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Update on Campus Response and Preparedness for COVID-19

February 29, 2020

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President and David A. Tirrell, Provost
Date: February 29, 2020
Re: Update on Campus Response and Preparedness for COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently advised that the eventual community spread of COVID-19 in the United States is likely. The Institute has an Infectious Disease Plan, and an infectious disease task group, to mitigate and manage health emergencies involving diseases of concern, such as COVID-19. Following up on previous messages to the community from Human Resources and John Tsai, Medical Director of Health Services, we provide here an update on the status of campus operations, activities, and events in light of the current COVID-19 risk assessment.

The health and safety of our students, staff, and faculty are our top priorities. As of February 29, there are no identified cases of COVID-19 on the Caltech campus or in Pasadena. Members of the infectious disease task group are in regular communication with the Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD) and will continue to follow the guidance and recommendations of PPHD and the CDC. We are assessing developments on a continual basis, but, for the present, there are no plans to alter or cancel upcoming events or classes on our campus. Regular updates can be found on a dedicated website, Caltech's Coronavirus Information page, and in the weekly Ion Caltech community emails.

Faculty, students, and staff who have questions or concerns about planned travel, or about colleagues visiting from abroad should reference the CDC recommendations. We and many of our peers advise limiting non-essential travel.

The CDC advises that those who have visited a country where COVID-19 has been reported and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing within 14 days of arriving home, should seek medical advice and avoid contact with others. While COVID-19 cases vary greatly in severity, and can be fatal, the majority of cases involve mild to moderate illnesses. In most cases, home isolation and monitoring as well as careful personal hygiene practices will be required to prevent spread of the disease. Managers and supervisors seeking further guidance to address potential issues with employees should reference the Temporary Personnel Memorandum on the Human Resources website.

Additionally, the CDC advises flu shots to protect against influenza and to follow these suggestions that help prevent the spread of all viruses, including COVID-19:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) or wear a mask when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Do this frequently, and certainly after sneezing, coughing, or before/after touching your face.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible.
  • Avoid contact with others who are sick and do not travel while sick.

If the PPHD or CDC risk assessment and guidance change, we will provide additional updates to the campus community. If you have any questions about this situation that are not addressed via information and the links above, or if aspects of the guidance provided are unclear, please contact your immediate supervisor or faculty advisor, who will be able to help resolve specific issues of concern.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.