Expanded use of labs, single offices, and library spaces

October 28, 2020

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

We have been pleased with the success this fall of our first steps toward allowing access to our campuses for scholars who need lab and office spaces to effectively pursue their work. Careful planning and diligent adherence to safety measures to date have enabled us to permit labs to be occupied with 200 square feet of space per person and made it possible for individuals who do not work in labs to apply for approval to work on campus at certain times if it is necessary for their research. 

This experience is helping to shape our plans for even broader reopening in the spring semester, which we expect to announce shortly. It also allows us to take some additional steps now. Having seen no transmission of COVID-19 in the labs over the past few months, and recognizing that some individuals still face difficulty continuing their research and scholarship at home, we are allowing several additional uses of campus space, effective November 1, as follows:

  • We are increasing density allowed in laboratories to 150 square feet per person.
  • We are empowering deans to provide permission for a limited number of faculty, postdocs, and graduate students to use their individual offices for essential on-campus work. 
  • We are establishing a joint committee with the Provost’s Office and library staff to provide a limited number of graduate students with access to their assigned study spaces in libraries.

All these changes occur within the existing framework for Phase 1 activity on our campuses, and all health and safety protocols will continue to be enforced. These include the use of the ProDensity app for checking symptoms on a daily basis before coming to campus, use of face coverings, adherence to physical distancing, a prohibition on smoking or vaping, mandatory flu shots, and other requirements outlined in the Return to Campus Guidance.

Lab use will continue to be directed by PIs, who will update their plans to accommodate the new density guidelines and inform researchers of new protocols. Individuals seeking to use an office will provide a rationale for why they need to be on campus—with an endorsement by an adviser/mentor for postdoc and graduate students—and those requests will be reviewed and coordinated by department/division chairs and submitted to their deans’ offices for approval.  

Graduate students wanting access to their previously assigned library spaces can email vpgraduateeducation@jhu.edu explaining briefly why their circumstances prevent them from working effectively at home and why library space access is essential for their progress. Approval does not grant access to the stacks but only to the student’s previously assigned, single-occupancy study space with a door. 

Details are in the updated Return to Research Guidance document. As always, if the public health situation significantly worsens, either here at JHU or within the Maryland community, we may return to a more stringent approach for these activities. 

We continue to be grateful to students, faculty, and staff who are able to work remotely for keeping the density low on our campuses and allowing those who cannot work elsewhere to make safe use of our facilities. And we will rely on those individuals who come to our campuses to take all necessary steps to protect our community while advancing our core academic mission. Thank you for your partnership and flexibility.


Denis Wirtz
Vice Provost for Research

Winston Tabb
Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums