FAQs about the Pandemic

Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) from postdocs about UCSF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of the information organized below is available on the UCSF coronavirus website. We will update this list with latest information as we receive it. Thank you in advance for your patience. If you have questions not answered here, please email us.


If you missed the open Q&A for postdocs on April 8, 2020, you can view the video recording.

 


Basic Needs

I need an accomodation with UCSF campus housing. Where do I go?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UCSF Housing made numerous accomodations to postdocs seeking or leaving campus housing. Please check their FAQs page frequently for updates. If you are a postdoc seeking campus housing, there are a number of campus options available now!

If you have a question or concern about how your postdoc position impacts your campus housing options, please email us at [email protected].

Does UCSF offer extra support for dependent care during this time?

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has resulted in widespread school and childcare closures. UCSF Family Services is promoting various resources that may be helpful for UCSF employees, including postdocs, who have been designated as essential on-site personnel. To help support employees through child/dependent care challenges, this newly created decision tool provides information on available options, as well as new FAQs.

Resources include short-term enrollment opportunities at the UCSF Child Care Centers (University Child Care at Mission Bay and Laurel Heights Child Development Center), UCSF Child Care Referral Services, Bright Horizons Back-Up Care Program extension for essential on-site staff, Sittercity, an online system available to UCSF postdocs for child and elder care, and community resources. You can stay updated with UCSF Family Service’s news and resources by visiting the Child Care Closures and Alternative Care page.

Finally, the University of California and United Auto Workers (postdoc union) agreed to form a joint labor-management committee to discuss family-friendly issues, including child care reimbursements and leave policies. The committee is expected to begin meeting in October 2020.

I have student loan payments. Is there help with payments because of current crisis?

The recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Securities (CARES) Act requires the Secretary of Education to defer student loan payments, principal and interest for 6 months, through September 30, 2020, without penalty to the borrower for all federally owned loans. Payments for federal student loans will automatically stop from March 13, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2020.

I am returning to work on campus. Is free parking available?

Not at this time. Parking rates (all campus locations), July 1 through December 31, 2020 are:
    • Hourly: $5
    • Daily Max: $35
    • Disabled flat rate: $7
    • Motorcycle flat rate: $5
    • UCSF Employee/Patient Daily Max Rate: $20
    • UCSF Employee Monthly Rate: $312
    • UCSF Student Daily Max Rate: $10

For more information, please visit UCSF Transportation.

Is UCSF offering subsidized transportation options for postdocs travelling to campus?

Starting Monday, August 31, the UCSF COVID-19 Commute Program will be available to commuters traveling between the hours of 9pm to 6am only, Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday availability remains the same, 8:30pm to 7am. This change in weekday availability is due to increased Muni service and increased UCSF shuttle service that will start on August 31.

Muni has restored and extended service on several bus routes as of August 22. View Muni’s Core Service Plan for route-specific details. 

And, beginning Monday, August 31st, there will be increased frequency and expanded service hours on select UCSF Shuttle routes. Updates can be found on the UCSF Transportation website.


Career

The shelter-in-place order has hindered my ability to make progress in my research. What can I do to support my career prospects?

The Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) developed a "How can I best keep on track with my career goals?" campaign to support your career goals during this time. We strongly encourage you to review the "Career Conversations for Researchers in the Age of COVID-19" developed by the Office of Career and Professional Development

OCPD also offers virtual workshops and 1:1 career counseling services to aid you during this time.

I was planning to be on the job market this year, and don’t know if I should stay in my postdoc or continue my job search. What should I do?

We encourage you to speak with your postdoctoral supervisor, a career counselor, or Assistant Dean Monsalve to discuss your specific situation.

I have heard about hiring freezes in academia because of COVID-19. Should I be concerned?

There is growing evidence that a number of academic institutions have instituted hiring freezes, although how they may affect faculty hiring is still evolving. Please review guidance from OCPD If you are currently negotiating for a faculty position during the COVID-19 pandemic, and speak to a career counselor to discuss your options.

 


COVID-19 Transmission

What should I do if I believe I may have been exposed to COVID-19?

If you possibly have been exposed to COVID-19, believed you have experience contact to contact exposure, returned from a level 3 country, or have possible COVID-19 symptoms, call the COVID employee hotline 415/514-7328 or email [email protected]. You should monitor your health for fever, cough and shortness of breath during the 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the sick person with COVID-19. If symptoms worsen, contact your health care provider.

If you are seeking medical attention at UCSF Health, you can save time by completing the online health screener before going to the hospital.

I believe I may have been exposed to COVID-19. Do I need to report it to UCSF?

Starting Wednesday, April 15, 2020, all UCSF affiliates who test positive or have previously tested positive for COVID-19 at an outside facility (e.g., Kaiser, Sutter) must self-report these results to the appropriate UCSF department.

  • Faculty, staff, trainees (including postdocs), and volunteers must self-report positive test result to UCSF Occupational Health Services by calling the COVID-19 hotline at (415) 514-7328 or emailing [email protected]

This policy applies to all students and personnel at UCSF and UCSF Health, regardless of whether you are working on-site or remotely, paid or unpaid. It will remain in effect until further notice.


International and Work Permits Considerations

My situation is complicated. Who can help me answer my questions about my career and visa options during this pandemic?

International postdocs are facing unprecedented circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on questions and feedback from you, the Office for Postdoctoral Scholars (OPS), International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO), and the Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) collaborated to develop a step-by-step guide to help you access support quickly and easily.

We also strongly advise postdocs to check out ISSO's answers to commonly asked questions.

I am supposed to start my postdoctoral appointment very soon, but due to COVID-19, I am unable to come to the U.S. as planned. Can I work remotely from abroad during this period?

Not currently, but there may be modifications to this policy as the situation evolves. Please reach out to your postdoctoral supervisor and HR Generalist to discuss your specific situation.

I am an international postdoctoral scholar, and I am concerned about my visa status and/or renewal because of delays caused by the pandemic. Who should I contact?

Please reach out to your specialist in the International Students and Scholars office to seek assistance on your situation.

I just arrived in the U.S. Do I have to report to Occupational Health Services (OHS) before starting my postdoc? May I begin my postdoc appointment while I shelter-in-place?

If you have recently arrived to the US from abroad, UCSF Occupational Health Services (OHS) requires their clearence before you can begin or return to work. We suggest you also monitor updates from the CDC travel website. Importantly, postdocs are not required to delay the start of their employment while awaiting clearance from OHS but should start the process below as soon as they arrive in the U.S., especially if you are arriving from a country with a CDC Level 2 or 3 Travel Health Notice. Postedocs, please keep your postdoctoral supervisor updated on your status during your review process with OHS.

  1. Contact your supervisor to discuss your return to campus and contact OHS before you come back to campus.
  2. On the first day of arrival back to the United States, complete a symptom self-monitoring questionnaire from UCSF Occupational Health Services.
  3. Begin to monitor and record daily the symptoms of infectious diseases on the first day of arrival back to the U.S. This includes taking your temperature twice daily.
  4. Send an email to OHS ([email protected]) or voicemail (415) 514-7666 indicating the following:
  • Your name, contact phone number, date of departure and destination: 
  • Confirm that you are asymptomatic
  • Confirm that you have begun self monitoring and
  • Confirm that you are not returning to campus until cleared by OHS.
  1. OHS will follow up within 24 hours and thereafter regularly until you are able to return to campus. You can expect OHS to provide the following: 
  • Review your travel destinations, confirming the CDC watch levels
  • Review any symptoms that you may be experiencing
  • Contact the Department of Public Health in your county of residence if you have positive symptoms not requiring emergency treatment
  • Provide direction to stay at home if you have positive symptoms or are undergoing COVID-19 testing
  • Provide a return-to-work clearance letter when the review is completed.
  1. Submit the completed 14 days self-monitoring questionnaire to OHS by email to [email protected]
  2. Contact your supervisor about return to work and bring a copy of the clearance letter to your department/unit when you return to work.

 


Postdoc-specific Policies and Time in Postdoc Appointment

I am concerned that I will need more time in my postdoc due to delays caused by the pandemic. Can I extend my appointment beyond a fifth year?

The current agreement between the University of California and the union representing postdoctoral scholars (UAW Local 5810) states that “the total duration of an individual’s postdoctoral service may not exceed five years, including postdoctoral service at other institutions. Under unusual circumstances, the University may grant an exception to this limit, not to exceed a sixth year.

If you believe you might need an extension of your postdoc appointment, we strongly encourage you to to discuss this possibility with your postdoctoral advisor and to speak with Assistant Dean Monsalve to discuss your specific situation.

If your supervisor agrees to extend your postdoctoral appointment, they will need to submit a request via PeopleConnect to HR Trainee Shared Services.

I just started my postdoc. Do I need to be tested before I come onto work on-site?

UCSF has expanded its COVID-19 testing for onsite employees, students, and trainees (including postdocs). To continue to ensure a safe working environment going forward amid the coronavirus pandemic, UCSF requires pre-hire COVID-19 testing for all new hires who work onsite.  This requirement applies if you begin work on or after August 17, 2020. Your postdoctoral supervisor is in charge of initating this procedure with HR via the new hire PeopleConnect Management Action Form.

Please be advised that the addition of testing may add additional time for you to complete your onboarding requirements. If you are not not cleared to work on-site, your HR Generalist will work with you to determine potential options, such as remote work, or a delayed start date.   

Can I take a leave of absence during my postdoc because of COVID-19?

UC President Janet Napolitano issued an Executive Order on March 16, 2020 providing for all employees – which includes postdocs – to receive a bank of 128 hours of paid administrative leave (pro-rated based on appointment percentage) to be used in the following COVID-19 circumstances:

  • Employee is unable to work due to own or family member’s COVID-19 illness
  • Employee is unable to work or telecommute and has been told not to come to work due to COVID-19 (includes self-isolation)
  • Non-patient care employee is unable to work or telecommute due to shelter in place order
  • Employee is unable to work or telecommute due to school or dependent care closures. These hours may be used intermittently and must be used by December 31, 2020, or they will expire.

Postdocs may request use of these hours as they would other paid time away from work. If you like to take a leave of absence for one of the above circumstances, please work with your HR generalist and postdoctoral supervisor. Updates to this policy can be found on the UCSF Coronavirus website.

Are postdocs impacted by the hiring freeze?

The hiring freeze applies to new postdoctoral appointments. For new appointments, the hiring department should follow their control point’s process to request exceptional approvals for the appointment.

The hiring freeze does not apply to reappointment of current postdocs.


Research and Maintaining Productivity

What basic science research activities are allowed on campus?

On March 15, 2020, UCSF issued a directive to cease research activities, but continue to update the policies on what research may continue during this dynamic period. Updates to these policies and guidance for postdocs engaged in basic science research can be found on the UCSF Coronavirus website. Direct questions about this policy to [email protected].

Current, allowable research activities in the basic sciences include:

  • COVID-19 research: Many labs at UCSF have rapidly mobilized efforts to understand and fight the COVID-19 disease. Almost overnight, dozens of our talented faculty have initiated a broad array of studies, including the structural biology of viral proteins, development of novel anti-viral drugs, studies of the infection process in cultured lung cells, and clinical studies of patients with the disease. Our policy is to approve any research that has clear potential to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on human health.
  • Completion of ongoing long-term projects: Many scientists at UCSF study long-term processes in health and disease, and their experiments can sometimes continue over many months and even years. Many of these experiments cannot be stopped in mid-flight without destroying the entire experiment, resulting in major losses of data and effort. We are allowing these sorts of experiments to continue, on the condition that they are maintained by the fewest possible personnel with minimal interactions.

Some common types of approved research include the following:

  • studies of tumor growth or other pathologies in mouse models injected with a potential treatment over a period of many months.
  • studies of the effects of aging on behavior or physiology, in animals that have been aged for one or two years prior to the experiment.
  • long-term studies of the effects of specific diets in mouse models that must be analyzed at specific time points over the course of many months.
  • studies in a differentiated primary cell line that has required many months to generate from a unique patient or other source, and cannot be frozen down without loss of viability.
  • final experiments by a postdoctoral fellow whose position ends in one month, after which she is starting a new position at a biotechnology company.
  • final experiments by a student who is scheduled to graduate at the end of May, and has just 2-3 weeks of experiments to complete the work for his thesis.

Research that is not allowed includes the following:

  • several weeks of experiments to complete revisions of a paper to allow resubmission to a journal before some deadline. Journal deadlines are unlikely to be enforced in the current crisis.
  • experiments to generate preliminary data for a grant submission in 2 months. Faculty should expect to submit grant applications with the results that are currently in hand.
  • breeding of new mouse lines to begin new experiments.
  • any new experiments whatsoever.

What clinical research activities are allowed on campus?

On March 15, 2020, UCSF issued a directive to cease research activities, and continue to update the policies on what research may continue during this dynamic period. Updates to these policies and guidance for postdocs engaged in clinical research can be found on the UCSF Coronavirus website. Direct questions about this policy to [email protected].

Current, allowable clinical research activities include:

  • All clinical and non-laboratory based personnel critical to the conduct of essential clinical and non-laboratory based research at UCSF facilities should be registered through the following survey: https://ucsf.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cXQyFGIVlA4MhzD. It is possible that clinical and non-laboratory-based research personnel not registered through this survey will not be allowed into UCSF facilities.

My postdoctoral supervisor is telling me to come to work on campus, where it is not possible to practice physical distancing. What should I do?

UCSF leadership directed faculty to excuse anyone who does not feel comfortable coming into the laboratory.

Any postdoc who feels pressured to carry out research activities on campus is strongly encouraged to speak with Assistant Dean Monsalve to discuss their specific situation.

What can I do to mitigate the impact of my research progress during this pandemic?

During this time of crisis, some find it helpful to focus on developing new skills, work on new or ongoing writing projects, explore their career options, build their professional networks, or engage in self-care activities. Some choose to do none of these things, and that’s ok! This is a challenging time, and what you need to do for yourself is what matters.

Please check out the "Career Conversations for Researchers in the Age of COVID-19" developed by the Office of Career and Professional Development

We are working with our campus partners, including Office of Career and Professional Development, the Graduate Division, and International Students and Scholars Office to develop additional programming and resources to support postdocs. Upcoming events will be posted on the Postdoc office’s events page.

I want to come onto campus to continue my research, but my postdoctoral supervisor is prohibiting me from doing so. What can I do?

On March 15, 2020, UCSF issued a directive to cease research activities, and continue to update the policies on what research may continue during this dynamic period. Updates to these policies and guidance for postdocs can be found on the UCSF Coronavirus website.

UCSF leadership directed faculty to identify a ‘skeleton crew’ of key personnel allowed to enter laboratory buildings to monitor equipment and carry out essential maintenance. If you are member of your group’s skeleton crew, you are there to engage in COVID-19 research or continue to progress of ongoing, long-term projects that have been approved by a faculty reviewing committee.

If your supervisor has directed you to not come to campus, we encourage you to focus on activities to further your postdoc goals while sheltering in place.

I am coming back to campus. What do I need to do?

If you have been authorized to report to work onsite, you must first familiarize yourself with the protocols on the UCSF Protocol for Working Onsite webpage.

This includes:

  • Taking a daily online health screening to verify you do not have COVID-19 sympotoms or exposures that put you at risk for infection.
  • Adhering to physical distancing protocols and wearing a face covering that cover the nose and mouth at all times.
  • Practicing good hygeine by frequently washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer.
  • Following the guidelines in regards to workspaces, barriers, lab and research space, common areas, kitchens, break rooms, meeting rooms and university shuttles.

 


Telecommuting and Leave of Absence

I can continue to work from home, but my postdoctoral supervisor will not agree for me to telecommute. What can I do?

Postdoctoral scholars are strongly encouraged to work with their supervisors to develop a telecommuting agreement while the shelter-in-place directive remain. If you are having issues with setting in an agreement with your supervisor, please contact Assistant Dean Monsalve.

You may also consider taking a leave of absence. Please read more about this option here.

I just arrived to the US. Can I set up a telecommuting agreement with my postdoctoral supervisor?

Yes. Postdoctoral scholars are strongly encouraged to work with their supervisors to develop a telecommuting agreement while the shelter-in-place directive remain. If you are having issues with setting in an agreement with your supervisor, please contact Assistant Dean Monsalve.

 


Travel

I am unsure if the upcoming conference I plan to attend will be cancelled. How should I prepare?

UCSF has restricted all non-essential university-sponsored travel – both domestic and international – and strongly recommends against all non-essential personal travel.

We strongly encourage postdocs who are planning upcoming travel to purchase travel insurance or refundable tickets, should their conference be cancelled.

I am thinking about traveling outside of US for personal reasons, and am concerned that I will not be able to come back due to travel restrictions. Who should I consult with?

UCSF strongly recommends against personal travel out of the country. Avoiding all non-essential international travel as part of a broader effort to limit the transmission of COVID-19 from place to place. If you do undertake such travel, be aware that changing circumstances may require self-isolation for 14 days upon your return. In addition, changing air or governmental restrictions that are beyond UCSF’s control may affect your ability to return. International scholars who leave the US are required to notify their ISSO advisor.

Please note that UCSF has restricted all non-essential university-sponsored international travel, to any country.

I am a current postdoc and am unable to come back to the US due to travel restrictions. Who should I notify?

Any UCSF postdoc who is unable to return to the US should report to their information to Travis Pentz in the International Students and Scholars Office.

 


Wellness

How can I take care of myself during this period of uncertainty?

The UCSF Department of Psychiatry has provided the community with a rich collection of resources support the mental health and wellness during this challenging time.

Consider using COPE, a new program designed for UCSF faculty, staff and trainees to provide additional support to our valued colleagues who are experiencing anxiety, stress and distress related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on their work and family life. After completing a brief online screening, COPE provides information about web-based resilience self-tools which include online resources, self-care apps and webinars.

Finally, we have compiled a list of additional wellness resources, many of which are free for postdocs.

How do I support my family/friends/roommates?

The UCSF Department of Psychiatry has provided the community with a rich collection of resources support the mental health and wellness during this challenging time. Click below to learn more about the following wellness resources for:

I am concerned about the wellbeing of a fellow postdoc. Who can help me with this?

Anyone concerned about the wellbeing of a postdoc is strongly encouraged to contact Assistant Dean Monsalve.

How can I become an ally and advocate?

Your voice and actions matter as a postdoc at UCSF! Spend 10, 25 or 45 minutes a day becoming a better ally and advocate.