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Returning to Campus and Other Caltech Facilities

September 07, 2021

To: The Caltech Community
From: Julia McCallin, Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resource Officer 
Date: September 7, 2021
Re: Returning to campus and other Caltech facilities

As we expand in-person work, study, instruction, and research—beginning this week with the September 7 resumption of on-site work and continuing the next few weeks as we prepare for the start of fall term—I write to remind you to remain vigilant in your efforts to protect yourself and our community from COVID-19.

After more than 18 months of disruption, Caltech aims to return to as much of the Institute's traditional operations as is prudent and possible under the current conditions and official health guidance. For staff and faculty, this means a return to offices and classrooms—albeit with modifications to support reduced density in indoor spaces used in teaching, meeting, and shared office environments. For students, particularly undergraduates, this means resumption of in-person learning and in-person collaboration in labs and shared living spaces, and a cautious re-engagement in extracurricular activities.

COVID-19 remains a concern and a challenge that we must manage carefully together. After a lull in reported cases through the spring, the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant created a new surge of case activity within the Caltech community beginning in June. In August, Student Wellness Services (SWS) learned of 32 new COVID-19 cases among employees and students on campus and at off-site facilities across the United States.

Caltech has taken many steps to enhance its efforts to combat infection on campus and in Institute facilities:

  • Vaccination is now mandatory for all students and staff. Currently, 94 percent of the community has confirmed full vaccination status; we expect that to be 100 percent by October 15 (excluding individuals who have approved exemptions).
  • All undergraduate and graduate students who live in Caltech housing are required to participate in twice weekly surveillance testing, along with staff, faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and students who have not yet documented their full vaccination status or who have obtained an exemption approved by Human Resources or Student Wellness Services. 
  • Surveillance testing is now open to fully vaccinated students and employees who would like to participate on a voluntary basis
  • Face coverings are required for all individuals working or learning in indoor spaces, and KN95 masks are being made available through the Caltech Store to employees and students for personal use and at no cost to the individuals, in accordance with the state's workplace safety requirements.
  • Individuals are asked to conduct a personal wellness check before reporting on-site, and anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 or anyone who has been exposed to someone with a positive test for COVID-19 are required to report their illness or potential exposure through the COVID-19 Reporting Application.
  • Isolation and quarantine space for exposed or ill students is available on campus.
  • Enhanced maintenance and assessment of air-handling systems has been conducted.
  • Hand sanitizer stations have been installed in buildings across campus. 
  • Caltech Facilities has adopted enhanced cleaning and sanitizing practices for all buildings on campus.
  • Human Resources continues to consult with managers and supervisors across the Institute to assess working environments and to offer recommendations and modifications for employees' work spaces. Their recommendations may include options for rotating on-site work schedules or scheduling employees in shifts that help manage indoor density levels, especially in close working environments. 

I urge all members of the Caltech community, regardless of their vaccination status, to remain vigilant in their efforts to prevent the spread of infection within our community. Doing so will help mitigate risk to you, your friends, and your colleagues.

While on campus, remember that every member of the Caltech community is expected to:

  • Always wear a face covering indoors if you report to campus, regardless of your vaccination status.
  • Participate in Caltech's surveillance testing program if you are a student living in Caltech housing, an individual who has an approved exemption from Human Resources or SWS, or an employee who has not yet documented full vaccination status.
  • Immediately notify SWS if you are ill, have had a positive test for COVID-19, or have been exposed to anyone with a positive test for COVID-19.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Stay home if you are ill, have a fever, or have otherwise been instructed to quarantine or isolate.

Please continue to visit for updates. As always, thank you for your vigilance and cooperation. The pandemic is not over, but together we can continue to protect our residential learning and research community.