Teaching Lab FAQs

Approval Process, Training

Cleaning, PPE, Face Coverings

  • What disinfectants are acceptable to use in my lab for COVID-19?

    In these unprecedented times the supply of disinfectants may be disrupted. So, make sure that before submitting your Teaching Lab Plan you have secured enough disinfectant to sustain your activities.

    The selected disinfectant must be part of the List N of the EPA for approved disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 and must be used at the concentration and contact time listed. The complete list N can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2

    More information about common disinfectants can be found directly on the Teaching Lab Plan form.

  • Are undergraduate learning assistants included as “support staff” and are they assigned disinfection of their own workstation?

    For example, Teaching Assistants (TA) or Learning Assistants (LA) that help with a lab and have a desk area in lab.

    Yes, anyone functioning as an instructor or supporting instruction should be considered support staff and are responsible for disinfecting their own workstations.  This includes TA’s and LA’s as well as any other faculty, staff, or administrator that support classroom activities.

    Instructors should include all support staff involved with their class when writing the Teaching Lab Plans. At minimum, everyone should be allowed to review the TLP and have an opportunity to ask questions before the semester begins.

  • Should everyone in my class wear gloves all the time now?

    No. The CDC recommends that gloves only be worn for tasks that would ordinarily require them (for example when working with biohazardous materials or chemical hazards).  Frequent handwashing is still recommended for prevention of COVID-19 transmission.

  • Must everyone in my class wear a face covering?

    Yes, you and your students are required to wear a face covering in the lab at all times.  Face coverings are a crucial public health measure and help protect others by reducing exposure to droplets if someone is unknowingly infected with COVID-19.

    Face coverings are required for everyone (faculty, staff, students, contractors, suppliers, vendors and visitors) while on campus, either indoors or outdoors. You are required to wear a face covering except when you are in your assigned place of residence or in a private, single-occupancy office or lab space with the door closed where you can reasonably expect other individuals not to enter. Additional information regarding when to wear a face covering can be found at: https://msu.edu/coronavirus/_assets/pdfs/KeepingMSUsafe.pdf

  • Are face shields necessary for courses that require close interaction (less than six feet) for short periods of time?

    For example, inside labs that require up close demonstrations or instruction (less than three feet) for work on small technology, like small electronics.  Including classes that need this spacing for 5 minutes at a time multiple times throughout the duration of the lab period.

    Students and instructors should wear a face shield or utilize other barriers like plexiglass or shower curtains when closer than 6 ft for greater than 15 min at a time. 

  • What do you do when a student forgets their cloth face covering?

    For example, A student comes to class without a face covering.

    The student cannot attend class without a cloth face covering.  It is at the instructor’s discretion as to whether they want to provide unused cloth masks for students who forget.

    Providing cloth face coverings to students is not a mandate by the University.  See the full University directive( https://msu.edu/together-we-will/msu-community-compact/directives.html#face-coverings).

    General information regarding cloth face coverings is also available Cloth Face Coverings Fact Sheet (https://ehs.msu.edu/_assets/docs/fact-sheets/cloth-face-covering-fact-sheet.pdf).  Review section regarding Enforcement of Requirements in this document.

  • Will the Resources Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD) be including not wearing a face covering as part of a student VISA?

    For example, from the bottom of page 1 of the document regarding RCPD and face masks.

    The Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities has indicated:

    “If a student is authorized for COVI-19 Face Mask Exemption Certified, this will be noted on the student’s VISA letter, which has a time stamp, embedded code, this links to the RCPD electronic records regarding the student.  The request “mask exemption” is carefully reviewed, requires medical documentation, and the student’s physician has to “sign off” that medically the student cannot wear a face mask or cannot use an alternate face covering.  The inability to wear a face mask, wear an alternative face covering or be accommodated in another way, will be rare.  Currently, RCPD has received a few requests from students, but have not authorized a student exemption yet. If a student believes they cannot wear a face mask, feel free to refer the student to RCPD”

  • Are face shields available from MSU for group work and who purchases them?

    For example, short term group work for short periods of time outside.  Also lab group needing to be closer than 6 ft for longer than 15 min at a time and can use face shields to obtain closer proximity for the class. 

    Face shields are available for purchase by your department/unit.  Spartan Marketplace and on most major retail websites. 

  • Can departments require students to purchase face shields for in-person class?

    For example, can this be made a requirement for a class?

    From the Office of the Provost:  “If faculty want to require equipment as part of a course, they can do so.  A face shield would qualify.  A reminder that face coverings are required and face shields are not a substitution for them.  If faculty are requiring the use of face shields, they need to be used in tandem with face coverings.”

  • How are face shields disinfected or are they single use?

    For example, plexiglass or plastic/vinyl face shield with band that attaches around top of persons head.

    Face shields can be multiple – use and should be disinfected between uses. 

    Remember to use an appropriate EPA List N (https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19) disinfectant that will not mar the surface.  See disinfectant section for more information.

  • Lab coats in our lab are laundered after each use, is this sufficient?

    For example, in dairy plant the lab coats are laundered after each use.

    Laundering after every use is sufficient.  Reusable lab coats should be washed in hot water and dried on a high temperature between uses. 

  • Is it best for each student to have their own face shield and not share?

    Individual face shields are ideal.  Equipment management and financial constraints may deem individual face shields impractical. If that is the case shared face shields must be disinfected before and after use with a disinfectant found on EPA List N (https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19).

  • What options are there for disinfecting reusable items that are difficult to disinfect?

    For example, garments like fire suits or equipment like electronics or large surfaces can be damaged by disinfectants.

    Students should be issued non-shared equipment for the semester for their individual use. 

    When this is not practical, for re-useable bulky items such as waders, the following options may be used:

    • Disinfect after each use
      • Spray disinfectant such as Lysol or other EPA List N (https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19) disinfectant
      • Garden type sprayer for larger surfaces with appropriate disinfectant
      • Check that it is appropriate for the material (fire suits are damaged by bleach)
    • If disinfection is not possible then let the item sit for at a minimum of three days. The virus will not live longer than 48 hours on surfaces.

    IPF Cleaning webpage for resources and information regarding on campus cleaning can be found at https://ipf.msu.edu/campus-cleaning.

  • Who is responsible for the purchase of disinfectants and where are they available? Does IPF Custodial or our department supply the disinfectants?

    Departments/Units are responsible for purchasing disinfectants on EPA List N (https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19)  through Spartan Marketplace or other major retailer using P-card.

    IPF Custodial will not supply classrooms with disinfectant.  Coordinate with your Department/Unit to ensure an adequate supply of appropriate disinfectant will be available for your class activities including disinfection of high-touch items and surfaces.

  • Can students wear gloves when using shared equipment instead of disinfecting between each person?

    For example, after using a piece of shared equipment with gloves on, would the next student be able to use it right away without having to wait for disinfection contact and dry time? 

    The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends disinfecting between uses instead of relying on gloves.  Choose disinfectant with a shorter contact and dry time.  Oxivir TB has a contact time of one minute. 

    Review the EPA List N (https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19) to see a list of approved disinfectants with their contact times.

  • Is there a recommended backup disinfectant to the hard to obtain or backordered ones?

    For example, Lysol has been backordered indefinitely. 

    The Teaching Lab Plan Template has a list of four approved and common disinfectants with contact times listed.  If those four are not suitable or available refer to EPA List N (https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19). 

  • Why is disinfecting a personal phone or personal computer required prior to entering a classroom, but not eyeglasses, clothing, watches, shoes, etc.?

    For example, wiping down mobile phone and laptop but not disinfecting eyeglasses

    Items like cell phones are handled dozens times per hour by the owner, placed on countertops, benches and shared areas making them more susceptible to virus transmission. 

    Eyeglasses or clothing are touched far less frequently and pose less risk.

  • Plastic bags used as protection of mobile phones may cause interference with video recording, can the phone be removed from the bag and then sanitized afterward?

    For example, class requires a video of a subject using your mobile device and the focus is blurred because of the plastic bag that is protecting the device.

    When using for recording video you can remove the mobile device from the protective bag and remember to disinfect afterward with appropriate disinfectant.

    Use a disinfectant on EPA List N and that is appropriate for your mobile device.

  • Students use their laptops or phone to access directions to the daily lab activities through D2L instead of paper, is it acceptable for them to wipe the surfaces of the phone with a disposable sanitizing cloth before entering class or is a plastic bag recommended?

    For example, food laboratory wipes down their phone prior to bringing it in the classroom and they access them throughout class to follow the lab activities for the day on them.

    Yes, it is OK for students to bring electronics for class use, as long as they are disinfected before entering and before leaving lab. 

    Items may also be placed in a plastic resealable bag. After class the bag can be discarded. Classes that do not rely on electronic devices should encourage students to keep their phones put away for the duration of the class.

  • What if students choose to ignore our requirements?

    For example, student refuses to wear a cloth face covering when entering class.

    Remind student of requirement, the reason for it and request for them to comply. 

    Office of the Provost: 

    “Failure to wear a face covering for those without an accommodation will result in the following: (1) A reminder of the requirement, the reason for it (to minimize spread), and a request to comply.  (2) A request to leave the classroom if no compliance.  (3) If no face covering compliance and the student refuses to leave the classroom, class will be dismissed.  (4) Should an emergency develop that you feel cannot be resolved by classroom dismissal, consider calling 911 for assistance.  Note:  Calling the police should be the last resort for genuine emergencies and not used as a way to handle non-emergency conduct issues.” 

    If there is an incident related to face coverings in class, instructors should immediately file a report with the appropriate academic unit leader (e.g., department head, director of academic affairs, etc.) and, as soon as possible, produce a written record of the facts.  For students who initially violated the requirement, but who chose to comply when addressed, consider an email or other communication to remind the student of the requirement for future classes and to engage the student in conversation about the situation.  It will be helpful to allow the student to explain their actions in a way that might help in the future. 

    Important information on the compact compliance can be found here:  https://provost.msu.edu/communications/Fall%202020%20Guidance.html

Social Distancing, Health Screening, Contact Tracing

  • Are we expected to take attendance of the students each class period? Is there a particular way or form that should be used for attendance?

    Instructors should take attendance each class period to assist the University Physician’s Office and Ingham County Health Department should contact tracing be necessary. 

    Instructors are welcome to use any method of taking and recording attendance that is most convenient.  However avoid having students “sign-in” or handle shared pen and paper for this process.

  • What is the process when a student tests positive or is diagnosed with COVID-19? Is the instructor informed? Does class continue or will it be suspended or go remote for a period of time?

    The University Physician’s Office and Ingham County Health Department will be responsible for performing contact tracing if appropriate and determine which individuals should self-quarantine. 

    Students will be required to submit daily health screenings prior to attending class, and when answering “yes” to critical questions they are put into contact with the University Physician’s Office and then Ingham County Health Department if appropriate.  Then they will notify the Instructor if determined to be necessary. 

  • Do students in outdoor classes, that are wearing masks, need to physically distance?

    For example, groups of students wearing masks gathering closer than six feet when teaching or testing around specimens outside, for approximately 5 minutes at a time, at least twenty times during a four hour long lab.

    Instructors should arrange class activities to keep students at a minimum of six feet apart.  If students and instructors are less than 6 ft for greater than 15 minutes at a time then:

    • Students and instructors wear face shields (see Personal Protective Equipment section for information regarding face shields)
      • If they will be closer than 6 ft for less than 15 min at a time then face shields are not necessary
    • Plexiglass separators can be used in place of the face shields when face shields may present greater hazard
    • Clear shower curtain or similar material hanging from a garment rack as shown in the picture below can also be used in place of face shields. (College of Music use these as a divider between students.)
      • Do not use this when performing activities that involve high concentrations of corrosive chemicals and/or heat sources (Bunsen burners, flame loops, etc.).

    When none of the above will be an appropriate option, contact EHS at 517-355-0153 or ehs@msu.edu to schedule a consultation with an Industrial Hygienist.

    Photo of a clear plastic shield between 2 pianos.

  • In a course requiring contact with animals, how much time should elapse between animal handlers?

    For example, more than one student will need to handle laboratory animals.

    There is no time requirement between handlers. 

    Students and employees should be washing or sanitizing hands before and after handling the animals as well as wearing masks.  This and instructions provided to not come to class with COVID symptoms should make the handling of animals safe and a minimal risk, even when handling right after another person.

  • When a student completes and submits a Health Screening Form is the class instructor notified?

    No. Class instructors are not informed when a student submits a Health Screening Form.

Food & Drink, Personal Items in Labs

  • Outdoor field based lab courses with students physically distancing, what are the recommendations regarding cell phone usage? Is a plastic bag still recommended?

    Placing mobile phones in a plastic bag for class is recommended.  Constant handling of mobile phones makes these devices a vehicle for transmission of viruses and other microorganisms.  Phones often touch our face, nose, mouth and hands multiple times in a day.  Users often set the phone down on tables, counters, or other shared surfaces that cause cross-contamination.  Cell phones are nearly perfect vectors as they generate heat and collect moisture in conditions that mimic the human body and can harbor microorganisms at a surprising level.

    References for mobile phones and contamination:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6210060/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4332273/


  • What is the drink/food policy?

    Persons with requirement to eat or drink during the time they are in the building or on campus.

    The University is completing a student – focused public food and drink policy.

    However, the following guidelines apply to anyone who must consume food and beverages on campus:

    • Require that eating spaces be disinfected by the user before and after use, and the disinfection should follow EPA approved guidelines (70% alcohol for 5 min; Sani-wipes for 3 min)
    • Disinfectants must be available in the room
    • Snacks and community food sharing is prohibited during the pandemic.
    • Always preferable to eat outside the building when possible
    • Designate spaces where people can eat while maintaining social distancing. Examples are in personal office eating alone, building atria spaced appropriately away from others, break rooms, and alone or spaced appropriately based on space.
    • Identify eating spaces or rooms on floor plans and communicate the locations with students if your building has designated such spaces in their building plans.
    • Everyone should bring and remove all personal supplies for eating

Other Lab Safety Questions

Additional Contacts, Resources