Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

UW–Madison research travel guidance in response to Covid-19

Dear Colleagues,

I want to provide some additional information on research-related travel in light of the recent announcement that UW–Madison travel restrictions have been extended through June 30.

In limited cases, academic deans or vice chancellors (or their appointees) may approve travel during this travel ban. Employees seeking an exception to the travel restriction order will need to download and complete the Essential Travel Exemption Form ( Following division leadership approval, these forms should be submitted to Dan Langer at

Travel for research-related activities must be reviewed by deans or vice chancellors. Travel may be approved on a case-by-case basis and include rigorous social distancing plans. Permission to travel may also depend on local conditions/restrictions at field sites, ability to travel safely to, from, and within the site, as well as the ability to practice social distancing while working at field sites.

All travel requests should include plans on how to minimize the risk of disease transmission and how to systematically monitor and protect the health and safety of UW staff and other people participating in research activities at off-campus sites. Remember, one person developing symptoms can result in quarantine of all those who have had contact with that person and could shut down an entire research activity. The best way to reduce risk is to reduce the scope and scale of the research activity to an absolute minimum.

Staff shall not be compelled to engage in travel that they are not comfortable with.

Anyone displaying symptoms of illness must not travel.

Requests for travel to conduct research should include a plan that addresses the following:

  • A complete description of the planned activity.
  • Why the research activity is essential (e.g., time sensitivity, preventing breakdown of equipment, supporting remote research activity).
  • How long the activity is expected to continue, both in calendar time and in staff hours each week or month.
  • Who are the staff involved and what are their roles in the research activity.
  • A schedule (e.g., days of week and approximate number of hours) for staff to be on site that reduces co-presence (that is, staggering work times).
  • How the protocol for on-site work (e.g., for cleaning work areas and physical arrangement of staff) will reduce contact among those who are co-present and, thus, the spread of COVID-19.
  • Whether conducting the activity with reduced personnel will reduce the safety of the procedure (e.g., will the activity require moving large equipment or hazardous materials, or assistance from campus safety or police).
  • How the plan follows other relevant campus ( guidance.
  • A protocol for systematically monitoring the health status of those involved in the travel or on-site research for at least two weeks after the travel is completed (e.g., logging daily reports of temperature or other symptoms).

Please, note that UW Health recommends that everyone should self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, including fever (100.4 F or above), cough, and shortness of breath. In the event of symptoms, call University Health Services 608-265-5600 or your personal medical provider. Before going to a clinic, urgent care, or to an emergency room, call ahead and tell them your symptoms and recent travel history.

The following recommendations are provided to assist you in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 and are derived from CDC guidelines:

  • Develop a plan to avoid contact with people, equipment and facilities during research-site visits.
  • Minimize contact with inanimate objects as much as possible.
  • Maintain distances of 6 feet or more when working with others.
  • Wear disposable gloves when conducting work activities.
  • Wipe down commonly contacted surfaces with disinfectant wipes daily. This includes outside door handles and doorknobs/handles for entering buildings, rooms and stairwells. If disinfectant wipes are not available, EPA-registered household disinfectants or alcohol solutions (>70%) may be used.
  • Dispose of gloves and disinfectant wipes in the trash.
  • Wash your hands when you have completed your activities. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Wash your hands or get a new pair of gloves after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

If a travel requires the use of a rental vehicle: 

  • Wear gloves whenever putting gas in the vehicle.
  • Disinfect the vehicle prior to using it and upon returning it from use.
  • Wipe down commonly contacted surfaces or surfaces that you have seen recently contacted on the vehicle, including: door handles – interior and exterior; steering wheel, gear shifter, directional lever and other levers; arm rest, console and controls on both; rear view mirrors; and gas cover/cap.

The CDC also provides recommendations for air travel:


Thank you.




Steven A. Ackerman

Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education

Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences