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4/21/2022 - Campus Response to Increased COVID-19 Cases

To: The Campus Community

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

David A. Tirrell, Provost

Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President

Date: April 21, 2022

Re: Campus Response to Increased COVID-19 Cases

With this spring's arrival of the highly infectious BA.2 subvariant in Los Angeles County and a return to routine social activities, the Institute has experienced elevated rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the last two weeks, 62 cases have been reported among students and employees, with as many as 42 students living in campus residences having reported a new infection through either symptomatic testing or the twice-weekly surveillance testing program.

Case numbers are not rising as fast as they did during the winter's Omicron surge; nevertheless, the increase in infection rate raises concern and requires that we reassess our campus protocols and activities. In order to protect the continuity of in-person instruction while we clear the current wave of infections, the following protocols will be implemented across campus as of Friday, April 22: 

  • Universal Indoor Masking: Caltech will reinstate its requirement that high-quality masks (surgical, N95s, KN95s, or KF95s) be worn in all indoor locations on campus, including athletic facilities. Exceptions to this rule can be made when an individual is alone in a space or is actively eating or drinking. Additionally, instructors, speakers, and performers may elect to remove their masks indoors when all other individuals in the space are masked.  

Please remember that high-quality masks are available for free to all members of the campus community through the Caltech Store. Members of the campus community should be prepared to present their Caltech ID when requesting masks.

  • Suspension of large social gatherings: Until further notice, indoor social events on campus that bring together more than 50 people should be postponed where possible. Anyone planning such an event should consult with their division chair or administrative vice president to determine whether alternate plans or modifications can be made to enhance health and safety measures. This pause in activity is aimed at scaling back high risk social engagements; it does not apply to lectures, performances, or other official events held in campus event spaces such as the Institute's main auditoriums or Athenaeum where additional health and safety protocols are in place. We will be monitoring campus testing data and case activity and will update the community on any changes to health and safety measures based on that data.

Please note that consistent with this approach, three undergraduate house parties scheduled for this coming weekend will be cancelled. Student Affairs staff will work with student leadership in implementing this change and to identify opportunities for future activities in anticipation of a decline in the COVID-19 infection rate that will allow us to return to our current practices in the future. 

Over the past two years, we have demonstrated through our collective effort the effectiveness of masking and frequent testing in helping to mitigate the transmission of disease within our community. The recent rise in COVID-19 cases reminds us of the importance of compliance with masking rules, the twice-weekly surveillance testing program, and personal health checks and screenings. 

If you are feeling ill or have any symptoms of COVID-19, you must

  • report your illness through the COVID-19 Reporting application, and 
  • refrain from coming to campus or interacting with others in our community until you have had a negative test result for COVID-19 and your symptoms have resolved. 

SWS will offer testing for symptomatic individuals who report through the app. Individuals who are symptomatic should not rely on participation in the surveillance testing program as confirmation of negative status.

Under our current circumstances, all of us must take extra precautions to protect the health and well-being of our community. With your support, we hope to pass this phase of the pandemic quickly and resume the full range of activities and social interactions that we all value and enjoy.