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02/07/2022 - Relaxing Restrictions for On-Site Work, Indoor Dining, Recreation, and Student Activities

To: The Campus Community 

From:  Kevin M. Gilmartin, Vice President for Student Affairs

David A. Tirrell, Provost

Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President

We are grateful for the commitment that the Caltech community has demonstrated to our common well-being and to the support of the Institute's research, teaching, and learning environment. Thank you for your efforts to keep our community healthy and for your adherence to the preventative measures that were implemented to help mitigate the spread of infection during this period of elevated activity and concern.

While we are not clear of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, COVID case activity on campus has dropped significantly (as captured in the graph below), demand for on-campus student-isolation spaces has abated, and campus surveillance testing data indicate that the virus is circulating now at a much lower level within our community than it was a month ago. There are similar downward trends in L.A. County's reported hospitalization rates and case activity.

CIT positive case chart

As a result of these changes, we will be relaxing the restrictive measures implemented for on-site work, dining, recreation, and student activities since the start of the calendar year.

The following changes, which generally return the campus to its operations model from last fall, will take effect February 14:

  • All campus employees will be expected to return to their pre-Omicron/pre-holiday work schedules. Individual staffing plans and work arrangements will be determined at departmental or divisional levels based on local needs and workspace availability, and some units may scale up on-site operations more quickly than others. If you are unsure about whether you should work on campus or remotely, please contact your manager or supervisor for direction.
  • With the return of more on-site work, indoor administrative meetings may also resume.
  • Indoor dining will resume in all campus dining facilities, including the Red Door Café, Lee F. Browne Dining Hall, and for undergraduate students, the residence dining halls. Tables will be distanced to create space between individuals when they are eating and unmasked.
  • Access to recreational facilities no longer will be limited based on membership type (student or non-student members). All members, regardless of their affiliation, may access the facilities during all business hours.
  • Students may organize and participate in small indoor gatherings of masked individuals and outdoor gatherings of up to 50 individuals; events must be registered and documented with the Office of Residential Experience. The protocols for all other outdoor campus events remain in place; gatherings with 50 or more attendees must have advanced approval from the host's division or administrative leadership.

The Institute's requirements on testing, vaccination and boosters, and masking, as detailed below, remain unchanged.

Testing Requirements

All undergraduates, community members with approved vaccination exemptions on file with the Institute, and graduate students who live in Caltech housing or are enrolled in in-person learning will continue to be required to submit two samples a week for screening by the Caltech COVID Surveillance Lab. Employees who report on-site are encouraged to participate in the surveillance testing program and, if not already signed up, may learn more about the program on the Caltech Together website.

Vaccination and Booster Requirements

All members of the community should have documented by now their vaccination history and, once eligible, their booster in the Caltech Health Portal. The Institute's deadline for recording vaccination history and providing documentation of booster shots was January 31, 2022; those who have not met this requirement may be contacted directly by Human Resources.

Masking Requirements

A well-fitted medical grade mask (defined as a surgical mask or N95, KN95, or KF94 respirator) must be worn in all indoor spaces. NIOSH-approved N95 respirators specifically are required for students in all instructional settings, whether inside or outside. Students and employees may pick up medical grade masks for free from the Caltech Store. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionsummarizes the effectiveness of medical grade masks in lowering the risk of contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

While this is not yet a return to our pre-COVID operations, it is a welcome step forward from the tight restrictions necessitated this winter by the Omicron surge. We will remain vigilant and prepared to modify our operations as needed if infection rates rise.

Thank you for your ongoing flexibility and adherence to local and campus public health directives.