The Research workgroup of the JHU 2020 Planning task force shared the following final report on June 12. Comments and questions can be shared via the JHU 2020 Planning feedback form.

This document represents of the final set of recommended guidelines for a gradual, phased reactivation of the full breadth of research activities at Johns Hopkins University— including laboratory-based, library-based, and human subjects research—in a manner that supports the safe return to campus of increased numbers of researchers and support staff.

“There is still significant work ahead to plan for academic and student life activities in the coming months, but it is rewarding to see a vital part of our enterprise resume.”

Denis Wirtz, vice provost for research

These guidelines are based on detailed recommendations and analysis from the 2020 Research Workgroup, led by Vice Provost for Research Denis Wirtz, and have been shaped throughout their development by significant input and review from research faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, undergraduate researchers, and school leadership.

A researcher works alone in the lab
Researchers return to the lab

Facilities across Johns Hopkins began a phased reopening in mid-June, but with new safety measures and rotating staff schedules, the lab space—and experience—has changed dramatically

COVID-19 cells
Researchers meet ‘the urgency of this moment’

Johns Hopkins launches an ambitious, wide-ranging research effort to tackle the many challenges presented by COVID-19, including projects designed to enhance our understanding of the virus, track and prevent its spread, and improve treatment

Phases of research resumption

Johns Hopkins University’s overall plan for resumption of on-campus activities is structured in phases. There are three main phases, which conceptually parallel those in the State of Maryland’s plan, the Roadmap to Recovery. This document was prepared in advance of the university’s move to Phase 1 of its plan.

Phase 0, Minimal DensityPhase 1, Low DensityPhase 2, Medium DensityPhase 3, Near 100% Density
Research activityCOVID-specific
research only
Increase research

Expanded scope of
research operations

Return to full
research operations
Primary work / labMinimal on-campus
presence for research
operations; still remote
when possible; approved
PI plan in place for
essential research
Minimal on-campus
presence for research
operations; still remote
when possible; approved
PI plan in place
Remote preferred for
those at higher risk;
approved PI plan in place
Telework still utilized
where possible; new
hygiene practices as
the norm
Building accessHighly limitedLimited, with possible
shift work; swipe access
Wider access; tracking
with apps
Open access
Occupancy of shared
NoNoYes, with appropriate
Density of lab
MinimalManaged through
approved PI plans;
1 person per 150 sf of
gross lab area
Managed through approved PI plans; capacity
limits will be revisited
Near full capacity
Group meetingsNoneFewer than 10 people with distancing, masking, and appropriate spaceConstraints on meeting
size and use of general
space align with university policy
Larger meetings;
normal limits on room
Hygiene – follow
CDC guidelines
Strict distancing,
required face covering,
minimal lab density,
frequent hand-washing
Strict distancing,
required face covering,
minimal lab density,
frequent hand washing
Required face covering
and strict distancing
Recommended face
covering; some potential
lessening of distancing
CleaningLab-specific as per
Phase 0 plans
New cleaning protocols in place; no shared
surfaces, such as desks,
keyboards, phones;
common areas closed
Cleaning protocols
remain; limited shared
surfaces; some common areas reopen with
distancing rules
Routine cleaning of labs
and common areas
Health monitoring /
Testing and contact
tracing of symptomatic
trainees and employees
Testing and contact
tracing of symptomatic
trainees and employees
Testing and contact
tracing of symptomatic
trainees and employees
Vaccine, effective therapeutics, or substantial
immunity amongst
UndergradsNoNoPossibly, subject to decision to resume on-campus instructionYes
Grad students / Postdoctoral fellowsOnly for COVID-related
Clinical / human subjectsOnly for COVID-related
Therapeutic trials /
interventional studies,
with potential for direct
benefit to study participants conducted in
Johns Hopkins-managed
facilities only
Phase 2A: Studies with
limited or no prospect of
direct benefit to study
participants and minimal
participant interaction
in terms of duration and
activity (e.g., biospecimen collection, limited
interaction clinical

Phase 2B: Studies with
limited or no prospect
of direct benefit to
study participants and
significant participant
interaction (e.g., potential aerosol generating
procedures or those
requiring close contact
for extended periods of
All other protocols
involving in-person
LibrariesSome digitizing of
materials; curbside
dropoff of books to be
returned; begin curbside
pickup of circulating
JHU library, archive, and
museum staff continue
to digitize needed materials for researchers;
curbside dropoff and
pick up of circulating
materials; in-person
access to non-circulating
collections for small #s
of trainees and faculty
Continued digitization
and in-person access for
JHU classroom instructors; as slots and staffing
are available, researchers and instructors from
the broader community
Non-JHU affiliates who
rely on JHU collections
for any other purpose;
use of the space in
research collections for
inperson classes and the
general public

Town hall on resuming on-campus research activities

May 20, 2020

This session focused on issues related to research and relevant to faculty and staff, specifically the phased resumption of on-campus research activities.

Frequently asked questions

Is the university allowing researchers to return to campus?

Critical COVID-related research has been ongoing on campus with research teams practicing appropriate safety protocols. As of June 15, other laboratories were permitted to reopen, with approved plans that reduce capacity, require face coverings and physical distancing, and improve cleaning protocols. On July 16, the university announced an expansion of its guidance that allows non-lab researchers, including humanists, social scientists, and computational researchers, to do on-campus work that cannot be done remotely with approval from their department and division.

The resumption of on-campus research activities in Phase 1 continue to be limited only to those activities that actually require a person to be on campus. Any and all research work that can be accomplished at home via telework continues to be done at home, and people are asked to only be on campus for the time periods necessary to accomplish required on-campus work.

Last updated: July 22, 2020 4:46pm

Are graduate students allowed to return to on-campus research during Phase 1? Are undergraduates?

Graduate students involved in laboratory research that requires on-site activity may return to campus while adhering to safety protocols based on their specific lab plan. Undergraduate students are not part of the Phase 1 return to research.

Last updated: June 27, 2020 10:44pm

When will researchers be able to resume clinical and human subjects research?

Clinical and human subject research will require a gradual, phased reopening that allows for a safe, systematic approach to restarting research. The human subjects research plan is included in the Return to Research Guidance document.

Last updated: Dec 3, 2020 9:40am

Will there be any loosening of hiring freeze once the labs begin to reopen?

The current hiring freeze will remain in place. As described previously, we will allow exceptions for hiring to meet critical needs, particularly roles essential to program or clinical activity related to the COVID pandemic. Exceptions to the freeze will require written approval of the dean.

Last updated: June 3, 2020 8:26am

Will researchers have access to library resources?

Starting Monday, June 29, JHU affiliates may check out books and other circulating materials from all Hopkins libraries following procedures—such as requesting books online and picking them up at library entrances—outlined on the Johns Hopkins Libraries Return to Research web page.

Also, on Monday, July 6, JHU graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and staff researchers may begin to reserve time slots to work with noncirculating materials in the Sheridan Libraries Special Collections Reading Room (Homewood), the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives (Mount Washington), and the History of Medicine Library (East Baltimore) while following safety protocols.

Last updated: June 27, 2020 10:45pm

Is the supply store open?

Yes, the supply store remains fully operational.

Last updated: June 3, 2020 8:27am

Lab safety

What safety precautions are in place for on-campus research activity?

Our current Phase 1 guidance outlines a number of safety guidelines including:

  • There are maximum occupancy rates for each designated space.
  • Researchers can expect to return at significantly decreased density compared with normal operations, and research teams may need to stagger work schedules/shifts to limit density.
  • Face coverings are required to be worn at all times indoors and outdoors, unless inside a single-occupancy office with a closed door or eating at an appropriate distance from other people.
  • Each lab must work with its school’s facilities team to develop a plan for regular cleaning and disinfecting of laboratory space.
  • Schools must provide specific guidance on the use/limits on common spaces and shared instrumentation, based on guidance from the University and HSE.

Last updated: July 23, 2020 1:57pm

How are safety protocols applied across so many different kinds of research spaces and specific program requirements?

JHU’s Phase 1 lab readiness is based on a PI-driven approach, with school and university oversight. PIs are the most knowledgeable about the details of their research space, workflow, personnel, shared instrumentation, and program priorities.

Every laboratory must have an approved reopening plan as well as a shut-down plan (in the event of increased infection rates and/or as dictated by public health or government guidance/mandate) in place before resuming on-campus work. Approval of reopening plans developed by PIs occurs at the department level first and then the relevant dean’s office. While the specifics about how particular labs will achieve compliance with central safety guidance will be left to PIs, adherence to safety requirements is a requirement for labs to be permitted to continue on-campus work, and personnel are provided easy means for reporting violations.

Last updated: June 27, 2020 10:42pm

What is the requirement for distancing in research labs?

The university originally set its requirement at 400 square feet per individual in a laboratory. As of July 22, individual PIs may present a higher occupancy plan to their respective school administration responsible for reviewing such plans and make a case for why a higher occupancy level is both safe and needed. One basis, but not the only basis, for a higher occupancy level would be to bring the occupancy of a laboratory up to 50% of pre-COVID levels. Typical occupancy levels would be one person per 300 square feet and occupancy should not exceed one person per 200 square feet.

Last updated: July 23, 2020 9:40am

Is the university providing access to adequate, appropriate PPE?

The university will provide faculty, staff, and students with two reusable cloth face coverings appropriate for meeting the masking requirements for its campuses. More substantial PPE will be provided in situations where the work of the laboratory called for that level of PPE before the COVID-19 outbreak, or where strict physical distancing requirements cannot be met (e.g., equipment requires two persons for safe usage).

Last updated: June 30, 2020 8:56am

If I test positive for COVID-19, what information is shared and with whom?

If you are ordered for a test after calling the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center, your supervisor or Student Affairs representative will receive an “off-duty” notice. If your test comes back positive, then the JHCCC’s ICAN team will automatically initiate a contact investigation.

The JHCCC ICAN team will follow up with anyone with whom you are determined to have had “meaningful contact” and instruct them to isolate. In some cases, if necessary to determine potential exposure, your name will be shared with close contacts with your consent. If you do not provide consent to the JHCCC, an analysis will be conducted to determine if there is a public health risk that presents a substantial risk of harm to others. If that is determined to be the case, the JHCCC will disclose the test results to your supervisor and anyone else who may need to know your identity in order to mitigate risk and limit exposure to others.

If you test positive for COVID-19 on a test not ordered by the JHCCC, you are not required to disclose your test result to your principal investigator or supervisor, but you are strongly encouraged to contact the JHCCC so that a contact investigation can occur. The test results of individuals who are not tested via Johns Hopkins are not automatically provided to a Hopkins contact investigator.

Last updated: July 23, 2020 9:02pm

How does the university learn if an employee or student working in a lab tests positive for COVID-19?

All students, faculty, and staff who are participating in on-campus activities should monitor themselves daily for any symptoms. Anyone who has symptoms associated with COVID-19 or who has concerns about exposure to COVID-19 is strongly encouraged to call the the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center, or JHCCC, at 833-546-7546 to be triaged to determine if they meet the criteria for testing. In the case of employees, their supervisor will be informed that the employee is “off-duty” until cleared. In the case of students, their school’s Student Affairs representative will be notified that the student is “off-duty.” The student’s name will be shared with the student’s consent.

The JHCCC will inform you of your test result if you are tested at a Johns Hopkins facility. If your test is negative, your supervisor or Student Affairs Representative will receive a message that you have been cleared. If you test positive, you will remain “off-duty” and there will be no additional communication to your supervisor or Student Affairs representative until you are cleared. You are encouraged but not required to share the information with your supervisor or Student Affairs representative.

Last updated: Dec 3, 2020 9:41am

How do I get cleared to go back to work or class after I recover from COVID-19?

Current CDC guidelines allow for anyone who is not severely immunocompromised to return to work if they meet the following criteria:

  1. At least 10 days have passed since symptom onset or asymptomatic testing
  2. At least 24 hours have passed since last fever without using fever-reducing medications
  3. Symptoms have improved.

Employees who believe they have met this criteria should call the Occupational Health Services at the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center (410-614-6000) for an evaluation and clearance to return to work. Individuals who were first notified of the employee’s “off-duty” status will be informed by OHS that they are cleared to “return to duty.”

Students who need clearance to return to class should be instructed to do the following:

  • Students from the schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing should contact University Health Services at 410-955-3250 for an evaluation and clearance to return to class. Individuals who were first notified of the student’s “off-duty” status will be informed by UHS that they are cleared to “return to class.”
  • Students of any other JHU school should contact the Student Health and Wellness Center at 410-516-8270 for an evaluation and clearance to return to class. Individuals who were first notified of the student’s “off-duty” status will be informed by SHWC that they are cleared to “return to class.”

Last updated: July 23, 2020 9:10pm

If someone in a lab tests positive for COVID-19, will the PI be informed?

Due to privacy concerns, a lab’s principal investigator will not necessarily be notified of a lab member’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis. PIs will be notified if a lab member is placed “off-duty” at the time of testing. In the case of students, the Student Affairs representative will notify the PI.

In some cases, the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center may need to disclose the name of the lab member who tested positive to a PI, or designated lab member, who can identify any lab members with whom the individual has had high-risk close contact as part of a contact investigation. In limited cases, disclosure may also be necessary to a PI, or designated lab member, who can identify areas of concern for cleaning purposes. A JHCCC representative will inform anyone who had close contact with the individual who has tested positive, request they quarantine, and refer them for testing as appropriate.

In general, we will not broadly notify affiliates of COVID-positive individuals on-campus. The only possible exception is when we identify clusters or patterns where notification of the broader groups of which the COVID-positive individuals are members may be helpful. In such cases, we will want to assess the setups in case they are not controlling transmission adequately.

Last updated: July 23, 2020 1:11pm

Should a PI notify the rest of their lab that someone in the lab tested positive for COVID-19?

No. Information regarding an individual’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis should not be shared with anyone else—that information is confidential health information.

If the individual who tests positive for COVID-19 tells a PI of their diagnosis, the PI must not disclose the name of the individual who tested positive, except to report the individual’s diagnosis to the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center so a contact investigation process can be initiated.

PIs can share that a lab member is “off-duty.”

Last updated: July 27, 2020 2:18pm

Under what circumstances will JHU conduct a contact investigation?

Contact investigations will be used to trace any JHU affiliates who have high-risk contacts of an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. This includes individuals whose contact with the possibly infected person was within six feet for 15 minutes or more.

A Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center ICAN (Investigation, Contact Analysis, Notification) team traces the infectious period, currently defined as two days prior to the onset of initial symptoms in symptomatic patients and two days prior to a positive COVID test result date for asymptomatic cases. High-risk close contacts will be notified of their exposure, asked to quarantine to prevent additional transmission, and monitored for symptoms through Occupational Health (employees) or Student Health (students).

Last updated: July 23, 2020 1:41pm

If a COVID-19 positive case is reported in the lab or classroom, will all the people who shared that space at the same time be tested?

Not necessarily. Criteria for testing is continuing to evolve. At this time, individuals will only be tested if they have symptoms associated with COVID-19. Meaningful exposure includes individuals whose contact with the possibly infected person was within six feet for 15 minutes or more during the infectious period.

Last updated: Aug 27, 2020 8:55am

Will a lab be closed if someone in the lab tests positive for COVID-19?

No. Due to the fact that large droplets readily settle out of the air, and there are a high number of air exchanges in a lab, you can safely enter the lab without enhanced respiratory protection (fit-tested N95 mask or PAPR) within three hours of the time a COVID-positive individual was last in the lab. Lab personnel should perform their standard cleaning and disinfection procedures in the lab wearing standard PPE.

If the principal investigator has questions or concerns about cleaning protocols or about when they can re-enter the lab, contact the Department of Health, Safety and Environment for assistance (Homewood: 410-516-8798; East Baltimore: 410-955-5918). If HSE determines that additional disinfection is required, EVS/Custodial Services or an outside contractor may perform that service, under the on-site supervision of the PI (or their designee).

More information is available in the Return to Research guidance.

Last updated: July 23, 2020 4:38pm

How will cleaning be conducted in a lab in which a positive COVID-19 case is reported?

Lab staff will typically perform the cleaning after they can safely re-enter the lab without needing enhanced respiratory protection (a fit-tested N95 mask or PAPR). If staff are uncomfortable with performing the cleaning, the principal investigator should contact the Department of Health, Safety and Environment to arrange for cleaning by EVS/Custodial Services or an outside contractor. HSE will coordinate the cleaning of the lab with the PI and Facilities. The PI or their designee must be present on site to oversee the cleaning.

Last updated: July 23, 2020 4:42pm

How does JHU learn if university personnel are ill or experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms?

JHU faculty, staff, postdocs, and student employees who are working on campus are required to complete a health screening attestation every day they are expected to be working onsite. In addition, employees who begin feeling ill after being onsite should contact the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center at 833-546-7546 and go home.

Last updated: Dec 3, 2020 9:42am

If someone in a lab is asked to remain off-site for a few days, how will the PI be notified?

JHU faculty and staff must follow the department’s standard process for reporting an absence from work. In addition, they should talk to their supervisor/local HR representative to determine whether they are allowed to work remotely, if they are feeling well enough to do so.

If a trainee/student is not approved to be onsite, their faculty sponsor will be notified that they must remain offsite. The faculty sponsor will not receive any further information, and they will not have access to the postdoc’s health information. Trainees/students should contact their faculty sponsor, supervisor, or PI directly regarding their absence per policy (RPH 10.3) and should discuss whether and what work can be done from home.

Last updated: July 23, 2020 9:20pm

Someone in my lab has started to feel ill. How should I advise them?

Anyone who feels ill is encouraged to call the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center at 833-546-7546. The JHCCC will indicate if the individual is approved to remain onsite. If the lab member is asked to leave the lab, the principal investigator should ensure they follow this instruction promptly.

A clinician from Occupational Health (for faculty, staff, and postdocs), Student Health Services (for Krieger, Whiting, Peabody, Carey, School of Education and SAIS students), or University Health Services (for School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and Bloomberg School students) will review the individual’s symptoms remotely and follow up with the person who is sick, as needed.

We recommend labs continue routine cleaning and disinfecting of work surfaces, as prescribed in the Return to Research guidelines.

Last updated: Dec 3, 2020 9:45am

Someone in my lab or an adjacent lab is ill. Should I be concerned?

Just as was the case before COVID-19, viruses and colds circulate throughout the year. Recent background testing of certain essential on-site reporting populations indicate there is very low circulation of COVID-19 on site at this time. If someone is sick and not approved to be on site, it should not be assumed that they have COVID-19.

Also consider that COVID-19 is primarily spread through person-to-person contact from respiratory droplets (e.g., uncovered sneezing or coughing). The most effective prevention measures remain maintaining adequate physical distancing, wearing face coverings when in the lab, and frequent handwashing. If these measures are followed, it significantly reduces risk of exposure.

It is important to note that touching a contaminated surface is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads. While this risk of infection via a contaminated surface is relatively low compared to the risk associated with close contact with infected individuals, it is important to continue frequent handwashing and routine cleaning and disinfecting of shared work surfaces to further reduce the potential for transmission.

Last updated: July 23, 2020 8:50pm

I heard that someone in my lab tested positive. How will I know if I was exposed?

As part of the contact investigation, the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center ICAN team will interview the individual who tested positive to determine if they had meaningful exposure to any other affiliates—including individuals whose contact with the possibly infected person was within six feet for 15 minutes or more—during the infectious period. High-risk close contacts will be notified of their exposure, asked to quarantine to prevent additional transmission, and monitored for symptoms. If you have not been contacted by ICAN, you should assume there was not an exposure that requires follow up.

Last updated: July 23, 2020 9:17pm


Help us protect each other

Illustration of person wearing a face mask

Cover your face

Always wear a mask on campus

Illustration of person washing hands

Wash your hands

Wash or sanitize hands often and don't touch your face

Illustration of two people six feet apart

Distance yourself

Keep six feet between you and others

Illustration of a digital thermometer

If you have symptoms

Self-isolate and call 833-546-7546 right away