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A Gradual Return to On-Campus Operations

April 05, 2021

To: The Caltech Community
    Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President
    David A. Tirrell, Provost
    Kevin M. Gilmartin, Vice President for Student Affairs
Date: April 5, 2021
Re: A Gradual Return to On-Campus Operations

Today, L.A. County reaches a new milestone in the pandemic as the county has moved into the state's less restrictive orange tier. The updated tier status and the revised Pasadena health order reflect the recent decline in local levels of COVID-19 infection. Sustaining the decline will require strict adherence to physical distancing and masking guidelines, as well as expanded vaccination of the population.

With increased latitude from health authorities, Caltech will employ a gradual and measured resumption of on-campus activities. Given that SARS-CoV-2 and several troubling variants are still circulating widely, and that states outside of California have seen recent upticks in caseloads, we will continue surveillance testing for individuals reporting to campus and use the data to guide changes in our posture.

We will focus first on activities, programs, and services that directly advance the Institute's research and education mission. Specifically, we will prioritize the return of researchers, students, and support staff to laboratory and learning spaces and, beginning with the summer research programs, undergraduate students to on-campus residences. A safe and successful execution of summer plans will position us for a return to full operations in fall term.

This spring, we will begin with the following changes:

  • Increased in-person research capacity across two phases: first to 37.5 percent and then, if the infection rate is maintained or further declines, to 50 percent. These efforts are implemented in accordance with recent recommendations on expanding research from the Committee on Reconstituting On-Campus Research (CROR).
  • Expanded campus dining operations and the opening of Rath al Fresco for outdoor dining beginning April 7.
  • Expanded member access to recreational facilities and programs, including indoor activities in accordance with the health order.
  • Increased retail operations in the Caltech Store.

Although on-campus activities will increase, all members of the campus community who can fulfill their work responsibilities remotely should continue to telework. Limited in-person meetings to facilitate collaboration will be allowed under the conditions outlined in the CROR report. Public health officials have advised that we remain cautious in our return as we work toward the ultimate goal of resuming full operations, including all aspects of the residential learning experience, this fall.

As we make these changes, we will continue to monitor the campus infection rate through the Institute's surveillance testing program, to require compliance with physical distancing and masking guidelines, and to provide and promote access to vaccines. Ultimately a strong immunization rate will help bring a return to traditional operations and an end to the most severe impacts of the pandemic.

We will continue to provide updates on campus operations and programs as they are available through Caltech Together and, as appropriate, through email updates.