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Opt-in COVID Surveillance Program

August 27, 2021

To: The Caltech Community
From: Jennifer Howes, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Wellness
Date: August 27, 2021
Re: Opt-in COVID Surveillance Program

Beginning Monday, August 30, the Institute will expand access to its internal COVID-19 surveillance program to all fully vaccinated members of the Caltech community. This service, offered on an opt-in basis through the Caltech COVID Surveillance Lab (CCSL), is free to participants and is being provided in alignment with the Institute's return to full on-site research and education operations. 

Recent increases in infection rates, driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, and the fact that fully vaccinated individuals may still become infected and can become carriers of infection have generally heightened interest in more widespread preventative health measures. 

This expansion of the surveillance program to include fully vaccinated members of the community does not replace testing requirements for individuals who have not confirmed their full vaccination status with the Institute or for students in Institute-owned housing. Individuals currently living in the undergraduate residences who have already been enrolled in the surveillance program should continue to submit saliva samples as they have been (two samples per week). Graduate students currently living in Institute-owned properties will be contacted directly by the CCSL with instructions for picking up kits during the week of August 30 and should begin submitting samples twice per week beginning the week of September 7 (there will be no collection on Labor Day). Incoming graduate and undergraduate students with housing assignments will receive test kits and instructions for participation during the housing check-in process.

In addition to the opt-in program for community members, Student Wellness Services (SWS) will continue to provide symptomatic and follow-up testing for individuals who are symptomatic or have had a known exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

These surveillance and symptomatic testing programs are only part of Caltech's preventative measures and response. Even more important than testing is vaccination. The Institute urges all members of the community who are eligible for vaccination and have not yet completed a full vaccine regimen to do so today. All faculty, students, postdoctoral scholars, and enrolled undergraduate and graduate students are required to document proof of full vaccination, or have an approved exemption on file, no later than October 15.

The following information on the Institute's opt-in surveillance testing program is for those individuals who are fully vaccinated and elect to participate:

  • Employees and students who are interested in participating in the program may begin as early as Monday, August 30 by visiting the former Tech Express location (next to the Lloyd house entrance on the Olive Walk) to pick up a kit with specimen collection materials. The service center will be staffed between 9 a.m.—4 p.m., Monday through Thursday. No advance registration is required.
  • Each kit will be registered at the time of pick-up to an individual recipient. You should not share your kit or request a specimen collection vial from colleagues or other participants. When you pick up your kit, you will be provided directions on how to register it so that it is linked to your Caltech ID.
  • Once you have registered your kit, you will receive a confirmation message with instructions about how to collect the specimens and prepare the sample for drop-off at any of the three current drop-off locations across campus. Individuals may submit up to two self-collected samples per week; however, individuals may also choose to submit samples at less frequent intervals depending on their access to campus and needs.
  • It is imperative that registrants receive the "registration successful" message at the end of the registration process. Anyone who does not receive this confirmation message must seek assistance from the registration attendant at Tech Express to ensure that the kit is properly registered. If this step is not completed, samples will not be processed.
  • Each kit contains supplies for 8 specimen collections. Individuals may pick up another kit once they have exhausted their initial supply.
  • Samples may be dropped off between 9 a.m.—4 p.m. Monday through Thursday at any of these three collection locations: outside of Beckman Institute, on the Moore Lab walkway across from Bechtel Residence, and near the Lloyd House entrance off the Olive Walk. Individuals should NOT try to drop off samples outside of these hours. 
  • The CCSL will pool all submitted samples in groups of two, meaning that they will process the specimen samples collected from two different individuals at one time.
  • You will receive a confirmation email or text message (depending on the preferred contact method you provide at registration) when your sample is received for processing.
  • If neither sample in your pool is flagged as requiring additional testing, you will receive no further notification.
  • If you are part of a flagged pool, which requires additional testing by SWS to confirm or rule out the presence of SARS-CoV-2, you will be notified by SWS and brought in for a follow-up PCR test at the health center. It is very important that all participants are responsive to SWS outreach and comply with follow-up testing directives. In this instance, you will be contacted by SWS with your results, whether positive or negative. Individuals should NOT contact [email protected] or call SWS to obtain confirmatory testing results.

Thank you all for your continued support and commitment to protecting the health and wellness of our community.