02/23/2023 - Updates to COVID-19 Testing Requirements
To: The Campus Community
From: Kevin M. Gilmartin, Vice President for Student Affairs
David A. Tirrell, Provost
Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President
Re: Updates to COVID-19 Testing Requirements
Effective Friday, March 17, the last day of winter term, the Institute will close its Caltech-sponsored surveillance testing program, and suspend the current twice-weekly testing requirement for students and employees. In so doing, we mark an important shift in pandemic management and transition to an infection-control model that emphasizes individual symptom screening and, when necessary, COVID-19 testing for those experiencing symptoms.
Within student residences, students who are symptomatic or have tested positive for COVID-19 now will be able to isolate safely in their residence, with support from Student Affairs staff and peers, for a minimum of 5 days or until they test negative. This approach is consistent with current Los Angeles County Department of Public Health guidance for institutions of higher education, and our isolation-in-residence protocols are being developed in consultation with the Pasadena Public Health Department. Appropriate safety measures, such as the use of N95 masks, addition of air filters to individual spaces, and options for relocating roommates may be employed as part of these new residential isolation protocols.
As an added preventative measure following spring break travel, all students in residence will be required to self-test with an Institute-provided at-home antigen test before returning to their residence to start the spring term. Those who test positive via antigen testing should delay returning to campus until they have completed their isolation.
Student Wellness Services and Student Affairs staff will provide residential students with plans and guidelines for this revised infection-control and isolation framework, as well as details on the testing requirements for returning to campus after spring break.
These updated COVID-19 protocols align the Institute with regional and state public health and government agencies, which have communicated plans to end standing COVID-19 public health emergency orders by the end of this month. The Institute's change in testing procedures and isolation protocols also is a response to low levels of reported infections among members of the Caltech community.
We welcome these positive developments in public health conditions as another step in a return to familiar campus operations and activities. At the same time, we note that individuals across campus have different levels of health and wellbeing concerns, and that after more than two years of an Institute-sponsored weekly testing program, these changes might involve an adjustment for some. As has been the case all along, please respect each other's concerns and treat each other with care as we enter this next chapter of adjusting to life and work with COVID-19.
The shift away from surveillance testing necessitates increased diligence for all community members in conducting personal health checks, and identifying and reporting all symptoms of illness through the Caltech COVID-19 Reporting Application. We continue to ask that all members of the community conduct a personal health screening before coming to work, attending a class, or engaging in a campus activity, and expect that anyone experiencing symptoms will report them through the Caltech COVID-19 Reporting Application. Students in congregate housing should appreciate their special circumstances and responsibility to their peers and fellow residents to report promptly symptoms of illness.
Information reported through the Caltech COVID-19 application will be shared with Student Wellness Services (SWS) for follow-up, which may include a request to participate in symptomatic testing with SWS. Anyone experiencing symptoms of illness, whether or not they have tested positive for COVID-19, should stay home until they are no longer symptomatic.
As we prepare for this transition next month, it is important to remember that variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to circulate throughout the broader community. Through March 17, all members of the community are expected to continue to adhere to the Institute's existing testing protocols, which require that twice-weekly testing samples be submitted by
- all undergraduate students;
- graduate students in instructional environments; and
- employees with an approved exemption to the Institute's vaccination policy.
Individuals who have chosen to participate voluntarily in the testing program also may continue to do so through March 17.
Until further notice, the Institute will continue to require the use of N95 masks in all instructional spaces. Masks, along with vaccinations, have proven to be among the most effective means of preventing illness transmission.
Thank you for your continued cooperation and adherence to the Institute's preventative health measures, designed to support the health and wellbeing of all members of our community.