5/18/2021 - Updates on vaccination policy, testing requirements, and repopulating campus
To: The Campus Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President
David A. Tirrell, Provost
We write to specify updated policies for vaccination, testing, travel, on-campus gatherings and events, and the return of employees to onsite work in the months ahead.
This summer, all undergraduate students living on campus must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. As we look ahead to the fall, we expect to extend the vaccination requirement, with limited exemptions, to include all students, employees, and campus affiliates once the available vaccines have received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The protocols detailed below are accompanied by the launch of a new application that will enable community members to submit their COVID-19 vaccine documentation. Together these changes reflect the fact that public health agencies now explicitly consider vaccination status of individuals and community groups when they issue guidance for work practices and events.
Campus Vaccination Policy Update
Since the COVID-19 vaccines were first available, the Institute has strongly encouraged all members of the community to seek access to vaccination at their earliest point of eligibility. To date, 85% of active campus employees and students have reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Once the FDA approves the COVID-19 vaccines, which health officials anticipate may happen this summer, Caltech will require faculty, staff, and postdoctoral scholars who are employed at campus or one of Caltech's offsite observatories to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. For campus affiliates and visiting researchers who regularly access Institute facilities and work closely with Caltech employees, proof of full vaccination will be a condition of access to campus.
When fully in effect, the vaccination requirement will allow for medical and religious exemptions for employees. Individuals with an approved exemption, however, may be subject to regular testing or other preventative measures necessary to protect the health and well-being of the community. More information on the Institute's policy and the process relating to eligible exemptions and accommodations will be distributed this summer.
Updated Campus Protocols and Preventative Measures
In accordance with recent changes by local public health authorities, Caltech is adjusting its requirements for fully vaccinated individuals.
- Surveillance Testing: Beginning June 1, individuals who have submitted proof of full vaccination no longer need to participate in the Institute's surveillance testing program when they report to campus. This change in testing requirements applies to all fully vaccinated staff, faculty, postdocs, students, and affiliates. However, individuals may not voluntarily remove themselves from the surveillance testing program; an individual's fully vaccinated status must be confirmed through the Institute's COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation application (details below). All members of the community who have been vaccinated fully should upload their documentation in the application and confirm their vaccination status by May 31, 2021.
Any member of the campus community who reports to campus, even on an occasional or one-day-a-week basis, but who has not submitted proof of vaccination must continue to participate in surveillance testing.
Please note that our adjustment of surveillance testing requirements for fully vaccinated individuals does not change the Institute's policy for testing symptomatic or exposed individuals. Any member of the community who is experiencing COVID-like symptoms should promptly report their illness through the Caltech COVID-19 Reporting Application and may access testing resources through Student Wellness Services.
- Expanded Access to Campus and Offsite Facilities: Beginning June 1, fully vaccinated employees who have been working remotely may return to their onsite work locations. Access to onsite work locations is allowable in accordance with local public health requirements for worksites, and subject to discussion with and approval from an individual's manager or supervisor. Human Resources also must verify that an individual's vaccination status has been confirmed through the COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation application.
By expanding on-campus activity over the summer, the Institute intends to facilitate the transition of all campus units to in-person operation by September 7, 2021. At that time, we expect in-person campus operations to function at full capacity, albeit with an understanding that this will include increased flexibility in work arrangements and schedules, potentially involving a mix of onsite and remote work. All such arrangements will be subject to public health conditions at the time.
Individuals working onsite must continue to adhere to all local health orders and the Institute's requirements for individuals on campus. This includes completing a daily health attestation, wearing a face covering indoors—except when alone in one's office—and maintaining a minimum of six feet of physical distance from all individuals not in your household. Until further notice, these requirements remain in place for all individuals reporting to campus, regardless of vaccination status; any updates to our protocols will be communicated in a timely manner.
- Institute-Sponsored Travel: In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's travel guidance, fully vaccinated employees and students who have documented their status with the Institute are now allowed to participate in Institute-sponsored domestic and international travel.
Employees and students who have not submitted proof of their vaccination status must continue to seek approval from their respective administrative vice president, division chair, the provost, or the president before participating in any Institute-sponsored travel.
- Gatherings and Events: The Institute has updated its protocols for on-campus events and gatherings. As allowed by local health authorities, all members of the Caltech community now can participate in informal social gatherings, both indoors and in outdoor settings on campus. It is also now possible for Caltech departments, divisions, or other recognized campus organizations and groups to host formal events on campus. Anyone planning or participating in such activities must adhere to the protocols and requirements outlined in the Institute's Guidelines for On-Campus Events.
Large public events are currently prohibited on campus; we anticipate that that will continue to be the case until all members of the campus community are able to return, without restriction, to onsite research, learning, and work activities.
COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation Application
In support of these new measures, the Institute has launched a web-based COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation application where staff, faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and affiliates who have been vaccinated and desire to take advantage of the updated protocols described in this message must submit proof of vaccination. The tool is accessible to anyone with access.caltech credentials. It provides a secure and confidential portal for uploading vaccination card photos or other documents that demonstrate COVID-19 immunization.
We ask that all undergraduate and graduate students continue to upload their immunization documents through the Student Wellness Services Student Health Portal. Undergraduates who choose to live on campus this summer must submit proof of full COVID-19 vaccination by June 1, 2021. All students enrolled in the fall term will be required to submit full COVID-19 vaccination records by August 15, 2021. Students who have been working on campus and participating in the campus surveillance testing program already may have received a reminder to upload their documentation directly from the Institute's testing partner, UCLA SwabSeq.
Colleagues in Human Resources and Student Wellness Services will review and validate submitted documents. A scannable QR code will be sent to each person whose vaccination documents have been approved. This QR code may be presented, as needed, at on-campus events and gatherings that require attendees to be fully vaccinated, as well as for clearance from regular testing requirements or Institute-sponsored travel restrictions.
The Next Phase
Each of these changes is an important step as Caltech continues to prepare for full in-person campus activity by September 7, 2021. Caltech's vice presidents, division chairs, and managers are working with Human Resources to shape the Institute's future operations. The goal is to determine how best to incorporate greater flexibility in individuals' work locations and schedules while preserving Caltech's culture and environment as a residential campus-based community. We will provide updates as the protocols are finalized so that you may work with your manager or supervisor to identify the work practices most appropriate for your position.
Thank you for your fortitude and dedication as we continue to respond to pandemic conditions while advancing Caltech's mission. We look forward to seeing everyone back on campus this fall.