COVID-19 Research Biosafety Guidance


This guidance is intended to assist investigators planning research involving severe acute respiratory syndrome virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to understand the health and safety considerations and compliance expectations necessary to safely facilitate the research.

Biosafety requirements for COVID-19 research are based on determinations by the UW Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), the Environmental Health & Safety Department (EH&S), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Interim Guidelines for Biosafety and COVID-19, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Interim Laboratory Biosafety Guidance for Research with SARS-CoV-2 and IBC Requirements Under the NIH Guidelines.

Required Biosafety Levels

The following are general biosafety level requirements which are subject to change as we learn more about SARS-CoV-2. Follow all EH&S and IBC requirements as communicated in your BUA Letter. Additional site-specific requirements may be required for certain facilities or shared laboratory spaces.

Summary of Required Biosafety Levels

Sample or Specimen Type Biosafety Level Medical Counseling
Nucleic acids and fixed/inactivated SARS-CoV-2 samples or tissue BSL-2 Required
Clinical specimens from COVID-19 patients BSL-2 with enhancements Required
SARS-CoV-2 in vitro and in vivo experiments BSL-3 Required


Biosafety Practices for Research with SARS-CoV-2

Occupational Health Requirements

Medical counseling is required before starting work with any SARS-CoV-2 samples or tissues, including fixed or inactivated samples or tissues. Researchers in the BSL-3 program working with SARS-CoV-2 are required to adhere to the requirements in the medical management plan and complete their specific daily symptom attestation.

The Principal Investigator or supervisor is required to review any occupational health recommendations or medical management plans with staff and must ensure that their staff contact the Employee Health Center for medical counseling prior to work. Occupational health information and medical management plans will be provided upon research approval.

In the event of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2, follow the steps on the Exposure Response Poster. Report all exposures and near misses via the Online Accident Reporting System (OARS). For researchers in the BSL-3 program, follow any additional program procedures for exposures and symptom development.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If your lab work includes handling hazardous materials or is in an area where hazardous materials are being used, wear a disposable medical/procedure mask along with other appropriate PPE. For work with biohazards, a disposable medical/procedure mask is required at BSL-2 and higher. Dispose of the mask following work, as it could have become contaminated. Replace with a clean cloth face covering when returning to common areas.

More Information

Visit the EH&S COVID-19 Health and Safety Resources webpage. In addition to these resources, the UW Novel coronavirus & COVID-19: facts and resources page has information about the University's response to COVID-19 and public health guidance for the UW community.