Our Response to the Massachusetts Essential Services OrderMarch 24, 2020 | By Johannes Fruehauf
Like you, the LabCentral team is actively following the still rapidly developing situation with COVID-19. There is no way for us to predict how long this crisis will go on, but we do know that working in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis will be our new normal for the coming weeks and months, and that we all have to adapt our behavior to accommodate the fight against this disease.
Currently, LabCentral continues to have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 and with your help we hope to keep it that way.
We want to assure our community that we are doing everything within our ability to ensure LabCentral and LabCentral 610 can remain open and operational during this time. In my previous address, I detailed the numerous precautionary measures the LabCentral team has taken already to mitigate the spread of the virus, but there’s still more we can do moving forward:
1. Essential Services Response: Yesterday morning, on March 23rd, Governor Baker issued an order to cease all non-essential business operations in the Commonwealth until April 7. Upon this announcement, LabCentral Leadership convened to understand and then translate how this order would affect our current level of operations.
We reviewed the order in detail, including the “Essential Services Exemption List”, and have received additional guidance from our legal counsel with language clarification. Several industry groups, including MassBio, have issued a clarification that all pharmaceutical R&D work falls under the exemption. We interpret this to be in line with previous preparedness measures we've sent out to the community and have therefore determined that the protocols we have implemented and communicated over the past two weeks are sufficient and will remain in effect until further notice (barring any new updates or additional governmental restrictions).
Let me reiterate: this does not mean that we are going back to business-as-usual.
In fact, to further incentivize work-from-home, and to help with the practice of social distancing for those few workers required to be on-site, LabCentral will be offering a rebate for those membership fees (per-person fees) of members that fully work from home and do not use their badge at all during the month of April. To clarify, if a company has employees who work from home and don’t come in to LabCentral during the month of April, we will issue a credit for the full amount of the membership fee.
2. Further reduced numbers: We are grateful for our community's participation in our attempts to reduce on-site presence at LabCentral. And although the number of residents on-site at LabCentral has drastically decreased, it could be even lower. We have advised all non-lab personnel to work remotely to further limit the number of touchpoints in the building; people in the building should be restricted to those whose work requires them to be in our space.
3. No In-Person meetings: We have asked our resident companies to refrain from utilizing common spaces such as conference rooms, the Playroom and Loft, and Cafes for meetings. We know that communities adhering to strict social-distancing practices are doing much better in flattening the curve and managing the COVID-19 crisis. The LabCentral team has shifted the majority of our meetings to Zoom, including employee-manager 1-on-1s, discussion groups, and lunch-time catch-ups with our People Operations team. We are embracing the challenge to find meaningful ways to connect with each other outside of person to person contact and would be happy to assist your teams in coming up with fun and productive ways as well!
4. Stay Connected: Keep your eyes open for our weekly community email which comes directly from a LabCentral team member. This email is the same newsletter you know and love and reimagined to include resources from our sponsors and news about our community. Follow us on Twitter (@labcentral) where you'll see the numerous ways in which we're continuing to link our community together.
5. Science to the Rescue: We’re proud to celebrate the ways in which the LabCentral community has responded to this challenge. Several of our companies are actively working to improve care of patients with COVID-19. As an example, LabCentral alumni company Aldatu has enabled MGH to massively scale up their testing capacity and conduct hundreds of on-site COVID-19 tests. The hospital plans to complete nearly 800 tests per day as a result of Aldatu’s support. We know that more than a dozen other LabCentral resident companies have pivoted to work on vaccines, new therapeutics, new detection assays, or life-sustaining treatments to aid in the effort to combat COVID-19.
Our team will continue to monitor the situation in the days ahead and we will communicate any further personnel reductions or business operations ramp-downs if it becomes required.
Thank you again for your continued support of these increased efforts which are meant to keep our entire community safe and your critical business needs moving forward. As we mentioned previously, additional or modified protocols may become necessary in the weeks ahead as more information from local authorities and health institutions becomes available.
Best regards and stay healthy!