To: The Caltech Research Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President and David A. Tirrell, Provost
Date: March 18, 2020
Re: Essential Research Operations
We are writing to clarify the guidance provided in our March 16 message on Social Distancing in our Academic and Research Operations. Reports from various sources have made it clear that some members of our community have misunderstood what we meant by "essential research operations." Routine continuation of research activities does not qualify as an essential research operation. To protect the health of our community, laboratory personnel should be instructed to work remotely. Some of you have already been informed that continuing work in the laboratory must be approved by your division chair. We write to confirm that this requirement is Institute policy.
We recognize the importance of your work, and we respect your deep commitment to it. Nevertheless, as we learn more about the transmission of COVID-19, we see more clearly the profound challenge of limiting its spread. As an example, we reference a recent report, published in Science, that suggests that undocumented infections (i.e., people who were never diagnosed with the disease) served as the infection source for nearly 80% of documented cases in the early stages of the epidemic in China.
Our responsibility to one another demands that we maintain physical separation for some period of time. As one of our colleagues wisely pointed out to us earlier today, though, we must work especially hard under these stressful circumstances to avoid social isolation. Please stay in communication with your colleagues, support one another, take care of yourselves, and be ready to return with renewed energy and commitment when we can get together again.