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8/6/2021 - Resurgence of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County

To: The Campus Community
From: Jennifer Howes, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Wellness

This summer, Los Angeles County—like the rest of the country—has seen a sharp increase in the number of reported COVID-19 cases, which public health officials have attributed to the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant. Daily case counts that had dropped to the low hundreds countywide by mid-June are now up by an order of magnitude. Since June 30, Caltech has reported 17 new positive cases associated with individuals on campus and at off-site facilities.

This trend is not what any of us had hoped to see, especially with the gains the county had been making in curbing disease transmission through vaccination efforts. Clearly, the Delta variant presents new challenges, especially within areas and communities where vaccination rates remain low. I write to assure you that the Institute is closely monitoring this situation and is evaluating test results, vaccination compliance, and any indications of community transmission. We will communicate promptly any changes or developments in protocol.

Caltech continues to strongly encourage all members of the community who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to do so as soon as possible. The Institute is evaluating plans for implementing in advance of full FDA approval and the start of the fall term a mandatory vaccine requirement for all employees and students, with an update to be communicated next week. Research has shown that vaccines remain the most effective preventative measure against infections, especially those that may evolve into serious illness, hospitalization, or death.

A highly vaccinated community like ours, where more than 88 percent of active employees and students have documented their full vaccination status as of August 4, is well-positioned to face this latest challenge. As such, the Institute remains committed to its goal to transition all campus units to in-person operation by September 7 to support a full resumption of the residential living and learning experience for the 2021–22 Academic Year. These plans have been developed in consultation with the Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD), and remain subject to public health conditions and guidelines at the time.

In the meantime, we ask that all members of the community who have not documented their full vaccination status with the Institute do so today. This requirement extends to all members of the community, including individuals who are working remotely. Additionally, any individual who is reporting to campus or an off-site facility and has not officially documented their full vaccination status with Caltech is required to participate in Caltech's surveillance testing program.

The COVID-19 management team continues to review vaccination status for each positive case within the Caltech community as well as a positive individual's close contacts. Recent case activity on campus has involved both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, although as a matter of policy the vaccination status of individual cases will not be disclosed. In partnership with PPHD, SWS will notify close contacts of any Caltech community member who has tested positive, and those contacts will be provided testing or quarantine instructions as appropriate.

As always, all members of the Caltech community are asked to continue to do their part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19:

  • Notify SWS if you are ill, have had a positive test for COVID-19, or have been exposed to anyone with a positive test for COVID-19; 
  • Stay home if you are ill or have a fever; 
  • Submit proof of your vaccination status with the COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation application;
  • Participate in Caltech's surveillance testing program when you report to campus if you are not fully vaccinated or have not yet documented your fully vaccinated status with the Institute. This requirement extends to all community members who are officially enrolled, employed, or managed by the Institute and who report to or access campus facilities even on an occasional or one-day-a-week basis.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol; and
  • Wear a face covering indoors.

Remember that you can opt-in to receive timely email notifications of new positive COVID-19 cases among members of the campus community. Updates about cases and testing on campus will continue to be posted on the Caltech COVID-19 Dashboard, which is updated every weekday.

Thank you for your continuing support and vigilance during this time.