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COVID-19 Update

March 04, 2020

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President and David A. Tirrell, Provost
Date: March 4, 2020
Re: COVID-19 Update

The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve quickly. This morning Los Angeles and Pasadena each declared local public health emergencies to aid in preparation for and response to increasing cases of COVID-19 locally. Six new cases of the disease have been confirmed in Los Angeles County. None were the result of community spread. Instead, all new cases could be traced to travel to affected countries or close contact with individuals who had recently visited an affected country.

As of March 4, there are no identified cases of COVID-19 on the Caltech campus or in Pasadena.

At Caltech, the health and safety of our community members remains our top priority, and we are developing and taking precautions to protect students, staff, and faculty. In light of the declared public health emergencies, and in an abundance of caution, we advise additional near-term measures detailed below. Caltech's infectious disease task group is in regular communication with the Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD) and will continue to follow updated guidance and recommendations of PPHD and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they are released.

Travel Guidance
Many members of the Caltech community have asked questions about international travel and visitors and colleagues from abroad. In keeping with CDC guidelines, we recommend that:

  • All Caltech community members avoid travel to any countries designated with a CDC Level 3 Travel Health Notice: currently China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. The CDC updates its travel notices regularly; please visit the CDC website for the most up-to-date information.
  • Anyone who has returned from travel to one of these countries should stay home and monitor their health for 14 days.

We continue to advise limiting non-essential travel. Students who wish to remain on campus during spring break are welcome to do so; the Institute and its residences will remain open.

Preparedness Around Events and Activities
At present, there are no plans to alter or cancel classes. Any future changes, if necessary, would be made in consultation with CDC and PPHD. In an effort to be prepared for such an eventuality, we are exploring possible remote learning alternatives that could be used to allow students and staff to continue their education and work from other locations.

Events on campus will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with event organizers. At this time, we recommend that event organizers exercise extra caution in planning or hosting events that may bring a significant number of external community members to campus. As a result, we are postponing the Explore Caltech community event and the Science of Sports panel that were planned for Saturday, March 14.

The infectious disease task force will contact organizers of other events across campus to help consider the necessary precautions for their activities, in accordance with the CDC guidelines. Regular updates on any future cancellations will be shared via weekly Ion Caltech community emails and the Caltech Today website.

Enhanced Cleaning and Preventative Hygiene
To fight the possible transmission of illness on campus, Caltech's custodial teams have introduced enhanced cleaning techniques that include sanitizing frequently touched surfaces like tables and door knobs every day. In addition, signs are posted across campus to remind the community and guests of the importance of basic hygiene in combating illness, including regular hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes.

To aid these efforts, members of the Caltech community who are sick with any communicable illness need to stay home. Following PPHD recommendations, until further notice, doctor's notes will not be required for employee absences exceeding 10 days.

Managers and supervisors seeking further guidance to address potential issues with employees should reference the Temporary Personnel Memorandum on the Human Resources website.

Additionally, the CDC advises flu shots to protect against influenza and to follow these suggestions that help prevent the spread of all viruses, including COVID-19:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) or wear a mask when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Do this frequently, and certainly after sneezing, coughing, or before/after touching your face.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible.
  • Avoid contact with others who are sick and do not travel while sick.

Regular updates can be found on a dedicated website, Caltech's Coronavirus Information page, and in Ion Caltech emails. If you have any questions or concerns about Caltech's COVID-19 preparedness and response that are not covered in our online FAQs, you can submit them through an online inquiries form.

Thank you for your partnership and assistance as we work to address and manage this evolving situation.