Workflow for Phased Laboratory Sunrise for Med School/ OACA


To provide faculty and department heads the required elements for seeking authorization to return their laboratories to on-site work. Those able to work remotely should continue to do so until Full Operations is declared by the President.

Return to research operations will be transitional and linked to a phased progression of events, which will take place over several weeks. Progression through each phase is dictated first and foremost by the health, safety and wellbeing of the students, staff and faculty. Transition between phases will be directed by President Gabel and not defined by a finite timeline. Moreover, depending upon the health status of the university community, the process is reversible and if conditions warrant, could transition back to a lower phase. 

Step 1: PI/Dept Head Planning

To initiate laboratory restart, each Principle Investigator must develop a laboratory Sunrise Plan for their laboratory staff beginning with Sunrise Step 1 and ending with Sunrise Step 3. Please use this form to develop the laboratory plan.

Here, laboratory staff means technicians, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates, etc. The plan should address all points in the Return to On-Site Work Authorization Form and include key factors such as staff safety, work density, schedules, supervision and protection. All faculty, staff and students should also acknowledge and abide by the Guiding Principles for returning to work set forth by VP/Dean Tolar and Vice Dean Schacker.  

PIs should discuss their Sunrise Plan with all their laboratory staff and once developed, request review and approval by their Department Head or designate. For faculty that utilize specialized centers of research in buildings different from their parent departmental home, or a combination of spaces, they should develop their plan collaboratively such that all parties involved understand the safety, space and research needs. Departmental approval is a key step in the entire process and is anticipated to emphasize health and wellbeing of personnel as the key elements, balanced by the need to advance the research and training objectives of the faculty, students and staff. It is important that you stress to everyone that return to work at this time is voluntary and we are encouraging those who are at high-risk for significant complications of COVID-19 to remain working from home.

The following will be important for PIs and department heads/designates to consider when developing an effective Sunrise Plan:

  • Consultation with laboratory staff: confirm that you have discussed this plan with your laboratory staff, and that researchers requesting to return to work are electing to do so voluntarily. NOTE: Undergraduate students will not be authorized to return to work in Sunrise Step 1.
  • Social distancing in the laboratory: discuss the mechanisms to implement social distancing in space and time in your laboratory and shared research spaces. The minimum requirement will be maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others. If there are challenges to social distancing, explain strategies you will implement to comply with the safety requirements. Confirm you have coordinated with colleagues having adjacent space or overlapping use of shared space.
  • Disinfection of workspaces and shared equipment: discuss the means that will be taken to disinfect workspaces and shared equipment.
  • Vertebrate animal research: discuss whether your research requires Research Animal Resources (RAR) managed vivarium access. If so, make certain to coordinate with RAR to ensure that social distancing requirements can be met in the shared spaces needed in your research (RAR is currently creating online documents to help manage the number of individuals in housing and procedure spaces but these documents are not ready at this time). Note: RAR is not responsible for providing PPE for laboratories or individual faculty/staff within or outside of RAR facilities. RAR has limited supplies of PPE that is needed for their own animal care activities. PIs should plan accordingly.
  • Confirm with all personnel that in the event an individual in the lab has confirmed COVID-19 infection that the lab will be temporarily closed for cleaning and that the Minnesota Department of Health will initiate contact tracing and quarantine procedures. COVID-19 testing will be offered to others exposed to the infected individual. Procedures for cleaning the laboratory and other affected spaces will be made available.

Once the PI and department head/designate have agreed upon a plan that encompasses Sunrise Steps 1-3, the department head/designate will forward the approved laboratory plan form to the MS/OACA Sunrise Committee C/O Peg Brown ([email protected])

Step 2: PI/Lab Member Communication

Following approval from the dept head/designate (Step 1 above), the PI completes a return to work authorization form and shall instruct each laboratory member to complete a return to work authorization form. Since the PI will already have developed a plan on behalf of the laboratory, laboratory members can use the phrase “see PI plan” in response to the questions on providing a brief summary of the work and a justification for returning to work. For routing and approval, the PI and each individual laboratory member should cite their Mary Winger ([email protected]) so that forms are routed to the committee. The form can be found here.

NOTE: Any faculty or staff who are currently considered “Essential On-Site Employees” will maintain their status and do not need to seek additional approval under this plan.

Step 3: Medical School/OACA Sunrise Committee Evaluation

Departmentally approved plans will be evaluated by the Medical School/OACA Sunrise Committee and a recommendation made to the Dean for final approval within 72 hours.