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Revised Campus COVID-19 Restrictions

June 17, 2021

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President and David A. Tirrell, Provost
Date: June 17, 2021
Re: Revised campus COVID-19 restrictions

In accordance with California's recently modified COVID-19 workplace regulations, approved by the state's workplace safety agency Cal/OSHA on Thursday, June 17, Caltech will update its physical distancing, building occupancy, health attestation, and face covering requirements, effective Monday, June 21. In addition, the surveillance testing process for undergraduate residents and unvaccinated community members will move to a self-collection system with an in-house testing lab. 

These policy changes reflect progress made in limiting the spread of COVID-19 through adherence to preventative health measures and extensive vaccination. On campus, we have not had a known, symptomatic case of COVID-19 since March. At the same time, Caltech employees, students, and affiliates have availed themselves of the FDA-authorized vaccines; more than 95 percent of the campus community has reported receiving at least one dose. While we remain mindful of the possibility of increasing rates of infection associated with new viral variants and susceptible populations, we believe that current conditions justify changes in some of our operating procedures.

Consistent with local, state, and federal health guidelines, we will implement the following changes:

Face Coverings

  • Indoors
    • Fully vaccinated employees and students will not be required to wear a face covering indoors, unless posted signage or rules for accessing a particular space state otherwise. Individuals are considered to be fully vaccinated once they are two weeks past the final shot in either a two-dose or single-dose vaccine series and they have submitted proof of vaccination through the Institute's COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation application.
    • All employees and students who have not documented their vaccination status with the Institute are considered unvaccinated and will be required to wear a face covering in all indoor environments. Caltech will provide all unvaccinated employees and students N95 masks, upon request, for voluntary use indoors. 
    • Unvaccinated community members and unvaccinated campus visitors are required to wear a face covering when accessing indoor public spaces—including dining, retail, and athletic facilities. The one exception is when individuals are eating. 
    • Fully vaccinated individuals who prefer to wear a face covering may continue to do so. We hope that all members of our community will show respect for different individual decisions. 
  • Outdoors
    • Everyone on campus, regardless of vaccination status, will be allowed to remove their face covering outdoors.

Physical Distancing

  • The Institute will not require individuals on campus to maintain six feet of physical distance or require the use of partitions or barriers between employees' indoor workstations.

Building Occupancy and Ventilation

  • Building occupancy will no longer be limited by the six-foot distancing requirement between occupants. This change enables the Institute to return to its pre-pandemic practice of allowing indoor spaces to be fully occupied in accordance with local building and fire codes.  
  • Research and administrative buildings that do not require public access will continue to be restricted to key-card access. 
  • As the Institute expands building occupancy, Caltech's facilities group will continue to assess and address indoor ventilation and air circulation in campus spaces to ensure compliance with the Core Recommendations for Reducing Airborne Infectious Aerosol Exposure issued by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Division and department leadership with questions about their spaces should work with Facilities directly to request air-handling system assessment. 

Campus Access 

  • Throughout the summer, as we approach the return to full on-site operations by September 7, managers will work with their employees to transition to on-site locations and to establish new operations models for each unit, department, and research group. Managers and supervisors should work with their administrative and divisional leadership to determine appropriate working arrangements for positions and roles within their area, keeping in mind that, as a residential research and learning community, Caltech relies upon in-person interactions for optimal operations. This may include a full return to on-site operations for some, while allowing for additional flexibility and a mix of on-site and remote work for others.
  • All individuals accessing campus should be mindful of the campus parking regulations. Information on purchasing a parking permit and rules for parking in on-campus facilities, are available on the Parking and Commuter Services site

Surveillance and Symptomatic COVID-19 Testing

  • All employees, students, and campus affiliates who have not verified their vaccination status with the Institute through the COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation application, as well as any students living on-campus in undergraduate congregate living, will be required to participate in the Institute's surveillance testing program. This requirement extends to all unvaccinated members of the community who report to campus, even on an occasional or one-day-a-week basis.
  • As of June 21, the Institute will shift its surveillance testing program to an on-site laboratory located in the Beckman Institute. Individuals currently participating in the Institute's surveillance testing program with Swabseq will be notified by email with information on how to pick-up a month's supply of self-collection kits and details on how to return samples. Samples should be returned only during the weeks in which an individual reports to campus. Individuals who do not report regularly to campus or who have other questions about the testing program and how it applies to them, may find additional information on the Caltech Together site or contact [email protected].

Health Attestation and Vaccination Verification

  • Health Attestation
    • While all members of the community are still required to check for symptoms of illness before reporting on-site, we no longer will ask everyone to complete the health attestation form or to record the building locations they visit each day. 
    • If an employee or student experiences symptoms of illness consistent with COVID-19, they must record their illness through the COVID-19 Reporting Application so that a member of Caltech's Student Wellness Services team may follow up as appropriate.
    • Individuals who are ill or experiencing symptoms of illness are not to come to campus or report for on-site work.  
  • Verifying Vaccination Status
    • Individuals are recognized by the Institute as being fully vaccinated only after they have submitted documentation of their vaccination through the COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation application and have received a scannable QR code to confirm their status. 
    • In accordance with local, state, and federal health authorities' guidance, the Institute will accept immunization records for all vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—currently, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson—as well as those authorized for use by the World Health Organization. Students with questions on their specific circumstance may send a secure message to Student Wellness Services through the Student Health Portal; employees should consult with Human Resources' Employee and Organizational Development unit.
    • The Institute plans to make vaccination mandatory, with some approved exemptions, for all members of the community once the vaccines have been fully approved by the FDA.
    • All members of the community who are fully vaccinated but have not yet submitted documentation of immunization should do so today.

Please review the FAQs on the Caltech Together website that have been developed to help address specific questions related to the Institute's policy updates. We will continue to add information to this site and provide updates to Institute protocols and policies as necessary.

Thank you for your continued support of the health and wellbeing of our community. The pandemic has presented all of us with many challenges over the past 15 months, and our transition through this next stage will bring its own hurdles, questions, and concerns. To that end, we ask for your continued patience and understanding as we establish our new operations model together.