COVID-19 Protocol Updates

Please refer to COVID-19 Guidance for BIRC Users for the most recent information.

BIRC COVID-19 protocols have been updated and simplified to align with University-wide guidance for Fall 2021. All individuals are required to follow campus guidelines at BIRC, including wearing a mask indoors and, if unvaccinated, maintaining 6 feet of distance from others when indoors. Researchers are encouraged to review the updated COVID-19 online EHS training.

While at BIRC, please observe the following procedures in addition to campus guidelines:

  • Disinfect touch surfaces after use.
  • Participants must continue to change into scrubs for MRI procedures.
  • Health screening: You must perform on yourself and your research participants 24H before arrival and upon arrival. Please bring your own form.
  • All individuals must properly wear face masks inside BIRC. Participants may remove their mask while inside the MRI. Researchers are responsible for providing face masks for themselves and participants.

Key changes from prior BIRC policy include:

  • Labs are no longer required to maintain COVID-19 safety protocols.
  • Researchers may now interact with masked participants without the use of gowns, face shields, or gloves.
  • Room capacity limits have been removed. For their own protection, unvaccinated individuals are requested to maintain 6 feet social distancing space from others.
  • The BIRC conference room may be reserved for meetings held in accordance with campus guidelines. All rooms and resources must be reserved prior to use.
  • The BIRC conference room may also be reserved for distanced indoor eating when necessary. If you will be eating in the conference room, minimize eating/drinking time and reserve an additional one hour beyond the occupancy period.
  • Please have participants enter BIRC using our main entrance. The employee entrance may still be used for participants on weekends. It is not necessary to sign in/out.

BIRC Main Entrance Reopening March 22

Beginning Monday March 22, we will reopen our main entrance during regular operating hours.

We do ask that you continue to meet your participants and bring them directly to your testing room; the reception area will remain closed. The free-standing sign-in log currently located at the employee entrance will be moved to the main entrance, and there will be a second sign-in log on the radiator at the employee entrance for people who do not use the QR code/Location Log system.

We will continue to use PPE, social distancing, and established disinfecting protocols.

Minor revision to BIRC COVID-19 Plan

The BIRC COVID-19 Safety Plan has been revised to add limited exceptions to 1-hour cycle times between participants:

Exceptions that do not require a 1-Hr gap include: (1) between clinical MRI patients, and (2) when individuals from the same household (i.e., they live together) participate in research.

The current version of the plan is always available here.


IMPORTANT: BIRC Reopening Procedure Updates

Dear BIRC Users,

With OVPR publishing revised guidelines, we have revised our safety plan using the new template.

Please note that our safety plan does not imply that you should proceed with research. We have users of all needs, and we must obtain approval to serve these needs. Please follow CDC, State and OVPR guidance and proceed with great caution if you do plan to perform research.

1) TMS
TMS is allowed without the 15min time limit we previously imposed. Face shields are required. Researchers must provide their own shields.

2) EEG
EEG is now allowed at BIRC if you proceed with great caution. This site has posted a draft protocol for those wishing to perform EEG research It’s very detailed and helpful. Not all of these procedures are required at BIRC but we recommend you read this if you are wishing to do EEG. Face shields, gloves and gowns/scrubs are required. Cap prep must be done in a separate room.

3) N95 masks
Investigators requiring participants to take off their mask must use a N95 mask. Researchers must provide their own masks.

4) Face shields and standing sneeze guards
A face shield is needed when you will be closer than 6ft to others (e.g. TMS operator, EEG operator, MRI tech). If you are interviewing or testing a participant behaviorally, then you may use a sneeze guard instead. Face shields must be provided by the users. Sneeze guards are provided by BIRC (but please disinfect before and after). We have 16×16” and are getting an 16×30” ones also. Here are some DIY face shields in case you are into DIY stuff.

5) Health screen forms
You may use this to health screening form to screen participants if you would like. Personnel logs will be at the BIRC’s employee side entrance. We will also have thermometers if you would like to use. Just let us know.

6) Your Lab’s Safety Plan
Please get your lab’s plan approved before proceeding to resume work at BIRC. Please note that there are 4 sections in BIRC’s Safety Plan that requires you to elaborate in your Lab’s Safety Plan (search for “Researchers must include”). Once approved, please share with us in case we can provide additional information that may help to keep your team and participants safe. If you need a sample, Fumiko is happy to share a sample.

As always, stay safe and please let us know if you have any questions.

BIRC Staff

BIRC Approved to Reopen – Important Information for Users

Dear BIRC Users,

As you know OVPR has begun the process of phased reopening starting 5/20. We were approved to open yesterday 5/22/2020.
If you are restarting human subjects research at BIRC, please read this email in its entirety.
If you just want to read about recent updates from BIRC, please jump to 4 below.

1) Please read the approved safety plan and share with your RAs, postdocs and students. Even if you are coming into BIRC just to analyze data or pick material up, you must follow this procedure.

Key information:
* Change in the reservation system: This now applies to the data processing room as well.
* Health screening: You must perform on yourself and your research participants 24H before arrival and upon arrival. Please bring your own form.
* Use of employee entrance: The PCSB main entrances will be locked at all times, so you should enter and exit BIRC through the employee entrance, where the log in/log out form can be found.
* Personnel In/Out log: Log all personnel entering BIRC (entry & exit)
* PPE requirements: You and your participants must bring your own masks.
* Change in experimental procedure: We have purchased sneeze shields and these should arrive by the end of this month.
* Cleaning procedure: Please follow our policy.

2) Please note that to use BIRC facilities, you must complete EHS COVID training (estimated 15min).

3) To conduct research, please get your lab specific safety plan approved by OVPR. BIRC’s plan includes sections where you are required to elaborate in your own plan. We suggest to attach our study plan as an appendix in your submission.
Submission site: OVPR COVID-19 Research Guidance

4) Other news while I have your attention if I still do…
* Clinical MRI will likely resume in early-mid June, thanks for Elisa.
* We have new IBRAiN students joining this fall. Welcome!
* We will be getting a much needed 32ch coil hopefully sometime in the summer.
* There are plans to change the MRI operator training this fall. Stay tuned for Elisa’s announcements.
* BIRC Virtual Speaker-Tag Series has had over 1,000 attendees & 100 institutions joining from around the world so far. Please stay tuned as it continues this summer.
* IBRAiN students publish a paper in Nature! Congrats to Yanina, Emily, Xu, Charles and Monica, and we thank Roeland for his leadership.

Please put safety first when resuming research, and as always, let us know if you have any questions!

BIRC Staff

BIRC’s response to the Coronavirus Outbreak Update #9 3-19-20

Here are some brief updates, which won’t impact any of you on the list serve (please note a virtual-only talk on 4/1 Wed).

In-person research continues to be suspended and now until 5/11 or until further notice.
In-person clinical is now suspended until 5/11 or until further notice.
We will continue to provide virtual services.
BIRC will start hosting virtual-only talks if there seems to be interest. Dr. Daniel Ansari will kick us off on Wednesday, 4/1 at 1:00-2:15pm EST. He is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology and the Brain & Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. Dr. Ansari is an expert in educational neuroscience and MRI imaging of numerical processing. Please mark your calendars. Zoom in information and additional information TBA.
Staff will continue to check in on the facility and equipment twice a week. No disinfection will be done.
If you have any questions, as always, please contact us.
Stay safe and please find humor in your daily lives in these challenging times.
BIRC Staff
PS: For your entertainment, with the lockdown (in SF), this is my life right now. Perhaps it’s yours, too. 🙂

BIRC’s response to the Coronavirus Outbreak Update #8 3-18-20

Here are new updates, which seems to be almost daily these days with the rapid change in the COVID-19 situation world-wide.

In-person research is suspended until 5/11 or until further notice.

In-person clinical is now suspended until 5/11 or until further notice.

We will continue to provide virtual services.

Staff will continue to check in on the facility and equipment twice a week. No disinfection will be done.

If you have any questions, as always, please contact us.

Stay safe and please find humor in your daily lives in these challenging times.

BIRC Staff

BIRC’s response to the Coronavirus Outbreak Update #7 3-18-20

I hope you all saw VPR’s and President’s announcements today of immediate research ramp down ( In-person research at BIRC remains suspended until 4/6 but is likely to be longer.

We will remain open virtually. So please do send us consultation requests or support with BIRC-related dissertations, manuscripts and grants.

We will find out more about our clinical operation tomorrow after the Town Hall and the CLAS staff meeting. The current plan is that we suspend until 4/6 except for 2 critical cases. UCHC has suspended elective surgery yesterday, and today decided to downsize some non-critical operations.

Staff will be on site twice a week to check in on the facilities.

As scientific talks become scarce with many being cancelled and as we all get used to our new lifestyle, we are considering offering some talks/workshops virtually. Please stay tuned.

As always, if you have questions, please let us know.

Looking back at our first update 10 days ago, it seems a world apart. During this difficult time, I hope we are able to appreciate what we have than what we are losing and find humor in our every day lives! The glass is always half full. If you need humor, I have plenty of material from home – contact me (Fumiko).

BIRC’s response to the Coronavirus Outbreak Update #6 3-16-20

With many states and counties advancing into lockdown (SF is stating lockdown of the whole city together with neighboring counties effective tonight – just announced! I believe it will come our way to CT sooner than we think/hope. I hope I am wrong), we have made some adjustments.

We technically remain open until the university announcement, but …

We have cancelled all research scans until 4/6 and will continue to discourage scanning unless you can convince us 🙂

While UCHC has decided to only cancel elective surgery at this point, and no outpatient services are cancelled, we have agreed to cancel/postpone all clinical scans as well. We will scan the remaining patients if there are critical needs but have suspended all clinical scans at least until 4/6 as well. We are currently not booking any new patients. Thanks for Leo Wolansky (UCHC Radiology Department Chair)’s understanding in the service of protecting our staff.
Hence no disinfection will be done as complete telecommuting has started.

If you have critical needs please contact me.

Stay safe and happy…

BIRC’s response to the Coronavirus Outbreak Update #5 3-16-20

A quick update to you all. 

We are currently technically open. But we do not have any research scans until the weekend (and they are non-EEG) and will likely close as soon as we get guidance from VPR. They are in discussions and will propose recommendations to the President this afternoon. We are urging the university to stop all non-critical/essential research that does not impact human health ASAP. We should have updates before any further research scans are done.

We are in discussions with UCHC Radiology to stop clinical MRI as well as they are non-priority scans.

We remain open virtually for any consultations or training that can be done remotely. We will suspend in person MRI safety training until further notice. LMK if this impacts your research plans.

Please do not come in to use the conference rooms or data room unless necessary. While we have staff telecommute, we will not be disinfecting the areas as we had originally planned and was doing last week. If you do need to come in to BIRC, please contact me.

Thank you,