Phased Expansion of VIMS Operations

Effective July 22, 2020

The following information provides an online, interactive version of our Phased Expansion of VIMS Operations plan. This plan has been reviewed by the State Council of Higher Education and has been found to be compliant in containing the required components of the ‘Higher Education Reopening Guidance,’ which was developed in consultation with the Virginia Department of Health. The official SCHEV-approved document is also available as a .pdf file.

The following plan is designed to expand our operations in a safe and new-normal way. While efforts and sacrifices in the Commonwealth and our society have slowed the spread of the coronavirus, we need to remind ourselves that it is still present. It is thus essential that as we begin to ease some of the restrictions and expand our in-person research, education, and advisory activities, we remain vigilant, cautious, and measured. We will take a phased, systematic, and strategic approach understanding that work environments will be dramatically different than before the pandemic. As the pandemic continues to be fluid, elements of this plan may change.



Joseph Martinez, VIMS Chief Operations Officer and Chair, VIMS Emergency Management Team


  • Dr. John T. Wells, Dean and Director
  • Dr. Mark Luckenbach, Associate Dean, Research and Advisory Services
  • Dr. Linda Schaffner, Associate Dean, Academic Studies
  • Mark Brabham, Director of Facilities Management
  • Stewart Lamerdin, Director of Marine Operations
  • David Malmquist, Director of News and Media Services
General Safety Practices

Our path forward will not be business-as-usual. As a non-residential campus of higher education, VIMS is currently governed by Virginia's Phase III gating criteria for business and commercial operations:

  1. Remain home when not feeling well or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  2. Continue to telework when possible, particularly if you are a vulnerable individual
  3. Continue physical distancing of 6 feet or more
  4. Wear a face mask in indoor public settings
  5. Wash your hands frequently
  6. Refrain from touching your face

These measures, as well as the ones outlined below, are meant to maximize the health and safety of our campus community as we expand in-person research, education, and advisory activities.

If you think you might be symptomatic
Before returning to campus

As a non-residential campus, VIMS is currently governed by Virginia's Phase III gating criteria for business and commercial operations. We thus require anyone who may be exhibiting any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested prior to returning to campus. See the list of local COVID-19 testing locations.

If already on campus

If you suspect or presume you may be exhibiting any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or have tested positive, email the VIMS' Emergency Management Team at [[v|EMT]]. To maintain your privacy, receipt of this email will be restricted to John Wells, Mark Luckenbach, Linda Schaffner, and Joe Martinez.

Once the email is received and reviewed, the EMT will forward the relevant information to the VIMS Office of Safety and Environmental Programs. Safety-office staff will contact the affected individual to obtain additional information via a questionnaire and use the responses to create a specific response plan. Questions will include:
  1. When were you last on campus?
  2. What buildings, offices, laboratories, or other areas (including restrooms) did you frequent?
  3. Is your office/work area currently secured?
  4. What activities were performed while on campus (lab work, microscopy, data analysis, field work, etc.)?
  5. Which VIMS personnel have you been in close contact with over the past 14 days?

Safety-office staff will then notify individuals and affected building areas with the developed response plan. If a faculty member, staff member, or student:

  1. Has been tested, either voluntarily or as directed by a health care provider, they are to remain off campus until the test result is provided, and to notify the VIMS EMT.
  2.  Tests positive for the COVID-19 virus, that individual will require a release from a medical provider before returning to work and campus.
  3.  Is caring for someone who has tested positive or showing signs of COVID-19, they should remain off campus due to possible exposure.
Impacted areas will be closed and access restricted immediately for a minimum of 72 hours before the Advanced Cleaning Team will commence with decontamination activities. Based on the response plan, impacted areas may include offices, labs, building floors, or the entire building.
  1. University sponsored travel is currently prohibited by William & Mary through the end of 2020. Travel restrictions do not apply to in-state advisory service and grant-supported research. Note: special permission has been granted to VIMS by the Secretary of Education for limited out-of-state and overnight travel supporting research and advisory services. Submit any requests for VIMS-sponsored, out-of-state, and overnight travel for business operations, research, and advisory activities to the [[luck,Associate Dean of Research and Advisory Services]], who will review these requests on a case-by-case basis.
  2. No more than two people at a time are allowed in a state vehicle, and each is required to wear a mask. Travel to research sites in personal cars must also adhere to this density requirement. Vehicle users are responsible for thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting  all touched surfaces in VIMS vehicles, before and after use. Refueling of vehicles will remain the responsibility of the users.
On-Campus Recommendations & Requirements
  1. The VIMS campus remains “Closed to the Public” except for scheduled meetings as noted below.
  2. VIMS campus buildings remain locked.
  3. All employees are required to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. Visit the Virginia Department of Health website for self-monitoring guidelines:
  4. Face-to-face meetings should only occur sparingly. During in-person meetings and classes individuals must comply with physical distancing and wear a face mask, except while they are eating. Continue to use Zoom or other virtual modes to conduct business meetings even when individuals are on campus. (See additional details under use of classrooms and meeting rooms.)
  5. All employees are required to wear masks when walking through campus buildings and public spaces, during in-person meetings, and whenever the 6-foot physical distancing requirement cannot be met.
  6. Students are required to wear masks while attending class.
  7. Travel between buildings should be kept to a minimum.
  8. Approved volunteers will be permitted to work on campus and will be required to follow employee guidelines.
  9. Undergraduate students on the Williamsburg campus will follow the guidelines set forth by W&M's Undergraduate program.
  10. Gathering locations such as Sowers House, Abrahamson House, and Clayton House shall remain closed.However, Abrahamson House, which serves as a visiting scientist facility, will be open for small groups of visiting scientists on a case-by-case basis provided restrictions for its use can be met.
  11. The Galley and Davis Hall kitchenettes will be restricted to a minimum occupancy. Tables and seating will be arranged to provide 6-foot physical distancing.
  12. The VIMS Library will remain closed and will be re-evaluated for use prior to the Fall semester. Pick-up and return of materials is available one day per week.
  13. Campus visitors will be allowed by appointment only. Visitors should come to campus for the purposes of conducting business meetings that cannot be done virtually. Visitors will be required to wear face masks when traveling through public spaces, during in-person meetings, and where physical distancing cannot be met.
  14. Food Trucks on campus – Not applicable at this time.
  15. Cleaning of offices and labs (e.g., hard surfaces, computer keyboards, etc.) is the responsibility of the occupants. Facilities will discontinue routine cleaning of these spaces.
  16. Trash pickup continues in corridors.
  17. In the event of a positive case on the VIMS campus, VIMS will follow an established Operational Protocol to minimize spread of the virus. In the event the COVID-19 Coordinator becomes aware of two or more potential cases of infection on the VIMS campus, he will consult with the local health department for guidance in determining measures to mitigate or stop the spread.

With the announcement of Governor Northam's Easing of Certain Temporary Restrictions Due to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on June 2nd, we will need to think more broadly concerning the guidelines defining critical research activities articulated in  from Mark Luckenbach, realizing that our entire research enterprise is essential to all aspects of our mission. Our challenge lies in developing laboratory- and project-specific actions to conduct research in a manner that complies with guidelines and protocols articulated in that document. For some research programs and projects this will require creative solutions and perhaps significant alterations in the research plans.

The guidelines defining critical research activities in response to the Gov. Northam’s Executive Order 55 that were articulated in the April 5, 2020 memo from Associate Dean Mark Luckenbach remained in effect until that EO expired on June 11, 2020. With the expiration of that order and the announcement of Phase Two, and most recently Phase Three by the Governor, we began to think more broadly, realizing that our entire research enterprise is essential to all aspects of our mission. Our challenge lies in developing laboratory- and project-specific actions to conduct research in a manner that complies with guidelines and protocols articulated in this document. For some research programs and projects this will require creative solutions and perhaps significant alterations in the research plans.

In the Laboratory
  1. Each laboratory group and VIMS Center with a research component is developing a written set of procedures that clearly spells how it will meet or exceed the guidelines listed below. The plans should include activities by all individuals, including the students, utilizing a lab. The conduct of field work is also covered in these plans with a time horizon looking out to the end of the calendar year. These plans must be submitted to the [[v|luck,Associate Dean of Research and Advisory Services]], and be easily accessible to all members of the lab group.
  2. Minimize the time that more than one or two people are in a room at a time. Reducing density and maintaining distances between people is a fundamental component of reducing the spread of the virus. In many cases we will need to alter work schedules to reduce the numbers of people in a laboratory and shared office space at a time (e.g., use of shared group calendar to manage lab use), organize labs in a manner that accommodates greater distancing, and re-think how we accomplish particular tasks. Bearing in mind that several people, all spaced 6 feet apart, working in a laboratory or other closed space that is not well ventilated carries some risk of spreading the virus, we will use protocols that minimize the time that more than one or two people are in such a space at a time.
  3. Masks must be worn at all times that a minimum of 6-feet of distancing cannot be maintained.
  4. Employees and students working in laboratories will be responsible for thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting their workspaces before, during, and after use. Supervisors have the responsibility to ensure that these cleaning responsibilities are clearly assigned to individuals and that they are fully implemented.
In the Field, on Boats, and in the Water
  1. For all operations aboard vessels, the most important risk-reduction steps are those that we can take before boarding, namely self-monitoring for temperature and other symptoms by all personnel.
  2. All personnel, including outside contractors or vendors, must complete our Pre-Boarding Self-Assessment Form for COVID-19 prior to boarding any large vessel for any reason.
  3. No more than two people at a time are authorized in a VIMS truck, each required to wear a mask. Travel to research sites in personal cars must also adhere to this density requirement. Users are responsible for thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting all touched surfaces in VIMS vehicles, before and after use. Refueling of vehicles remains the responsibility of the users.
  4. Distancing guidelines should be followed during work at outdoor field sites, and masks worn anytime this distance cannot be maintained. Careful consideration must be given to other risks of the field work that might be exacerbated by reduced crew sizes and distancing. Supervisors should conduct thoughtful risk assessment and reduction planning for all field research activities.
  5. Scientific diving operations for specific projects must adhere to the Dive Program COVID-19 Procedures and Guidance. This document also details the modifications to training and certification programs in response to COVID-19.
  6. Research activities involving VIMS’ small vessel fleet must adhere to distancing requirements to the greatest extent possible, and researchers must wear masks and don other appropriate PPE when this is not possible. For small vessels based at Gloucester Point, we expect the research team, not Marine Operations staff, to operate the vessel and thoroughly clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces before and after use. If a research team needs a vessel operator, they should [[v|slamerdin,contact the Director of Marine Operations]] to request an exemption on a case-by-case basis. For vessels at the Eastern Shore Lab, users should contact [[v|sfate,Sean Fate]] to discuss their needs and operational plans.
  7. Research aboard VIMS’ large vessels (R/V Virginia, R/V Bay Eagle and R/V Tidewater) must follow the guidelines developed by Marine Operations staff. Project-specific details for implementing these protocols must be established through discussions between scientific staff and vessel staff prior to sailing.
  8. Research conducted aboard third-party vessels will generally require approval by the Associate Dean of Research and Advisory Services in consultation with the Chief Operations Officer and the Director of Marine Operations on a case-by-case basis.

The priorities for VIMS evolving academic plan are to:

  1. Provide safe learning and teaching environments, consistent with public health and safety guidelines, and best practices that emerge moving forward.
  2. Offer the highest quality experiences possible for students and faculty.
  3. Increase resilience of the academic program in face of continuing uncertainty.
  4. Implement a plan that is consistent with a “whole institution (VIMS)” level plan
  5. Reflect the importance of continuity of research, which is a critical component of the education and training of graduate students (and a small number of undergraduates) on the VIMS campus.

To maximize the safety of the teaching and learning environment, the largest courses (weekly department seminar courses that are attended by students, faculty and staff) will be remote and large classroom spaces have been prioritized for required courses for incoming students and moderate enrollment courses that are best suited to face-to-face delivery mode. Although the classrooms available for in-person teaching allow for greater than required physical distancing, VIMS faculty and students will be required to wear face masks in classrooms due to the extended nature of contact. Adjusting delivery modes has allowed VIMS to avoid scheduling classes in buildings that are heavily used for research and to allow for less-crowded traffic around and within buildings. All of this is supported by an increased cleaning regime focused on individual responsibility for personal space and more extensive and frequent cleaning of public spaces.

Twenty graduate courses including three seminar courses are scheduled to be taught in Fall 2020; of these, 8 are face-to-face, 10 are remote, and 2 are a 50-50 mix of remote and face-to-face. This mix of course types offers enrollment options for students who are unable to attend class on campus due to health-associated risks. Those who are required to quarantine for COVID-19 will be able to participate in required in-person courses from a remote location or to watch recorded class sessions. All VIMS faculty who will be teaching face-to-face are preparing for remote/online delivery in the event it will be necessary to quickly pivot. Before the beginning of the fall semester, faculty will be required to submit course continuity plans based on guidelines similar to those used during the spring semester.

Use of Classrooms and Meeting Rooms
  1. Whenever possible, eliminate the need for face-to-face meetings and ensure that non-graduate program education or training classes can pivot to remote options, such as Zoom. 
  2. If an in-person meeting is necessary, wear masks, maintain 6 feet of separation, and follow the maximum occupancy guidelines set by the VIMS Emergency Management Team (EMT) for each class and meeting room. These guidelines are based on room size and physical distancing requirements, recognizing that the more time people spend in a room, the greater the chance of spreading the virus.
  3. Disinfect desks, tables, and seats before and after use with the wipes or other tool that will be provided by Facilities staff.
  4. Limit social gatherings to no more than 250 people (Note: The presence of more than 250 individuals performing functions of their employment is not a “gathering”. Business meetings with greater than 250 participants are allowed as long as the space where they are being conducted is large enough to comply with physical distancing requirements).
Contractors and Vendors

Contractors and vendors will be allowed by appointment only to make repairs or to perform service on critical equipment. Caterers are considered vendors. They shall:

  1. Provide their protocols for working within a COVID-19 pandemic prior to scheduling their visit.
  2. Not come to campus if feeling ill or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  3. Confirm the day(s) and time(s) they will be on campus.
  4. Disinfect their tools prior to entering a building.
  5. Disinfect all equipment prior to repair/service and at the conclusion of their work.
  6. Disinfect all surfaces they contact.
  7. Maintain the required physical distancing of 6 feet or more at all times.
  8.  Wear a mask while in the building(s).
  9.  Maintain a direct route between the building entrance and the work space both when entering and departing, and disinfect any surfaces they have contacted along the way (e.g., stair handrails, elevator buttons, etc.).
  10. Complete our Pre-Boarding Self-Assessment Form for COVID-19 prior to boarding any of our large vessels for any reason.

Once the repair/service is complete, best practice is that VIMS employees should wait at least 72 hours before using the equipment.

Guidance for Facilities & Procurement Staff

The following plans are underway for those on campus who are responsible for maintaining facilities or ordering materials and supplies:

  1. Place plexiglass or other barriers in workspaces where people must face each other or are unable to be 6 feet apart. Such areas include the Cashier's window, Watermen’s Hall front desk, Gift Shop cash register, and Academic Studies workstation.
  2. Place appropriate signage at entrances and around buildings (e.g., COVID-19 symptoms, physical distancing reminder, directional, maximum occupancy).
  3. Remove (or tape off) chairs and desks to ensure proper physical distancing in conference, classroom, and waiting rooms. Identify via signage the allowable occupancy (normally 50% reduced) to control workflow and/or establish maximum attendance.
  4. Make face mask available throughout campus.
  5. Post maximum occupancy in common break areas and configure to accommodate appropriate physical distancing.
  6. Provide sanitizing supplies for individuals to clean their areas before and after use.
  7. Provide hand sanitizer at all building entrances, classrooms, and high-traffic areas.
  8. Identify frequently touched areas (doors, cabinets, etc.) and investigate options to implement no/reduced touch options, such as installing door stops (where possible), or sensor-triggered doors and faucets/flushometers.
  9. Monitor and secure inventories of PPE, hand sanitizers, wipes, cleaning products, and hand soap. NOTE: Facilities is responsible for products above that are specifically related to COVID-19 and not normal/customary PPE for lab research.
  10. Increase the frequency and attention to the cleaning and disinfection of high-traffic public areas and hard surfaces such as door hardware, handrails, switches, classroom seating, watercoolers, etc. in accordance with CDC recommendations.
  11. HVAC System Preventions
    1. Increase outside air where possible and not to impact humidity control.
    2. Keep HVAC systems operating in most efficient manner
    3. Increase Filter Changes (frequency TBD)
    4. Increase Preventative Maintenance activities (scope being defined)

The plan described above is derived from the most recent and current policies and guidance as detailed below.

Governor's Direction, Executive Order 67 – Phase Three

On July 1, 2020 the Commonwealth of Virginia moved forward into Phase Three under E.O. 67. Institutions of higher education are encouraged to continue remote learning where practical. However, such institutions may offer in-person classes and instruction, including labs and related practical training, provided they comply with all applicable requirements under the "Guidelines for All Business Sectors." No institutions of higher education shall hold or host gatherings of more than 250 individuals. Specifically, E.O. 67 indicates that:

  1. Safer at Home
  2. Vulnerable individuals (employees) are strongly encouraged to stay home
  3. Social Gathering – no more than 250 people (Note: The presence of more than 250 individuals performing functions of their employment is not a “gathering”. This applies to business meetings as long as the space where being conducted is large enough to comply with physical distancing requirements.)
  4. Continue physical distancing of 6 feet or more
  5. Strongly encouraged to continue teleworking
  6. Individuals are required to wear face masks in indoor public settings
Access the EO 67 document online.
University/Institute Goals

On March 19, 2020, William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe highlighted the university’s goals for navigating the pandemic:

  1. Safeguarding the health of students, faculty, and staff;
  2. Ensuring students complete their classes;
  3. Maintaining the university’s critical research and other operations; and
  4. Joining in the national effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

As an integral part of William & Mary, VIMS shares these goals and has communicated them to the VIMS community.

President’s Principles for Reopening Campus
On May 6, 2020, President Rowe stated these principles for re-opening William & Mary for the new academic year:
  1. Prioritization of the health and safety of the entire campus community,
  2. A focus on creativity and flexibility, and
  3. Collaboration across the University.
All References
  1. Virginia Department of Health Interim Guidance for Daily COVID-19 Screening of Employees
  2. Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes
  3. VIMS Operational Protocol for Potential COVID-19 Contamination
    1. Local COVID-19 testing locations
  4. Dr. Mark Luckenbach’s email dated 04/05/2020 related to Defining Critical Research
    1. Addendum for approval of student critical research, dated 04/13/2020
  5. VIMS Research Vessels (Large) Fleet COVID-19 Policies and Procedures
    1. Self-Assessment Form
  6. VIMS Dive Operations COVID-19 Pandemic Procedures, dated June 12,2020, version 6
  7. Commercial Vessels, COVID-19 Protocols: Protocols currently under development
    1. F/V Darana R (NEAMAP)
    2. F/V Carolina Capes II
    3. F/V Italian Princess
    4. F/V Celtic
    5. F/V Polaris
    6. ESS Pursuit
    7. F/V Jersey Girl
    8. F/V Betty C
  8. Governor Northam, Executive Order 61, Forwarding Virginia, dated May 8, 2020
  9. Governor Northam, Executive Order 65, Phase Two, dated June 5, 2020
  10. American College Health Association (ACHA), Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in COVID-19 Era, dated May 7, 2020
  11. Safe Workplaces: Guidance for State Agency Leaders in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic & Enhanced Safety Measures, published by Commonwealth of Virginia, dated May 13, 2020
  12. CDC – Considerations for Institutes of Higher Education, dated May 30, 2020
  13. Governor Northam, Higher Education Reopening Guidance, dated June 11, 2020
  14. Governor Northam, Executive Order 67, Phase Three, dated July 1, 2020