MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Thanks, everybody, for joining us. I'm here today with Emmanuel Giannelis, vice provost for research; Rick Burgess, vice president for facilities and campus services; and Professor Paula Cohen is our moderator today. Paula is serving as a associate vice provost for life sciences in Emmanuel's shop.
So let me just start off with some introductory comments, and then we'll open it up to questions. We have-- as you've I think all seen, we've begun a plan to phase in our research activities at Cornell. Those research activities can begin at the end of this week on Friday, technically. But it depends on-- that reinitiation depends on a few things and we'll go through that.
But this is part of a gradual opening of research that is consistent with the guidelines from New York State under which we're operating. New York State has indicated general guidelines that largely apply to commercial sectors. And we have had some confusion or difficulty in terms of interpreting them for our research activities. And we've been giving guidelines about what kind of research that supports essential activities is allowed. And for that reason, you see we are starting up the areas of research that have been outlined in our letter.
We do plan, however-- as soon as possible, we're asking for further guidance around other kinds of faculty research and scholarship, and we're anxious to enable those activities as well-- activities that are not just bench research or STEM research, but also activities that require library scholarship, humanities, arts, studio activities, et cetera. But we will phase them in also over time.
The initial opening of our research areas is in these approved areas. And it requires, first of all, partial activities. So we're slowly ramping this up, as well as personal protective equipment, social distancing, restricted meetings, et cetera, to maintain safe conditions in this low-density research environment.
We want to emphasize again that people who can work effectively from home should do so. We should only really be having individuals on campus that cannot operate effectively at home.
So all of this dedensifies our campus in a way to keep us all safe. As we continue to dedensify the campus and add some of these other areas that I've mentioned, which again, is a dedensified campus relative to having students on the campus, we will also begin to ramp up other protective steps to ensure the safety of our population.
So for example, we envision having daily temperature checks from all individuals coming onto campus. We envision having testing, virus testing, that will be-- we will stand up for our population. And we won't go further in terms of significantly densifying our labs and our research activities until we have those things in place.
Right now experiments are going on to mount our own testing locally in collaboration with Cayuga Medical Center. And we're working on software solutions to be able to log temperatures, et cetera. So you'll hear more about that as we go forward.
But I just want to assure faculty that we have plans in place to guarantee safety as we go forward for these steps of researching-- of reopening activities in our laboratories and elsewhere along campus. They will be guided by state guidelines. We will not go beyond those. And as we go further, we will initiate more safety steps-- all of this in place while we're also thinking about instruction in the fall.
And groups are working-- groups of faculty, staff, and students are working intensely on trying to think about how we might do that safely without having made any decisions of whether we're in fact going to have a residential fall or not. And we'll have a town hall next week around those issues.
So with that, let me turn this back to Paula to read some questions from the audience and have responses from Emmanuel, from Rick, and from me.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you, Mike. Welcome, everybody. So I went through all of the many, many questions that were submitted. I tried to group them according to categories. And I've preassigned them to our speakers. So hopefully, they're ready, poised with answers for you.
I will just say that I have omitted questions that deal with specifics of how to handle-- how to wear PPE and what sort of PPE is acceptable, cleaning, disinfection, those sorts of things. And what I've put in the chat window is a link to the EH&S guidelines which are up now and will be updated routinely. So I urge you all to go to that site to view answers to those specific questions. And I thought that for the purposes of today, I will just focus on the larger questions that people have in the community.
So starting-- oh, and I see chat is disabled. So I will-- oh. I think Mike's going to make the link available. So starting with sort of more generalized questions, this is to Emmanuel and possibly Mike as well.
You talked a little bit about the research that is now allowed according to the New York State Governor. How will research that is related to health and disease, agriculture, food, and national defense be defined? And is there a list of topics that this does not include?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Thanks, Paula. Thanks everybody for joining us today, as we all together as a community try to come together to a better understanding of what we can and cannot do in this ramping up of activities. I would say that as the provost mentioned earlier, the guidance that we have from the state is explicitly in those four areas.
It is up to the department chairs and the deans to interpret those areas and to ensure that basically we follow the New York State guidelines. I will wear my faculty hat for a minute though, and say that they are broadly defined, and I think they give us quite a bit of flexibility here in terms of the kinds of activities that we might be able to do.
PAULA COHEN: Thank you. OK. This is a more safety-related question, and I'm going to aim this towards Rick. It's a little bit long, but it might explain-- I think we need to explain the question.
Could you explain why certain ASHRAE recommendations are not being followed? They seem essential for eliminating or reducing virus load, especially if you plan to ramp up occupancy of buildings before a vaccine is available. And the specific recommendations that have been cited in this question are replacing filters with high efficiency filters and seals, deploying portable room HEPA filters, and installing ultraviolet genocidal radiation in the air ducts. Rick?
RICK BURGESS: Yeah. So for those that are not familiar with ASHRAE, it's an industry group that basically comes up with recommendations. Many of those become incorporated into code. So it's the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers-- ASHRAE.
They came out with a document I would say fairly early on. It's been out for some while, not specific to COVID, but for other type viruses. And it's mostly a set of recommendations and considerations. So really the effort is to take a look at those.
And the challenge, of course, is we already have buildings that are built, so these are not design considerations. These are really assessments of what our systems already are, and what modifications the systems are capable of accommodating. So that's why the language in the report reads the way it is.
Now, that said, we have a team of engineers from facilities engineering in Facilities and Campus Services that's going to conduct an assessment of the building systems. It does take a little while to work our way through. And I don't see this as a showstopper that's going to keep anybody from getting into their laboratory.
The essential piece to have done before people move in, from a mechanical point of view, is to restore normal operations. So in many cases, we had buildings that were put on unoccupied setback. So that's in the process of being restored. And then in certain instances, we hibernated fume hoods to save energy while labs were unoccupied. So that needs to be-- those need to be restored and checked by EH&S for proper operation.
So those are essentials before we move in. And then the idea is to move promptly through our building inventory with the facilities engineering assessment team that will look and see what is possible within the limits of what's already been built.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you. This question pertains to testing. And I'm going to refer this question to Mike. In previous town halls, it's been mentioned that testing will be done on workers returning once a week and having hotel rooms for those that test positive. Is this still happening? And where is infection testing in your plans in general?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. So we are working up, as I said, our testing capacity. A number of experiments are being done now to do a couple of things. One is to explore the efficacy of saliva testing versus nasopharyngeal testing. You may know that nasopharyngeal testing is not pleasant. And the requirement of doing that repeatedly is daunting.
So we are very fortunate to be working with Weill Cornell Medicine. We have samples from positive individuals that are both nasopharyngeal samples and saliva samples. And we're doing tests now to see if we have confidence in saliva testing.
We're doing that, and we're also working with Cayuga Medical. There are meetings going on. We haven't finalized this yet. But the plan is to work with them to provide testing, both locally in our own diagnostic lab at Cornell in the veterinary college with Cayuga Medical, and expand the capacity overall of PCR testing for the virus. And that will allow us to repeatedly test, as has been-- as was part of the question.
How often we repeatedly test and what are the conditions of that testing we're also still working out. Now, I see a question here that says, why aren't you doing that before allowing research to come back? And I just want to emphasize that that is not a requirement for restarting these activities or any of the businesses or activities in phase one restart of New York State.
We are exceeding the guidelines of what is recommended. And as long as we keep this low density-- physical distancing, social distancing, PPE masks, et cetera-- we believe this is a safe environment. But we are-- before we ramp up more, we're going to have in place these additional precautions. And that's the idea.
So I also see a question here, are there fast COVID tests that are now available? If not, how effective will regular testing actually be if daily exposure or transmission concerns are to be addressed? It's a great question. We believe we can have turnaround within a day of testing.
We don't have the Abbot Lab Point of Care 15-minute test. As many people know, there's a high false negative with those tests. But we do believe we could turn this around quickly enough to act on that information.
And it is important to understand what the prevalence in our community is, and to identify individuals who test positive even though they may not be symptomatic, and remove them from circulation. So yes, we will have quarantine space available for that activity and move forward in that way.
Now, again, some of this is under our direct control. Some of this is under Tompkins County Health. We're not responsible for contact tracing, for example. But we're working very carefully with them to try and make sure that we have these things in place before we take the next step.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you. This question is to Emmanuel. And Mike, you might want to weigh in as well. During the last town hall, graduate students were told that there will not be any graduate students, postdocs, or other researchers who are forced back into the lab environment or onto campus. The Research and Operations Reactivation Committee Report significantly narrows the statement to "no student, postdoc, or staff member should be forced to return to campus to do work that can be accomplished remotely."
This implies that graduate students who cannot-- whose work cannot be accomplished remotely may indeed be forced to return to campus to work. Graduate students deserve a say in when it is safe for them to return. Can you provide some guarantee that there will be redressal mechanisms put in place to make sure that people returning to the workplace are comfortable with this procedure?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Thanks, Paula. That's a very, very good question. And I'd like to emphasize that our commitment that there be no coercion to anybody returning back to campus is strong and it remains the same-- has not changed.
We have a mechanism that we've outlined in the report that basically suggests that if anybody feels coerced and that they are pushed against their will, they can certainly-- if they are graduate students, they can go to their DGSs. They can certainly contact the graduate school. And as a last resort, they can register a complaint with our anonymous hotline that we have for ethical reporting.
If it's a staff member, although it was not in the question, I believe we have a similar scheme by which they can talk to their supervisor, or they can talk to HR, and certainly have access to the same hotline where they can respond-- where they can they report if they feel that they've been coerced. And certainly, we have committed that we'll look at these cases and try to resolve them as quickly as we as can. So that commitment is still strong and is the same, and it has not diminished. And I would let the provost add to that.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Nothing to add there. Perfect answer. Our commitment has not been diminished. We do have mechanisms in place for redress. If individuals feel that they're working in unsafe conditions, they really should use those mechanisms to inform others, and we can take action.
PAULA COHEN: Thank you, both. Rick, I'm asking you the most popular question of the day, and that is what are the restrictions for parking going to be like over the summer? With public transport being a risk, would students be allowed to park their cars on campus without a permit?
RICK BURGESS: Yes. No good town hall is complete without a question on parking. So I would be disappointed if I didn't get one. So we did relax the parking rules through the end of the semester. And I got a note from Bridgette Brady, who's our transportation services director, just this morning that they are now intending to extend that out through June 30. That's the end of the fiscal year, and that's when most people's permits expire.
So I would say a couple of things. One is if you wanted to take a TCAT bus now, it's like having your own personal motor coach, because there are nobody on those buses. I do agree that if it were a bus like you see during the school year, where people are falling out the doors trying to get inside, a very crowded situation, no social distancing-- right now, that is absolutely not the case.
I don't know when it's going to ramp up. Nobody really knows. The crystal ball is cloudy. There are certainly going to be people who don't want to, don't feel comfortable riding the bus. But I would say don't rule it out. I mean, have a look at it, and if it works for you, especially in the near term, don't rule out TCAT. It's there. It's available, and there's plenty of room.
Parking permits-- as I said, we're going to keep them relaxed through the end of the fiscal year. And we're looking at reracking the parking setup. So for instance, we're going to have, I would say, a larger proportion of our workforce doing some amount of remote work.
Now, maybe that's not every day. Maybe they're going to come in a few times during the week. So we're looking at ways that we can do the parking that would be more flexible, perhaps more Parkmobile lots in lieu of a regular permit in a specific place all the time. Those things-- they're not cheap.
Basically our rationing mechanism is the price of the permit. So do you want to pay for that every day? Would it make sense to have more flexibility? So we are looking at redoing those in terms of the menu of choices when it comes to parking.
And we're going to have to kind of wait and see how things go. I don't have a feel for it. I don't know who-- it's conjecture at this point exactly how this is going to shake out. But at least through the end of June, we'll keep them-- the rules will be relaxed.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you, Rick. This question is for Emmanuel and Mike again. And there's a related question in the Q&A section. So the first question is research in New York City is prohibited at this time. Does this mean New York State specifically, or the greater New York State area? New York City area, sorry.
And related to that, will you allow faculty and students to travel between Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell University? Will the Statler be reopening to accommodate faculty that work across both campuses?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Let me take this one, Emmanuel. So right now, we're opening locally. We have a very low prevalence locally, and we want to keep it that way. The recommendations were very clear that staff that live outside of this area should not be returning to the laboratory without quarantining. We want to keep this only for local population at this early stage.
So we are in the process of talking about travel guidelines as we go forward. And you'll hear more about how we try and make sure that we ensure safety as we ramp up. But New York City is not in phase one yet. And we are in phase one, because-- that's the state's definition-- because of where we are in prevalence and testing and other parameters.
And so no, we will not be allowing travel back and forth to Weill Cornell Medicine. We will not be having individuals who are currently resident in New York City returning during this phase to the lab. Hopefully, we'll be able, as I said, to mount the testing process quickly and be able to provide some more assurance that people are virus-free before they come back into the labs. But to protect everyone for now, we need to keep this a local operation.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you. This one is for Emmanuel. How is the opening of the BRC Core facilities being handled, and the animal facilities, too?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Again, very, very good question. And so the plan is as follows. We recognize that to support the research that has been already identified in those four areas, we need to have the support facilities in place.
And so the directive for those user facilities, or cores, as we say, is to develop their own plans of keeping safety and these social distancing guidelines and so on as everybody else. But they don't really have to justify the research that is going on. Because in that sense, they are providing service and support for the research community.
And so BRC and the [? CARE, ?] they've already submitted their plans. They come directly to my office. We'll review them. Hopefully, we'll approve them. And they should be ready to go once we have the campus open on Friday. And so it's a somewhat simple process, but it still goes through the very same guidelines and safety and health precautions as everybody else.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you. There's a lot of questions coming in, so I'll try and get to some of those as well. So how is-- and this could be for Emmanuel or Rick, but probably Emmanuel. What is the maximum occupancy at each level-- at the lab building, et cetera, level? How is this being determined?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Yes. I'm thankful that that question has been raised, because I've been getting a lot of emails and commentary about the level of occupancy. And so I think it's important to try to clarify the position.
For the individual labs, what we are suggesting is that they try to maintain the social distancing guidelines. We have a minimum square footage per person that we've outlined already in the report. We have also set up a density population for an entire building, which we believe that needs to be enforced, or at least review and approve by the department chairs in conjunction with the building managers and then the college teams.
And the reason for that is we want to make sure that the commonly occupied areas-- atriums, restrooms, and so on and so forth, maintain or are kept below a maximum capacity that we now have set up at about 33%. So it's not that we are using it in one category and not in another, it's just that we believe assembling those proposals together makes a lot more sense to be sort of less prescriptive on the overall density of the building for faculty and researchers.
Let them go along with their plan, make sure that that works well for their own group, and then let the facility managers-- the building managers, I should say, and the department chairs ensure that we stay below the target of the 34% that we set as the next-- as for phase one-- as the next level of [INAUDIBLE]. I hope that makes it clear. If it's not, I'm more than happy to chat offline with anybody who wants more information than that.
PAULA COHEN: So elaborating a little bit on a specific set of questions that came through, we've been told about this 6-foot social distancing level. But there are instances, such as this one. This one person says, I have two first-year graduate students who are not very knowledgeable about lab operations, and I would like to pair them up with more senior students in the group. How would this type of arrangement be possible given the 6-foot distance requirement?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Yes. That's a great question, and I think that goes along with everything else we do in the lab. I believe we really need to rethink everything that we do in the lab, whether it's our first year of graduate students and they are getting their first experience there, or whether they are very senior postdocs with being already in the lab.
I think how we do our lab work needs to be rethought of. I think every faculty member needs to really talk with their own group to make sure that-- the whole thing is now choreographed a very, very different way from the way we were doing business through COVID.
I like to use the example that the idea that one can go from this [? balance ?] to their [? hood ?] to their station and to the centrifuge, and do that without ever thinking about it again, it needs now to be actually planned a little bit in advance to make sure that we minimize as much as this contact with our co-workers.
Now, let me emphasize that the information we are getting is that occasional contacts of a very short period of time are not really dangerous. And we need to be aware there is sort of even a limit of about 10 minutes of constant contact that-- but even if we bring it down to 5 minutes, that gives us enough leverage to sort of rule out certain things that will happen accidentally, or because of the not so good planning of everybody's moving around.
But to the first question, to the heart of the question, whether you should be sort of really teaming up people who will be working in pairs for a long period of time, I would certainly strongly discourage it at this point. I think there might be ways that that can be accomplished, but in a different way.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you, Emmanuel. Rick, this one's for you. What are the plans for childcare? What accommodations can be made for those with school-age children if schools are not reopened and summer camp's not available? Will Bright Horizons give priority to those that need to be on campuses versus those who can work remotely?
RICK BURGESS: Yeah. This is really a challenge. A lot of people are asking that very question. A lot of the summertime activities have been, unfortunately, canceled, and folks rely on that. And people are wrestling with the school situation.
So human resources-- the Cornell human resources website has a whole section on childcare and parenting that has a number of options in there. With respect to Bright Horizons, the recommendation on the website is that you get in touch with them and discuss the situation. I'm not able to speak to how they sort out the actual priorities. They will be able to go through that with anybody. But there is quite a menu of possibilities.
And I think everybody recognizes we're not in the usual situation, so that shifting to something else that might be out there is something certainly to consider. But that's who I-- I would just say, go to the website. Look at those different possibilities. There are some points of contact with Cornell HR that are listed on there that can help address any particular questions.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you. Mike, there's a lot of questions coming in and a lot of questions asked previously about the 14-day wait period. So if someone has left the Ithaca area, can they skip the 14-day wait period by getting a negative test result? What if they're leaving Ithaca for less risky activities? And should they be informing people when they are beginning their 14-day quarantine period? So it's a bunch of questions about the same topic.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. Yeah. Well, so this is complicated. On the first one, if you get a negative test, let's say, on day one after you return, that's still a concern, frankly. Because you can be negative and incubating early virus at low titer and then become positive, and more importantly, infectious later. So I think the answer to that is no.
We have talked about a repeat test, at trying to decrease the quarantine time by testing. And there'll be some recommendations that come forward about that. But right now, I think I'm not prepared to say that we would relax the 14-day quarantine by testing before then.
Who to inform? I think you should inform the PI in your laboratory or the person responsible for the laboratory. That individual has had to fill out forms, research forms, have an assurance to the university that we have safe conditions. They'll be monitoring that. Again, I would urge as little travel as possible, particularly out of this area.
I see questions about what does travel mean? What's the distance? We've talked about a 50-mile radius. The major thing we want is to stay in this local, low-prevalence area, which is now phase one, according to the state of New York. Was there another question there, Paula, that I missed?
PAULA COHEN: No, but there is a little follow-up. If I have a roommate traveling back and needs to be quarantined, do I also need to be quarantined since we share the same space?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. If you are not social distanced from that individual, and you are in contact with that individual, I believe you have to quarantine as well. So I think in these early phases, we really have to make sure our prevalence stays low, our infectivity is low. And I would urge you to take all possible precautions and just-- and not travel if at all possible. And if an individual is traveling, then yes, operate out of safety and quarantine yourself.
PAULA COHEN: Great. And then a question came in-- will there be a hotline phone number to call if someone in our lab feels they are getting sick while on campus? Sending them home on the bus, et cetera, seems unwise, and given that you have mentioned hotel rooms for people who get sick, how is this info access in real time-- accessed in real time?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. I should say, we don't have in place hotel rooms right now for people getting sick. That's one of the things that we're working on. I don't believe I said that in the last town hall. But it is one of the areas that we're working on to try and have sufficient quarantine space for individuals. Right now, the recommendations would be to quarantine at home.
The point about transportation is a good one. If someone feels sick at work, we are working now with-- and part of the discussions that we're having today is to work up a hotline, a health support hotline, with Cayuga Medical that would support this type of question. It is not, unfortunately, in place now.
And so I think the best thing would be to try and arrange for transportation-- safe transportation home if you're feeling ill, or get transportation to the hospital. But we are trying to put in place the kinds of situations that you're answering-- you're requesting. And really, I think that's relevant as we take the next steps beyond what is recommended under phase one.
PAULA COHEN: There is a comment here. You should make public on the FAQ page that you want roommates of those who traveled recently to quarantine before coming to campus. This is ambiguous now and probably needs to be clearer.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Fair point. Fair point. Thank you.
PAULA COHEN: And then another question coming through. Could you respond to this question-- this goes back to a previous question we asked. If a junior researcher feels they're being made to work in unsafe conditions, and someone else believes that conditions meet a certain threshold for safety despite this, will there be a guarantee that the junior researcher being told to do the work has the ultimate decision on whether they feel they're safe or not.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: I'm sorry. What was the last part of that Paula?
PAULA COHEN: Will the junior researcher being told to do the work have the ultimate decision on whether they do or don't feel safe working in this environment?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Well, that-- so that is where our appeal mechanism occurs. Individuals who feel they have a legitimate concern about safety need to use the appeal mechanisms to make us aware of those concerns. I can't make a blanket statement about what situations would occur. There are lots of complexity here. But we have mechanisms in place, and we would urge you to avail yourselves of those.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you. A new question thread for Emmanuel. When will libraries be reopened in whatever capacity? Is there-- are there recommendations planned? And if not, what committee is concerned with this activity?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: I think the provost probably knows a lot more about the library plan. I do know that there is-- it's been worked out. And Mike, you want to sort of--
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Sure. So the committee that Joanne DeStefano has chaired and has put forward the report that you've read and are now asking about, is now working on the subsequent activation of the campus. Campus cafes, bookstore, libraries-- what are the conditions-- first of all, what conditions have to exist for us to be allowed to do that by New York State guidelines and federal CDC recommendations, all of which we're adhering to. And then how will we begin that safely as those are allowed. We very much want to activate libraries, the museum, these other support systems, when it's safe to do so. So that's a priority.
But we can't-- we are not currently allowed to do that, and we will not until the conditions locally-- and then we have the kinds of things in place that I've referred to as additional safeguards beyond what is required by the state of New York. So for example, testing is not required by the state of New York. But we want to have that in place and test everybody before we really reactivate the campus fully.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you. I'm actually-- extending from that, what are the criteria for moving from phase one, to two, to three, et cetera? Is there any timeline for that? Or are you waiting on the government for guidance there?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Well, yeah. It's a combination of all of the above. First of all, getting confident that phase one has been successful in terms of maintaining safety and health. But also, making sure that our plans are in alignment or permitted by the New York state and the local government agencies.
I would say that tentatively we have put some plans to say that if this first ramp-up is successful within the guidelines that we just talk about, then we are thinking about going to the next phase, sort of doubling the capacity to 2/3 or so of pre-COVID sometime in July, let's say, mid-July. And then again-- fingers crossed-- if things stay stabilized and well under control, return to pre-COVID capacity sometime in August.
But quite honestly, these are just very aspirational, in a sense. Because really, we don't know-- we don't have the data that allows us right now to make these decisions and have a timeline that would be more satisfactory than saying these very loose guidelines. And I hope I'm not saying anything that the provost would not endorse or agree with.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: No I-- absolutely. And I guess I would-- you know, there is a lot of questions here around safety. And I'm seeing issues about-- some more complexities around travel. If you go 51 miles, do you quarantine, that sort of thing.
I do think all of us in this community have to use our best judgment, have to exercise safe precautions to protect the rest of the community. Obviously, we're putting in place safeguards, and these are multiple barriers.
So there's the barrier that we've talked about about testing that we will put in place. There's the barrier of social distancing. There's the barrier PPE. There's the barrier of density. There's the barrier of keeping our local conditions, our local prevalence, very low. All of us have to think and use our best judgment about all of these steps, and make sure we don't threaten our neighbors.
And I understand that everybody wants a rule to protect them from everybody else. But the best protection from everybody else is all of us obeying these guidelines, protecting ourselves, washing our hands, using our masks, doing the things that have kept the prevalence very low in our area, and have kept us safe when we go to Wegmans or other places in the region.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you. Actually, along those lines, because we haven't asked a question about this, but it just came up. Where should people get themselves tested? I mean, I know most people know. But where should people be going to get themselves tested if they're concerned in any way?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Right now, Tompkins County has testing sites where you can go to. You need to go through a physician and get a physician's recommendation or a guidance for that. We are putting in place-- one of our plans, again, for testing locally is to put in place a local area on campus where people can go for testing on a routine surveillance basis. So we're looking forward to that.
In fact, we're starting in a small way. We're starting to test individuals as part of this process of understanding our local prevalence. We're standing up testing in the-- I think currently or very quickly for individuals in a certain section of campus to try and understand what our prevalence is. And you'll see more and more of that roll out over time.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you. This question is for Rick, and several of these have come up on the Q&A since we started. When will further guidance on personal travel be forthcoming? What will this guidance be? Are students who permanently live more than 50 miles from campus barred from participating in this research? And another student-- another individual comments that Syracuse is 56 miles away. Is that considered local?
RICK BURGESS: I think the Provost already spoke to this one in the last one. I don't have a whole lot to add to that answer.
PAULA COHEN: OK. Great. Let me go back through. This one is for Emmanuel. If students and postdocs conduct projects independent of their PI's research, how can they apply for permission to conduct their own projects with respect to their individual needs and research focus?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Good question. I think they still need to submit their plans to work together, for example, with the building manager-- submit their plans to the department chairs. The approval process is similar to the one we outlined.
And so I don't really see that as being any different from what we already have included in our report. The difference is instead of the PI submitting that forward, it would be this graduate student or postdoc, as long as they need to work independently and they don't have the guidance [INAUDIBLE] the UPI.
PAULA COHEN: Great. And while we're on the subject of the proposals that people are submitting, a number of questions have come in asking is there a template? Is there guidance that people should be following? Is this college-specific? Could you speak to that, Emmanuel?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Yes. For sure. The template that is in the report I think has about, if I remember correctly 8, maybe 10 questions that we recommend that they are consider when approvals are granted. I do know, though, that different colleges have rushed to put a system together where they have steadily added some different, perhaps, questions that they are useful for their own approval process. But for the most part, the essential elements are outlined in the template that we already have provided.
So I do-- and to come back-- I do know that different colleges have come up with a somewhat different process or the way that they are delivering to the faculty. Some are web-based, and people can find that information easily and field that information quickly. Others might be doing it more the old fashioned way. But for the most part, they are relatively uniform across the university.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you. So there's one comment here relating to getting tested that Mike was speaking about. Someone said that you can register at CayugaHealthSystems.org, and drive to the Ithaca Mall where you can go to their drive-up testing without seeking a health professional's--
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Ah. I was not aware of that. Thank you.
PAULA COHEN: So you mentioned in your opening statement, Mike, about temperature checking. There was a question about are individuals required to take their body temperature? Will these be logged officially? What about the possibility of asymptomatic individuals who don't have body temperature changes? And then a question online says, are there steps being taken to ensure that everyone who needs a thermometer can have one?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. So all good questions. Right now it is not a requirement, but we are planning, as I said, before phasing up anymore, having in place a system where everybody logs their temperature in the morning. And if you have an elevated temperature, there will be a link where there will be guidance about what to do. That's the system that we're currently working on putting in place.
There's also work going on about acquiring thermometers and scanning thermometers that allow people to take their temperature. So that's part of the discussions that are ongoing. The second part of that question, Paula?
PAULA COHEN: Was is there a way to provide thermometers to people who don't have one?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: So that's being-- those are being acquired. We've acquired some, and more we are acquiring. I thought there was another component to that. Sorry
PAULA COHEN: That was it.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. Oh. The asymptomatic part.
PAULA COHEN: Oh, yeah. Sorry.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: And what about asymptomatic people? Absolutely. I mean, that's the point of testing and testing, not just for cause, not just testing symptomatic individuals. As I'm sure many people know, almost half of the infections are now felt to have occurred from individuals that are in that presymptomatic phase. They have high viral loads, but they're not symptomatic.
And so that is the point of testing, repeat testing, of the community and why we're standing that up. I would, again, emphasize, if anybody feels they have symptoms, do not come in to work. See a health professional. If you feel like-- the symptoms can be quite vague. But please exercise caution and make conditions safe for your colleagues.
PAULA COHEN: Great. So I'm going to switch focus a little bit. This question is for Emmanuel and for Mike. Could you provide any additional information on the resumption of human research? What's your best estimate when this would be allowed?
And then a question came in just now. If human subjects research can be done safely and more safely then wet bench research, why is this research not considered appropriate for phase one?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Yes. I think we've clarified that what is not allowed right now is in-person research that involves human subjects. We have not stopped people conducting work over the internet-- not aware of that.
But back to the one that requires in-person work, I'm in the process of putting together a small group of people that will really help us think through what kind of issues are involved here and what we need to do to phase it in as we f to the next phase. And so I would say then the short answer is not do the in-person right now, thinking how to do it safely in the next phase, taking advice from people who are better equipped to deal with these kind of issues.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. Just to elaborate a little bit. I mean, this is-- I see also a question about international research. Obviously, we're not trying to penalize any kind of individual kind of research. The problem with human studies research that is in-person, as Emmanuel said, is it's bringing people to campus in a way in which we want to make sure we control the population that enters our campus and we keep everyone safe.
So even if that is health-related, we don't want streams of people coming in that we haven't been able to identify and assure ourselves of the safety of that process. International research-- same issues around travel. Right now, of course, international travel is proscribed. When it is safe to do that, and it's safe to do that both for faculty and students and staff, we will initiate those activities as well. But right now, we cannot predict when that-- when we'll be able to do that, given travel restrictions, Visa restrictions, all of that.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Thank you. We're approaching the end, but there's a few essential questions I think need to be addressed. One was asked previously, and it's come up again in the Q&A window. Will spring tuition be reimbursed if it becomes impossible to finish a degree on time? [INAUDIBLE] taking another semester. This is for graduate students.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: So is this a PhD tuition? Master's tuition? Our approach-- let me just say that our approach has been that we're providing the ability of individuals to get their degrees.
So if it's a master's program, and those are the main tuition issues-- programs-- where individuals are paying their own tuition, those programs are extended so that individuals can have online options or remote options to be able to finish their degree. That's the idea here. I'm not sure I fully understand the premise of the question. But that's certainly the goal.
PAULA COHEN: So a question that came in in the Q&A section was, what will tuition requirements be for paying grad students who need to stay an extra semester because of missed lab time over the past month? So I'm not sure if that's a PhD student or a master's student.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. Usually that-- the tuition part is throwing me for the grad students, because for PhD students, they're not paying their own tuition, generally. But please contact me directly with a question through email.
PAULA COHEN: Great.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: And I-- yeah. Go ahead.
PAULA COHEN: Just two more questions that are related that I think might be quite important. Will Cornell Health resume for non-COVID services for graduate students and staff going back to the lab and through the summer?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. That is the plan. I'm not sure when they're going to be able to do that. I know I've been involved quite a bit throughout in terms of telehealth for students, around lots of issues. That's really been ramped up. So I do think that is the expectation.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Sorry, Mike. You had a comment.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Well, I was just going to end by saying that I want to thank everybody. We have a situation in which I get emails from people who are desperate to continue the things that faculty do best and graduate students do best, and that is do discovery and create new knowledge. And they want to be able to do that in a way that's safe.
We've tried to provide the conditions here where we can begin to allow those activities to be initiated in a careful way in which we understand where we are, and we don't get out in front of the community. I'm hearing both the desire to be able to do that as quickly as possible. I'm also hearing the fear of when we do that, what is the risk to me? Will I be at risk? Will I be forced to come in and do something that I don't feel safe doing?
So I think as a community, I really thank everybody for thinking about this, thinking about all the issues and questions. We have groups working on all these areas to make sure that before we go further, we have the answers to many of the questions that we don't yet have the answers to.
What are the specifics of the travel policy? What is the testing regime? How often are we going to be testing? What is the mechanism by which we're testing? Is it pool testing, group testing, or simple individual testing?
All of that we will have in place before we go to the next step. But this-- so far, we've done a measured step that is safe, is consistent with what is happening around us, and relies on our own best practices and adherence to the rules that we've put in place.
So if you see things that are troubling you, we have a mechanism to report that. We do rely on everybody thinking about everybody else and protecting both themselves and the community.
PAULA COHEN: Great. Just before we close, will this be available for people to see later? And is there a forum for people to send questions? What should people do if they have more questions? What's your advice?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: People can email Emmanuel, me, Rick, I'm sure. I usually don't have a lot of hesitancy in filling up my inbox.
PAULA COHEN: Great. OK. So you heard it from the boss. You can send him all your questions. Great.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Thanks, everybody. Thanks, Paula. Thanks, Emmanuel. Thanks, Rick. Thanks for participating.
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Thank you.
PAULA COHEN: Stay well.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Stay well.
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Town hall meeting for faculty, researchers and graduate students to discuss research reactivation planning and next steps, May 27, 2020. Panelists: Mike Kotlikoff, Provost; Emmanuel Giannelis, Vice Provost for Research; and Rick Burgess, Vice President for Facilities and Campus Services. Moderator: Paula Cohen, Associate Vice Provost for Life Sciences.