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Passing of a Colleague from COVID-19

January 06, 2021

To: The Campus Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics
Date: January 5, 2021
Re: Passing of a Colleague from COVID-19

I write to share the tragic news of the passing of staff member José Mendez on Monday, January 4, from COVID-19. José, who tested positive before the holidays, has been a colleague in our custodial services group for more than a decade, most recently serving the Institute in the Beckman Institute.

José and his wife, Gloria Mendez, have been Caltech employees and valued members of the campus community since 2008. Today we all mourn with Gloria, and with the three sons, two daughters, and two grandchildren left behind. José will be remembered by his friends and colleagues as a caring, honorable person who was committed to his work at Caltech and enjoyed spending his spare time in the garden and with his family and dogs.

José's death marks the second loss of a member of the Caltech community due to the pandemic, which has taken something from all of us collectively, but has incurred a more grievous toll on some of us individually. The Institute will honor José's memory by lowering the flag for three days, starting on February 9. Facilities also will host a virtual gathering next week for colleagues and friends within the community to recount stories and memories.

The loss of a colleague is difficult, especially during such troubled times. Please know that Caltech offers confidential counseling with licensed mental health practitioners for all members of our community.

Faculty, staff, and postdoctoral scholars, or members of their families, may contact the Staff and Faculty Consultation Center on campus at (626) 395-8360 or by emailing [email protected]. Undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to contact the Student Counseling Center at (626) 395-8331 for a telephone appointment; after-hours help is available by calling the same number and pressing "2" for an on-call counselor. It is important for each of us to offer support to colleagues and friends, and to encourage those in need to take advantage of these professional resources. 

Amid the holiday season, COVID-19 cases have surged locally and throughout the nation at an alarming pace. In a little more than a month, the number of individuals who tested positive in Los Angeles County doubled from 400,000 cases on November 30 to more than 800,000 cases on January 2. At the same time, through expanded testing and the implementation of a surveillance testing program on Caltech's campus, our Institute community has reported a noticeable increase in activity, especially among campus staff members. As of today, there have been 127 positive cases reported among Caltech community members since March 2020.

Given the unrelenting and pernicious spread of infection it is incumbent on each of us to do all that we can as individuals and as a community to mitigate transmission. I urge each of you to strictly adhere to public health orders: wear a mask, maintain physical distance, and wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Please stay home if you are sick or have been exposed to the coronavirus. Members of the campus community are provided with free access to testing resources through Student Wellness Services and should report any illness or exposure through the Caltech COVID-19 Reporting Application so that a medical professional may follow up and offer guidance.

This is not how any of us hoped to start the new year. On behalf of the Institute, I extend deepest condolences to José's family, friends, and coworkers.