Caltech Logo
Home  /  Campus Life & Events  /  Campus Announcements  /  "Safer At Home" Order
"Safer At Home" Order
March 19, 2020

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President and David A. Tirrell, Provost
Date: March 19, 2020
Re: "Safer At Home" Order

Today, the County of Los Angeles and the City of Pasadena jointly announced a "Safer At Home" order that prohibits public and private events or gatherings of 10 or more people, and requires the temporary closure of all nonessential business through April 19 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus in the broader community. The order, effective as of 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, restricts public movement except for a limited set of essential functions.

As Caltech complies with the order, the Institute will build on the actions that have been implemented over the past several weeks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on our campus and in our community. The order allows only essential activities to continue at this time. For the Caltech community, the essential functions include: distance learning and the operation of student housing and dining facilities; custodial, security, payroll, and student wellness services; and the maintenance and management of laboratories and facilities with unique agents and equipment.

Those employees who will need to conduct these essential on-campus functions must do so in accordance with health professionals' guidance on social distancing, which includes maintaining a distance of six feet per person, staggering personnel schedules, and following preventative hygiene measures to the greatest extent possible. Individuals responsible for essential support functions already should have been identified and informed by their managers or supervisors of continuing responsibilities.

Please be aware that all campus buildings are locked 24/7 and are accessible only to occupants with a Caltech ID card or a building key. If you will be on campus, remember to keep your Caltech ID card or building key with you at all times. Please be attentive to security even with the restricted access; do not allow others into buildings if you do not recognize them or they do not have a Caltech ID. If you see someone who you believe does not have permission to be in the building, contact security at 626-395-5000. Security will have increased foot and vehicle patrols on campus during the closure.

We will provide updates as needed on the impact of the order via community messages and on the COVID-19 Information website.

Thank you for your continued cooperation during this extraordinary time. While circumstances are forcing us apart, we take solace in the fact that Caltech is a community of vibrant, engaged individuals who will persevere. We encourage you to remain connected to each other (virtually) as we are brought together by the shared mission of keeping the Institute at the forefront no matter external exigencies.

Below, please find the guidance we have for specific campus constituencies and operations at this time.

Guidance for Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students who are leaving campus to return to their homes can continue to do so, and they should do so as soon as possible. Financial questions or concerns around travel should be directed to the undergraduate deans' office. The undergraduate residences will close at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 20 to all students who were not previously approved to remain on campus beyond that date.

Those who remain on campus must abide by the provisions of the order and the Institute. This means that students are prohibited from participating in large social gatherings and activities in private rooms or common areas, hosting visitors from outside the Caltech community, or traveling away from campus for anything other than essential supplies, groceries, medical appointments, or providing essential care or support for other individuals or pets. Individuals may exercise outside as long as they maintain a distance of six feet from others.

Undergraduates with permission to continue to live on campus will be reassigned to new rooms in the Bechtel Residence in order to most effectively serve their residential needs in accordance with health professionals' guidance on social distancing.

Similarly, Caltech's dining service is offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner carry-out-only service for undergraduates through the Bechtel Residence dining hall.

Guidance for Graduate Students and Postdocs

Graduate students may continue to stay in their campus residences and must abide by the provisions of the order. It is incumbent upon all to limit access to communal spaces in order to best adhere to guidance on social distancing practices.

Graduate students and postdocs are advised to remain at home and not come to campus unless they have responsibilities approved as essential by the laboratory PI in collaboration with their division chair. In addition, graduate students and postdocs may only travel away from their residences for groceries, essential supplies, medical appointments, or to provide essential care or support for other individuals or pets. Individuals may exercise outside as long as they maintain a distance of six feet from others.

To the extent there is sufficient demand for food service, Caltech Dining will provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner carry-out service Monday to Friday to graduate students, postdocs, and essential staff in Chandler Dining Hall. Updates on these services and the hours of operation will be provided on the Caltech Dining Services website.

Guidance for Employees

Those employees who can do their work from home must do so at this time. If you are unsure about your options or the transferability of your tasks to a remote location, please consult with your manager. Guidance for remote work is available on Caltech's telecommuting website.

If you work in a role that is designated as an on-campus essential function, please continue to report to campus for such tasks. Your manager will be in touch to provide further direction and guidance so that you may do so as safely as possible.

If your work tasks ordinarily require you to report to campus, but are not identified as an essential function, please do not report to campus. The Institute has committed to continue to pay all full-time and part-time benefits eligible employees at their current base rate of pay.

Guidance on Academic Operations

Plans to proceed with Spring Term 2020, which will be conducted through online instruction only, continue unaffected. Any updates to that schedule will be communicated immediately via email and the COVID-19 Information website.

Guidance on Research Operations

Only those students, postdocs, and staff who perform essential procedures, processes, or agent and equipment management to maintain laboratory viability will continue to have access to their laboratories. Faculty will have access to their laboratories only for the purpose of ensuring safety and viability.

PIs should have identified these essential functions in their laboratory continuity plans. Any additional work on-site requires the explicit approval of the cognizant division chair.

No other personnel or visitors should access campus laboratories until further guidance is issued. Information on deferring research, as well as guidelines and a checklist for laboratory ramp-down, have been developed by the Provost's Office in collaboration with the Office of Research Compliance and the Environmental Health and Safety group.