Weekly COVID-19 Update: Face Coverings, Funding Opportunities and More
06/25/2020, 01:45:02 PM
From the Vice President for Research at the University of Houston. View this message in browser.
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Dear Research Faculty,

​​With the increases in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Governor Greg Abbott today announced that the State of Texas will pause any further phases to open Texas. The Governor also issued a new Executive Order to expand hospital capacity. You can read about both on the Office of the Texas Governor’s News page.

In last Friday's Virtual Office Hours, I reported on the University-wide efforts to put in place protocols and guidelines to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Until further notice, the University now requires that everyone wears a face covering on campus. More on this below. The University also updated its COVID-19 website with the latest guidelines. I would like to ask you to carefully read the guidelines so that you are prepared if you or someone in your research group shows symptoms or comes in close contact with someone who has been lab confirmed or suspected/presumed to have COVID-19.

I also talked about the 50-in-5 goals, which are continuing. Despite the challenging times, we have not seen a slowdown in research efforts. I include two new funding opportunities related to COVID-19 as well.

Funding Opportunities

There is a new NIH funding opportunity, PAR-20-237: Community Interventions to Address the Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic among Health Disparity and Vulnerable Populations (R01-Clinical Trial Optional) with August 28 and December 1 deadlines. This funding opportunity encourages applications to implement and evaluate community interventions testing 1) the impacts of mitigation strategies to prevent COVID-19 transmission in NIH-designated health disparity populations and other vulnerable groups; and 2) already implemented, new or adapted interventions to address the adverse psychosocial, behavioral and socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic on the health of these groups.

The Urban Institute's program "From COVID-19 Response to Equitable Recovery: A Call for Research and Action to Boost Workers' Economic Security and Mobility" is issuing both a Request for Proposals (RFP) and a Request for Information (RFI) to identify and accelerate innovative solutions  — including programs, policies and practices — that not only provide immediate economic relief to struggling workers and those who are out of work, but also create pathways for greater economic security and upward mobility in the long term. The RFP is designed for those with research projects in need of funding, while the RFI is designed for those who have identified promising, scalable practices in need of additional support and/or research and evaluation. The deadline for both the RFP and RFI is June 29. 

COVID-19 University Website

The COVID-19 Information page has been updated with the most current information on what to do when a UH community member has experienced a potential exposure to or experiences symptoms related to COVID-19, and when to self-quarantine/isolate. The page has a detailed protocol on what to do during self-quarantine/isolation. Once the self-quarantine/isolation is completed, the University asks the UH community member to complete the Request to Return to Campus form. This request will be evaluated based on criteria listed on the Completion of Self-quarantine/Isolation page.

Face Covering

Until further notice, the University requires face coverings for all students and employees while on campus, even if you are alone. This applies to indoor public areas and shared areas, like research labs or other common areas. This also applies to outdoor spaces when physical distancing is difficult to maintain reliably. If you work alone in a single office, face coverings are not required. There are other exceptions outlined on the Face Coverings While on Campus page.


In Friday's Virtual Office Hours, I was asked about guidelines related to elevators and cleaning of offices. Facilities Services is cleaning offices after hours to reduce the risk of infection between those working in the office and those cleaning the office. Elevators continue to have a maximum occupancy of two people, which is posted on elevators.


A number of federal funding agencies allow continuation of payment of salary and benefits even if the employee is unable to work. The Office of Management and Budget published the memorandum Extension of Administrative Relief for Recipients and Applicants of Federal Financial Assistance Directly Impacted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) due to Loss of Operations, which extends the Allowability of salaries and other project activities (item 6 in M-20-17) through September 30, 2020. The two previous memoranda M-20-17 and M-20-20 are rescinded. M-20-11 expires on July 26, 2020. Our Additional Resources page has been updated to reflect these changes.

Bear in mind though that if someone on your grant is paid a certain effort but does not work the full effort due to a COVID-19 qualifying condition, they need to apply for COVID-19 FML leave, which serves as evidence in case your grant is audited. Talk to your HR benefits coordinator or business partner for details.


The University of Houston is restricting university-sanctioned travel for business or study through at least August 31. As of last Monday, exceptions for domestic business related travel can be requested. These will be processed by the respective vice presidents (faculty should request the exception through their department from Provost Short as Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs). University-sanctioned travel for business or study to international destinations will continue to be restricted through August 31.

Note that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut issued a travel advisory on Wednesday that requires people arriving from states with high coronavirus rates, including Texas, to quarantine for 14 days. The CDC maintains the State & Territorial Health Department Websites page where you can check for restrictions for any destinations within the U.S. and its territories.

If you travel to international destinations, you will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return and submit the Reporting Form for Potential Exposure to an Individual with COVID-19 Diagnosis or International Travel.

The information can be found on the University of Houston COVID-19 website.

VPR Virtual Office Hours

The next VPR Virtual Office Hours will be on Friday, July 10 at noon (please note the time). You will be able to access the event through the Research & Innovation Teams site. I hope you will be able to join us next week.

Best regards,

Amr Elnashai, FREng  
Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer

Amr Elnashai | VP for Research and Technology Transfer | elnashai@uh.edu | 713-743-4736

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