Dear Colleagues,

On April 28, 2020, Governor Baker issued an extension of our state’s ‘stay at home’ order until May 18. The MBL continues to comply fully with the order and all employees should continue to work remotely, if possible, until May 18 unless you’ve been directed otherwise from your manager.

While maintaining the safety of our staff and furthering our community’s collective efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is paramount, the impact of the closure on MBL research, educational programming, and operations has been significant. Although the decision on when we can re-open will be dependent on state and local guidance, leadership is working now to develop a safe, coordinated, and phased return to campus operations so that when the ‘stay at home’ advisory is lifted, the MBL can initiate a re-opening plan.

To address this, we have formed four working groups to focus on key components of the MBL.

  • Research – Resident and Whitman, both laboratory and field-based, MBLWHOI Library, and animal care – David Mark Welch, lead
  • Education – All instructional programs plus interns and related programs – Linda Hyman, lead
  • Campus housing and dining services – Paul Speer and Marie Russell, leads
  • Facilities and Administration/Operations – Paul Speer, lead

These groups will be coordinating the process, schedule, and approvals needed to ramp up activity while ensuring appropriate social distancing practices, use of masks, and, in certain cases, other personal protective equipment.  All groups are working on the assumption that resumption of campus operations will occur in stages based on the overall status of the pandemic in Massachusetts, with guidance from state and local public health authorities. Executing re-opening in a phased manner will allow the more straightforward components of the MBL (e.g. resident research) to resume ahead of the more complex ones (e.g. educational programming). Please note, when the Governor’s ‘stay at home’ order is lifted we expect a large number of employees will continue to work from home.

As a first principle, we will aim to reach a safe operating state including only MBL staff before welcoming visitors. Our initial focus will be on launching resident research and then considering the necessary requirements to add visiting research. Throughout this process we will consult and coordinate with the University of Chicago. Strategies for re-opening will also be as consistent as possible with those of our Woods Hole peer institutions.

The working group recommendations will culminate in a plan that will be produced by the end of May. This plan will inform implementation by individual research groups and departments. Foremost is the need to ensure that we do whatever we can to reduce health risks to our faculty and staff. This will include preparing best practices for personal protective equipment and detailed plans for social distancing within each area, as well as plans for regular cleaning in accordance with public health guidelines. As such we will not change our operating posture until we have a satisfactory plan in place.

Nipam Patel and I will be in further communication about this effort in the days and weeks ahead and will provide an update to staff as part of the State of MBL on May 19. In the meantime, please reach out to your supervisor with questions or concerns.

Thank you for all that you are doing to meet these unprecedented challenges.

Paul Speer
Chief Operating Officer