Today I made the decision to close the lab and temporarily suspend our experiments, including the LTEE, in light of the expanding SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.
I started to say it was a difficult decision, but really it was not all that difficult. Several considerations led me to this decision.
1/ The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak appears to be taking off in many countries, including the USA, despite the substantial containment that has been orchestrated in Wuhan and elsewhere in China.
2/ The absence of evidence of any local cases is not as comforting as it might be, given the near-absence of testing here and in most of the USA.
3/ MSU students just returned from spring break today. Some of the superb undergrads who work in my lab went to places that have confirmed cases. None of the places they went are among the locations with intense outbreaks, but the confirmed cases in at least one location have grown noticeably in the past week. They also flew on planes to and from their vacations.
4/ As a team, we’re connected not only to one another, but also to people who are health-care workers and others with increased vulnerabilities to infections. (Not to mention that I’m over 60 …) When you think about it, pretty much everyone has those connections.
5/ We’re very lucky because our work is easy to stop and re-start. Our study organisms can be frozen away and revived whenever we see fit. In the meantime, everyone has classes to take, papers to read and write, data to analyze, etc. And a little extra time, hopefully, to reflect on and maintain the health and well-being of our friends, families, and selves. So, we will all be busy, but doing things a bit differently than we had planned.
6/ As we freeze away the long-term lines, the lab notebook will record: “On this day, the LTEE was temporarily halted and frozen down for the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.”
Hopefully, some future historian of science will look back on today’s entry and say: “What the hell was that all about?”
[Devin Lake putting the LTEE populations into the ultra-low freezer, where they will stay until they are called back into action … evolution in action.]