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General FAQ

Updated October 15, 2020

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), renamed by the World Health Organization on February 11, 2020, is a respiratory illness caused by a novel, or new, coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS, SARS, and now with COVID-19.

A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. COVID-19 is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Because this novel coronavirus is a strain that had previously not been found in humans, its health impact is currently being closely monitored internationally, nationally, and locally, by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

See an updated list of COVID-19 symptoms and guidance for when to seek medical attention on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

Older adults and those with chronic underlying medical conditions appear to be at high risk for serious complications.

Some infected individuals never show symptoms.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the novel coronavirus is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people.

The most current information can be found on the Caltech COVID-19 Dashboard, which will be updated every weekday by 2 p.m. PDT.

Given the growing number of cases in Los Angeles and in California, as well as increased testing availability and frequency, we must be prepared for additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Caltech community. Caltech will continue to work with local public health officials to monitor this situation and expeditiously contact individuals who may be at risk of exposure. The broader community will be updated about Caltech's ongoing response to the pandemic through the Caltech Coronavirus website and through Ion Caltech.

Sign up to receive timely updates from Caltech on COVID-19 cases.

Caltech is actively monitoring and adapting to this rapidly evolving situation. For specifics about our response, please see the information at the top of our main COVID-19 page.

  • Wear a face covering that covers your nose and mouth. (See: Institute Guidelines on Face Coverings )
  • Maintain 6' of physical distance between yourself and anyone outside of your immediate household, whether indoors or outdoors. Wearing a face covering does not negate the need for physical distancing.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Clean and disinfect shared surfaces and objects that are touched frequently (e.g. doorknobs, desks, phones).
  • Get a flu shot. We strongly recommend that everyone obtain seasonal flu vaccination. While there is no vaccine currently to prevent COVID-19, influenza is currently in widespread circulation in California, and initial symptoms can be similar to COVID-19. Any illness right now can increase anxiety and concerns.

Read more about COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment.

In accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state and local orders, Caltech requires that everyone including visitors, vendors, and contractors on the campus and off-site locations properly wear a cloth face covering that fully covers their nose and mouth at all times when in buildings or outdoors.

Face coverings with one-way valves may not be used as they are not effective for source control; such coverings may allow the wearer's respiratory droplets to spread.

Wearing a face covering supplements, but does not replace, physical-distancing requirements. All faculty, staff, students, and visitors should continue to maintain at least 6-feet of distance from others while onsite. If wearing a face covering impedes your ability to complete a job or task, you should contact your supervisor or adviser for evaluation of alternative solutions.

See: Institute Guidelines on Face Coverings

If you are ill or have been exposed to COVID-19, please stay home and contact your health care provider.

Caltech faculty, staff, and students: Report your illness by calling Student Wellness Services at (626) 395-6393 Monday-Friday, 8am–5pm; after hours, contact Campus Security at 626-395-4701.

Individuals experiencing COVID-like symptoms should promptly report the illness through the Caltech COVID-19 Reporting App.

Caltech provides COVID-19 testing for all members of the community (faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars, and students through Student Wellness Services. More information can be found on the Testing and Contact Tracing page.

All members of the Caltech community with personal health concerns related to COVID-19 should contact Student Wellness Services. While Student Wellness Services only provides medical care to students, our team is actively involved in assessing risk for all campus community members and is working closely with the Pasadena Public Health Department to determine next steps. In addition to notifying SWS, non-student community members should also contact their primary health care provider to obtain medical care if showing signs of illness.

What if I am not feeling well?

  • Stay home when you are sick. Do not report to campus or go out in public if you are ill.
  • For medical emergencies: Call 911

Students who are experiencing any mental health concerns, including increased anxiety or stress related to the virus, should reach out to Student Counseling Services for consultation and support. Call (626) 395-8331 to seek help or to arrange an appointment.

After-hours crisis services and weekend response (for issues that cannot wait until the next business day): Call the Counseling Services main line (626) 395-8331 and press "2" to be connected to a clinician. You may experience a brief hold while your call is connected; please stay on the line.

Caltech employees and postdocs may utilize the Staff and Faculty Consultation Center. Please call (626) 395-8360 or email SFCC@caltech.edu.

Parking operations are still in effect at Caltech and regular parking fees still apply. All vehicles parked on campus must display a valid parking permit as per the campus parking regulations.

Individuals that wish to cancel their parking permits may do one of the following:

1) Return the permit by mail to the address below

2) Return the permit in person to the Security office located in the Holliston Parking Garage (open 24 hours)

3) Send a picture of the destroyed permit (cut into at least 4 pieces with the permit number still visible) to: parking@caltech.edu

Parking fees will not be refunded.