3/20/20 | Department of Laboratory Animal resources (DLAR) Operations

Message for Research Community

March 20, 2020

UT Health San Antonio leadership recommends minimizing the volume of people on campus to protect the health and safety of students/trainees, employees, patients and our community, and encourages social distancing while maintaining critical functions at our university. More information about the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the redesigned institutional coronavirus updates at https://www.uthscsa.edu/notices/coronavirus-update. All research-specific communications can be found under the “Research Continuity” tab. Please check back regularly as information and updates are added on a daily basis.

DLAR Operations

Pandemic planning. There are two main areas of vulnerability that might create workflow restrictions for animal care:

  1. The supply chain for critical husbandry items, such as feed, bedding and PPE
  2. Workforce decrease due to staff illness or unavailability

DLAR is taking the following actions to prepare for possible limitations in resources and manpower:

1. Supply Chain

Orders of feed and bedding have been increased and our current supply levels are in good standing

DLAR-provided PPE in all conventional animal rooms has been reduced:

  • Please have personnel wear lab coats or dedicated scrubs when working in animal rooms
  • Facemasks are no longer provided in conventional rodent rooms. Appropriate use of the animal transfer stations in the rooms will protect investigators and animals when cages are opened
  • Exam gloves are provided. One box per glove size is available for use in each room; please contact a DLAR staff member for replenishment
  • Shoe covers are provided

What you can do to help:

Reduce demand – please consider whether you can reduce experiments and animal use

Conserve supplies – particularly PPE.

Note: Please be aware DLAR is monitoring PPE usage on all campuses on a daily basis.

2. Workforce and DLAR Access

DLAR has the flexibility to address increased employee absenteeism to ensure continued support of research animal health and husbandry. Investigators will be notified of adjustments to animal care operations if/as the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic increases.

Social distancing for DLAR staff – DLAR staff has been divided into two teams that will work on opposite shifts to limit exposure of the entire workforce. This approach will balance the workload.

Animal care and veterinary services will continue on a modified work schedule starting on Monday, March 23, 2020:

  • Full-service activities will occur 7 days a week with a reduced number of personnel scheduled each day
  • Rodent cage change frequency for ventilated cages will occur once every 14 days or as needed on all campuses
  • Rodent cage change frequency for non-ventilated cages will occur once every 7 days or as needed on all campuses
  • Large animal cage/pen daily washdown frequency will be decreased to occur once per day or as needed

Vivarium access will be dependent on the same conditions governing campus access.  There are no plans to specifically limit access to research animals.

Investigator or protocol-specific services (e.g., training, protocol support, surgical support) may be curtailed or discontinued depending on DLAR personnel availability.

NOTE: The VPR Office is consulting with our transgenic mouse facility to consider embryo/sperm cryopreservation of precious rodent lines

What you can do to help:

  • Delay submission of new research protocols or amendments that add experiments or increase animal numbers to existing protocols – this will help reduce the workload on DLAR staff who participates in the pre-review of IACUC submissions.
  • Limit or suspend orders of new animals
  • Limit rodent breeding to maintenance of replacement breeders only.
  • Limit or suspend animal transfers
  • Delay experiments requiring significant post-procedural care
  • Delay non-time-sensitive animal experiments

The DLAR main office staff will work from home starting Monday, March 23, 2020. Please use the DLAR email address for inquires: LAR@uthscsa.edu

Investigators and their staff conducting animal research can contact the DLAR administration (Dr. Sandy Hacker, Director and Dr. James Elliott, Associate Director) for questions or concerns related to the availability of DLAR services as the need arises.

Article Categories: Research, Timely Updates