Feb. 7, 2022

Changes to Travel Approval Process and COVID Safety Requirements for Travel


When the pandemic began, no one anticipated that COVID safety controls would still be in effect nearly two years later. Despite these limitations, our people have continued to advance the Lab's mission while prioritizing safety. Still, we recognize that travel restrictions in particular have a detrimental effect on our mission that grows as time progresses. For certain groups such as early career researchers, travel restrictions severely limit opportunities for professional development.

We believe that over the next several months, many conferences and program meetings will begin to be held in person or as hybrid meetings, and that it is very important for members of our community to participate in them. With COVID case rates again falling around the country, it is time to put in place balanced guidelines that encourage critical travel that advances our mission and supports professional development, but that also continues to prioritize the health and safety of our people.

Please review the following travel guidance, including revisions that broaden the accepted purposes for travel, modify the justification process for travel, and clarify post-travel COVID safety requirements. This guidance is effective immediately.

Types of travel: Domestic travel will continue to be approved by the Lab’s Chief Operations Officer (COO), through the Lab’s travel approval process, on a case-by-case basis; international travel will continue to be approved by DOE on a limited basis.

Vaccination: All travelers must be vaccinated (or have an approved exemption) and have received their booster dose (if eligible) 14 days or more before the travel begins.

Travel justification: For each traveler, the following information, including justification for travel, should be submitted for COO approval by the traveler’s area office: Name of traveler, meeting or activity (with date and destination), justification for travel (examples: organizer/presenter at conference, PI for program meeting, meeting with technology vendors, attending recruiting event, necessary in-person cross-institution collaborative discussions, providing opportunities to early career researchers, etc.), identification of why this travel is important to the sponsoring program (i.e. would your program manager agree that this travel is essential to advance the interests of the program and/or enable its success?), and information regarding why in-person attendance is required.

Work controls: All travelers must follow appropriate COVID-19 protocols for travel, as assigned through the Lab’s Work Planning & Controls (WPC) system.

Post-travel requirements: On return from travel, all travelers must follow the requirements defined in their WPC work activity for travel. In addition, travelers are expected to complete a PCR test on the fifth day following travel. (Note: Travelers who have tested positive for COVID in the last 90 days should not seek a Lab PCR test due to the risk of a false positive.) Individuals experiencing symptoms must not enter a Lab site for any reason.

Expense reimbursement: When submitting a traveler's expense report, include proof of COO approval for travel by uploading the documentation into TREX; this proof of travel authorization is required for reimbursement.

We believe that given the expected decline in case rates, these guidelines are consistent with our goal of protecting employees and guarding against contributing to case numbers in our communities. As always, we will respond to pandemic conditions by adjusting these requirements as needed.

The health and safety of the Lab community is our highest priority. Thank you for your help in making sure we are doing everything we can to keep our work environment as safe as possible.

Best regards,

Mike Witherell

Lab Director

Carol Burns

Deputy Lab Director for Research

Chief Research Officer

Michael Brandt

Deputy Lab Director for Operations

Chief Operations Officer