services 

Yes, ULAM Technical Services (e.g., ULAM Breeding Colony, injections, and study support) are available to assist labs. Services may be requested using the same methods (i.e., email or service request forms) that you have always used.

  • As a reminder, unsupervised animal-based research may only be performed by staff that have already completed all in-person training; this includes laboratory-specific training.

  • At this time, most of the in-person training classes and workshops offered by the ULAM Training Core are being regularly scheduled; however, the Training Core is providing training support upon special request.

  • Online training classes offered through MLearning are still available during this time, and administrative staff from the ULAM Training Core are available to answer questions remotely via email (ulam-trainingcore@umich.edu).

  • Please contact your Research Compliance Associate in the Animal Care & Use Office (acuoffice@umich.edu) if you have questions or challenges with completing required training due to COVID work limitations.

  • ULAM is able to order supplies for laboratories on a limited basis. Orders will be placed weekly and any lab placing an order will receive additional follow-up communications about when to expect the supplies and how they will be made available for pick-up.

  • A limited selection of non-controlled substances may be purchased through ULAM via the Non-Controlled Substances Purchase Request Form.

  • If you have specific questions about ordering or procurement, please contact ulam-questions@umich.edu.

  • EXPIRED anesthetics, analgesics, and euthanasia drugs must NOT BE USED past the expiration date for any animal procedures.

At this time, ULAM is accepting rat donations into the Redistribution Program (formerly the "Rodent Recycling Program"). If you are interested in donating your animals, please complete the Animal Redistribution Intake Form.

Laboratories may currently rent anesthesia machines from ULAM. For more information, please visit the Anesthetic Machine Certification and Rental webpage.

Controlled Substances 

  • As a reminder to laboratories who are ramping up their animal-related research projects after a period of inactivity, controlled substances and documentation should be verified upon return to the lab.
  • To assist with this process, the U-M Office of Research (UMOR) Controlled Substances Monitoring Program has created a short, three-step ramp-up checklist for labs to follow.
  • Additional questions or concerns should be directed to the UMOR Controlled Substances Monitors at cs-monitors@med.umich.edu.

Contact the UMOR Controlled Substance Monitors immediately via pager at (734) 936-6266

  • Enter 31685, then enter your return phone number

  • They will assist you through the inspection process

Do all of the following in this order:

  1. ​Notify the U-M Division of Public Safety & Security (DPSS) at (734) 763-1131. DPSS will take a report and conduct an investigation.
    • Obtain the following information from DPSS:
      • UMDPS report number
      • Investigating officer's name
      • Officer's phone number
  2. Notify the UMOR Controlled Substance Monitors via pager at (734) 936-6266
    • Enter 31685, then enter your return phone number
    • The Controlled Substance Monitors will assist in reporting the incident to the DEA, if applicable

Miscellaneous Topics 

  • Research involving animals has been essential to nearly every major advancement in human and animal medicine. Animal models will continue to play a critical role in the development of treatments and therapies to overcome the many health challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The following resources provide additional information about the role that animal research is playing in the study and exploration of COVID-19 treatments:

    • U-M’s COVID-19 Research Portal – contains stories about innovative COVID-related research at U-M and a catalog of U-M research projects related to COVID-19.

    • NIAID Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research – published by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), this document defines the institute’s plan for accelerating research to diagnose, prevent, and treat COVID-19. One of the four key priorities outlined in the plan specifically addresses the role of animal models in research:

      • “Improving fundamental knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, including studies to characterize the virus and better understand how it causes infection and disease. Here, the NIH institute specifically notes that small and large animal models that can recapitulate COVID-19 disease seen in humans must be developed.”

    • Statement in Support of the Global Research Community’s Efforts to End the COVID-19 Crisis – this joint statement, resulting from a collaboration between several research advocacy organizations, individual biomedical researchers, and animal care experts, applauds scientists, animal care employees, and other critical lab staff for their tireless efforts to identify new COVID-19 treatments and develop a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine.

  • While dogs and cats living with people diagnosed with COVID-19 in several countries have been reported to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, transmission is uncommon and infectious disease experts, as well as multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations, continue to agree that there is no evidence at this point to indicate that, under natural conditions, pets spread COVID-19 to people or other animals.
    – Source: American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
  • It is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with household pets in ways also recommended for limiting contact with other humans in their household (e.g., wear a mask for close contact, maintain six-foot distance when possible, etc.)
  • Although several new research articles have been disseminated showing that some domestic animals can be experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2 and may transmit the virus to other animals in an experimental setting, it is important to note that:
    • Studies include a very small number of animals in an experimental setting and do not mirror naturally-induced infections
    • Results from these studies should not be extrapolated to the potential for SARS-CoV-2 to be transmitted by companion animals kept as pets
      – Source: AVMA
  • ULAM veterinary personnel will continue to monitor reports on risks related to research animals and communicate those with the research community.

As the university moves cautiously toward more routine operations, some of the donated supplies (masks, gloves, disinfectants) from the initial COVID-19 surge in Spring 2020 that could not be used by the hospital remain at NCRC.

On April 12, 2021, Michigan Medicine’s supply chain team will begin the process of clearing the space and offering the remaining donated materials to the U-M research communityFaculty and staff are welcome to take anything they might find useful in their laboratories.

Availability of materials is first-come, first-served. Any supplies left over at the end of the distribution period will be donated to World Relief.

Additional Information & Resources

  Unit/Webpage For information about...
 

U-M COVID-19 Research Portal

Institution-wide planning and guidance on COVID-19 research operations, including regularly-updated FAQs, funding opportunities, and a catalog of U-M research projects related to COVID-19.

 

Environment, Health & Safety
COVID-19 Information

Resources for researchers including facility signage, COVID-19 workplace planning documents, and internal/external guidance on maintaining a safe work environment.

 

Medical School COVID-19
Research Operations

Medical School-specific guidance, including building information and news and updates affecting U-M biomedical research operations.

 

Michigan Medicine Headlines
COVID-19 Updates

Information for faculty and staff who may have questions regarding general information, protocols, procedures, or policies pertaining to Michigan Medicine's COVID-19 response.

 

U-M COVID-19 Information

University-wide news and announcements pertaining to COVID-19.

  Unit/Individual With questions about…
 

Your ULAM Faculty Veterinarian
(or email ulam-vets@umich.edu for questions
that do NOT require immediate veterinary attention)

Veterinary animal care and/or clinical support

 

ULAM Husbandry Management Team
(ulam-h-managers@umich.edu)

Facilities and/or day-to-day husbandry operations

 

ULAM Business Office
(ulam-questions@umich.edu)

Billing, procurement, or animal ordering

 

Animal Care & Use Office
(acuoffice@umich.edu)

Protocol approvals, amendments, and/or IACUC protocol reviews

 

Controlled Substances Monitors
(cs-monitors@med.umich.edu)

Use of controlled substances in research, including those projects involving animals

 

Institutional Biosafety Committee
(IBCstaff@umich.edu)

Research with potentially hazardous biologics, including but not limited to recombinant DNA and synthetic nucleic acid molecules

 

Environment, Health & Safety
(EHS-AnimalSafety@umich.edu)

Animal use and occupational health and safety. Specific questions regarding COVID-19 can be sent to EHS-Covid-19-Reporting@umich.edu

 

We take our role as partners in your research very seriously and are committed to ensuring the highest standards of excellence in our service to the U-M research community and to the animals entrusted to our care. Please continue to reach out to our team, on campus or remotely, for guidance and assistance on how we can best support your research; we are here to help you and your team be successful.

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The microscopic image of the coronavirus above is credited to Alissa Eckert, MS, and Dan Higgins, MAMS, and is sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).