COVID-19 Updates: Mask Order, “Pick & Stick” and Testing Strategies Webinar

May 5, 2020

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Disclaimer: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the individual author, and not to LabCentral or the author’s employer, organization or committee.

This week the City of Cambridge and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued a new emergency order requiring the use of a mask or face covering in all public places, businesses and common areas of residential areas. This order applies to everyone over the age of two within public spaces including sidewalks, streets, parks, bus-stops, and parking garages, and also applies to anyone working or visiting essential businesses, such as LabCentral, which was ahead of the curve in requiring face coverings.  

We reiterate that wearing masks is a precautionary step aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. Our current scientific understanding of how COVID-19 transmits is through close contact (defined as within 6 feet for over 10 minutes) and mostly through respiratory droplets. While there is some indication that airborne transmission may have occurred in isolated spreader events, especially in groups gathered in confined spaces, the vast majority of infections are caused through close contact exposure to respiratory droplets which can be significantly reduced through the wearing of masks and face coverings (note: it’s important to remember that masks are most effective in combination with frequent hand-washing with soap and water, or if necessary, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer).

We are grateful that we still have no confirmed cases of COVID-19. As it is our intent to figure out ways to enable more residents to work on-site, we continue to ask our residents to adhere to our LabCentral guidelines as well as the policies of public health experts and local, state and federal authorities. These guidelines are critical to ensure that LabCentral continues to be a safe and productive working environment for all of our residents. 

“Pick and Stick” and other social distancing practices

To keep low densities and social distancing on-site while continuing critical lab operations and research for residents, we introduced the concept of “shiftwork” and our team is doing cross-training to allow for more flexible shift work in response to our residents’ lab operation needs.

This week we want to extend our on-site social distancing by recommending the notion of “Pick and Stick.” This refers to efforts to limit our residents’ footprint on-site by being deliberate in the choice of the spaces they occupy at LabCentral. For example, if someone must utilize a phone booth at 700 Main Street, we ask them to please choose their favorite and return to it each time they need to use it. The same applies to bathroom stalls, conference rooms, and even door handles. 

Ramping Up Operations 

As we balance the new rules from the City of Cambridge and Commonwealth of Massachusetts while trying to find ways for residents to safely ramp up operations, some reminders:

  • Personal pre-screening: The City of Cambridge has required that all employees of essential businesses be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 prior to coming onto the work site and orders sick employees to stay at home. We are asking all residents of LabCentral to perform self-checks prior to coming into the building. 
  • Requiring sign-in for visitors and health surveys: As a reminder, no visitors are allowed on-site unless they are pre-registered with LabCentral. We will turn away those who have not been pre-registered. With the implementation of the new Cambridge mandate, all visitors must also fill out a health survey before coming on-site.
  • Getting in touch with your neighbors and fellow residents: We will be putting open-lab and designated desk resident companies in touch with their neighbors to help coordinate work schedules to facilitate a low density and maintenance of our social distancing standards. This approach will hopefully allow for optimal flexibility for companies and their need to make independent decisions that match their workload in the lab, but also to ensure all residents are able to work safely.

Virtual Event: Testing Strategies, Technology and Hurdles to Expanding

This afternoon at 1:30 ET, our virtual event series – Innovation & Biotech in the Time of COVID-19 – continues with the fourth event covering what could prove to be the cornerstone for managing the coronavirus and safely re-opening states: testing. Register here.

Moderated by LabCentral’s Johannes Fruehauf, the panel will include experts working on testing strategies and technology:

  • Dr. Michael Mina, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Immunology & Infectious Disease at the Harvard School of Public Health
  • Dr. Galit Alter, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Virology
  • Irene Bosch, CEO, CTO and Founder of E25Bio, a LabCentral company in the process of rolling out their rapid antigen detection test now. 

If you are unable to make the live event, it will be recorded so anyone can watch at their convenience later.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Home!