Frequently Asked Questions

Care For You, Others, and the Community

Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Individuals need to stand at least 6 feet (approximately 2 meters) apart to limit virus spread.

Research indicates that respiratory droplets from an individual do not travel farther than 6 feet. By staying at least six feet away from other people, you will decrease your chances of catching or spreading COVID-19. Social distancing is important to consider in the workplace, at home, and in your neighborhood.

This is the most frequent route of transmission for infectious viruses and occurs via direct inhalation of respiratory droplets during close contact. Exposure is at its highest when people are:

  1. Within ~6 feet of one another
  2. In close contact for ~15 minutes or more
  3. Exposed to an infected person, especially when they cough, sneeze, or talk
  4. In contact with surfaces and objects such as shared equipment. Keyboards, computer mouse, phones and writing utensils may become contaminated with SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, or other infectious viruses
  5. In contact with COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface and then touching one’s own eyes, nose, or mouth

“Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as ‘PPE’, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits.” https://www.osha.gov/personal-protective-equipment

  1. Limit the spread of infectious viruses when they cover both your mouth and nose
  2. Physically block respiratory droplets shed by the person wearing the mask (e.g., during coughing, sneezing or talking) from reaching others
  3. Help prevent pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals from inadvertently spreading the virus to others
  4. Protect the people around you; their face covering protects you
  5. New evidence suggests that face coverings can also help protect the wearer
  1. Before Putting on a Mask: Clean hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water
  2. Touching only the ear or head loops, place the mask on your face so that it fully covers your mouth and nose. 
  3. Adjust the mask using only the straps. If it has an adjustable nose piece, press down around the edges of the mask so that it conforms to the contours of your face.
  4. While wearing a mask: 
    1. Cover your mouth and nose
    2. Make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask
    3. Avoid touching the mask
    4. If you do touch your mask, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water
    5. Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp
    6. Do not reuse single-use masks
    7. A face shield can also be worn, as long as it is worn correctly
  1. Remove the mask from behind, touching only the strings or ear-loops
  2. Do not touch the front of mask
  3. Discard the mask immediately in a closed bin
  4. Clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
  5. Be mindful of ways to work individually and collectively toward long-term sustainability of complex living systems and avoid waste whenever possible

A mask (cloth or fabric) face covering is required at all times while on campus, except while eating or working alone in a private office or space, with the door closed.

Resources & External Sources

The Primary or Principal Investigator (PI) is the primary individual responsible for the preparation, conduct, execution, and administration of a research grant, cooperative agreement, training or public service project, contract, or other research projects in compliance with applicable laws and regulations and institutional policy governing the conduct of research.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a national public health institute in the United States. It is a United States federal agency, under the Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.cdc.gov/

  1. The Office of Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) assists the Teachers College Community in promoting a safe and healthful environment for all individuals associated with the college, including students, faculty, staff and visitors. We support the TC community by providing technical assistance, education, training and hazard assessments. 
  2. Additionally, EHS coordinates with other departments to minimize loss of college resources. https://www.tc.columbia.edu/environmentalhealth/
  1. The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is an administrative committee of Teachers College whose purpose is to ensure that the rights and welfare of human subjects of research conducted at or sponsored by TC regardless of the source of funding are protected pursuant to federal regulations (45 CFR part 46 and 21 CFR part 56). 
  2. Examples of human subjects research include surveys, observations of behavior, experiments involving human responses, individual interviews, focus group sessions, and collection of data from existing records. https://www.tc.columbia.edu/institutional-review-board/

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. https://www.osha.gov

The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) provides leadership in the protection of the rights, welfare, and wellbeing of human subjects involved in research conducted or supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). OHRP is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health in the Office of the Secretary of HHS. https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/

Risk Assessment & Mitigation

The process of finding, listing, and characterizing hazards.

  1. Actions, apart from getting vaccinated and taking medicine, that people and communities can take to help slow the spread of illnesses like pandemic influenza (flu). NPIs are also known as community mitigation strategies. 
  2. When a new flu virus spreads among people, causing illness worldwide, it is called pandemic flu. Because a pandemic flu virus is new, the human population has little or no immunity against it. This allows the virus to spread quickly from person to person worldwide. 
  3. NPIs are among the best ways of controlling pandemic flu when vaccines are not yet available. https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/index.html

The overall process of hazard identification, risk analysis, and risk evaluation. TC Office of Risk Management: https://www.tc.columbia.edu/controller/risk-management/

  1. A process for comprehending the nature of hazards and determining the level of risk.
    1. Risk analysis provides a basis for risk evaluation and decisions about risk control.
    2. Information can include current and historical data, theoretical analysis, informed opinions, and the concerns of stakeholders.
    3. Risk analysis includes risk estimation. 
  1. Actions implementing risk evaluation decisions.
  2. Risk control can involve monitoring, re-evaluation, and compliance with decisions.

The process of comparing an estimated risk against given risk criteria to determine the significance of the risk.

  1. Institutional Review Board (IRB) * IRB@tc.edu
  2. Office of Environmental Health & Safety * ehs@tc.columbia.edu 
  3. The Office of Public Safety officeofpublicsafety@tc.columbia.edu
    1. If you have an emergency or need assistance, please contact us 24/7 at:  x3333 on TC Ringcentral campus phones, or 212-678-3333 on any phone.
  1. Is there a safer, more sustainable, more effective way to conduct your research?  
  2. Are there Standard Operating Procedures that should be updated, developed, or documented?  
  3. Can your research space be de-cluttered or cleaned out to better ensure functionality, health and safety?  
  4. Were there specific lessons to be drawn from the “ramp-down” process (e.g. continuity of function) that you can apply now?
  5. Are you prepared for a potential “ramp-down” in the future? 
  1. Please visit the following resources for additional information related to COVID-19:
    1. APA Video: How Students Can Cope with COVID-19 Stress
    2. APA Video: 7 Research Findings from Psychologists
    3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    4. United States Department of Labor – Occupational Safety and Health Administration
    5. CITI Program – Social Distancing
    6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings
    8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – How to Make your Own Face Covering
    9. Nebraska Medicine – Universal Masking Guidelines Step-by-Step
    10. United States Environmental Protection Agency - List N: Disinfectants to Use Against SARS-CoV-2
    11. United States Environmental Protection Agency – Six Steps for Safe & Effective Disinfectant Use
    12. United States Department of Labor – Occupational Safety and Health Administration
    13. NYC DOHMH https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/coronavirus.page 
    14. CDC https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html 
    15. WHO https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
  2. Please consult these links for more information related to hygiene, the IRB, and wellness:
    1. Protect Participants with a Clean Research Lab | IRB Blog | Institutional Review Board
    2. Research & Travel Precautions | IRB Blog | Institutional Review Board | Teachers College, Columbia University
    3. https://www.tc.columbia.edu/institutional-review-board/irb-blog/continuing-research-during-covid-19-quarantine/
    4. https://www.tc.columbia.edu/institutional-review-board/irb-blog/health-well-being-and-research-amid-covid-19/
    5. https://www.tc.columbia.edu/institutional-review-board/irb-blog/reminders-for-researchers-during-covid-19-quarantine-/
  1. ESH – Environmental Health and Safety: https://www.tc.columbia.edu/environmentalhealth/ 
  2. HR – Human Resources: https://www.tc.columbia.edu/human-resources/   
  3. IRB – Institutional Review Board: https://www.tc.columbia.edu/institutional-review-board/ 
  4. Public Safety – https://www.tc.columbia.edu/publicsafety/ •    
  5. TCIT – Teachers College Information Technology: https://www.tc.columbia.edu/tcit/
  6. Office of Access & Services for Individuals with Disabilities: https://www.tc.columbia.edu/student-handbook/student-resources/office-of-access--services-for-individuals-with-disabilities/


Roles and Training Module Descriptions

  1. Faculty leads of research labs or spaces will be asked to take on the role of Research Safety Monitor (RSM). The faculty lead can also choose to designate a second staff member to serve as an alternate RSM. As part of the role, an RSM:
    1. Agrees to have oversight of the research group
    2. Does not have to be present on campus at all times, but designates someone who can have oversight of the research group (alternate RSM) 
    3. Ensures that safety procedures are implemented as outlined in the Job Safety Assessment and that all required Trainings for research with human subjects are complete. 
    4. Serves as the first point of contact in the event of an emergency affecting their research group.
    5. Must complete the agreement issued by the Research Compliance & Safety Committee, based on a Job Safety Assessment (JSA) conducted by the Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) office. If you have not yet received this agreement at the time of this training, please reach out to the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) https://www.tc.columbia.edu/environmentalhealth/  or the Institutional Review Board (IRB) IRB@tc.edu
    6. Will share contact information to be stored securely and made available to TC offices including Campus Safety Facilities, ESH, and others responsible for campus safety.
    7. Should follow directives with respect to safety in the research environment, and ensure that those directives are followed by all in the research group.
  1. Teachers College Campus Reopening Training Modules
  2. CITI Program – Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative
  3. Ethics & Safety Amid Uncertainty Training Modules: Navigating Research with Human Subjects training modules developed by the Research Compliance & Safety Committee
  4. Any other specific training modules as determined by the Environmental Health & Safety Office, specifically for researchers who engage with vulnerable populations or in high physical contact situations.
  1. These modules were developed by the Research Compliance & Safety Committee to help prepare researchers for engaging with human subjects in-person for research purposes. 
  2. The modules are in addition to the Teachers College Campus Reopening Training Modules, CITI Training, and any other additional training modules for researchers who work with vulnerable populations or in high physical contact situations.
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