To: The Caltech Community
From: Jennifer Howes, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Wellness
As part of our continued efforts to support Caltech's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to protect the health and wellbeing of all members of the Caltech community, I write today with some critical updates and reminders on Institute measures.
The effectiveness of the Institute's response and its ability to mitigate the spread of infection within our community depends on the cooperation and adherence of every member of the community with the protocols and processes outlined on Caltech's coronavirus website, together.caltech.edu. We continue to actively monitor the progression of the pandemic, consult with public health experts, and closely follow advances in research on the virus as well as testing, transmission, and mitigation measures. As new information is available, we will refine our protocols accordingly. As such, I am sharing the following:
New Definition of Close ContactsThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its definition of someone who is a "close contact" of an individual with COVID-19 to include multiple brief exposures. Contact tracing relies on identifying the close contacts of anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, so that those individuals can also be tested. Caltech's contact tracing program has closely aligned with CDC definitions and guidelines and its process will be updated to account for this change.Previously, a close contact was described as someone who had spent 15 minutes or more continuously within six feet of an individual with COVID-19. Now, the definition has been expanded to include individuals with multiple exposures that add up to a total of 15 minutes spent six feet or closer to an infected person. Information on the Caltech coronavirus website, together.caltech.edu, has been updated to reflect this change. Moving forward, we will also be asking all members of the community to account as best they can for any and all interactions they have within six feet of other campus community members, however brief, in the Caltech COVID-19 Reporting Application; the names of these contacts can be captured in the notes field for each day they report to campus.Particularly in light of the emerging evidence that transmission can occur during brief interactions at close proximity, it is imperative that all members of the community continue to practice physical distancing of a minimum of six feet and wear face coverings at all times while on campus.
Consistent Location and Contact ReportingContact tracing is an important tool for epidemiologists to combat the spread of COVID-19. To help inform our contact tracing efforts at Caltech, we have required that all members of the Caltech community use the Caltech COVID-19 Reporting Application whenever they come to campus. Consistent and reliable use of the application is essential to our being able to identify individuals or areas with potential risks of exposure. With the CDC's update to its definition of close contacts, we will also be asking individuals to not only record building locations visited but their interactions with other individuals on campus, as noted above.We understand that some employees, in particular those in dining services or other high-traffic areas, may not always be aware of the names of the individuals with whom they have brief interactions; for this reason it is important for all other community members to take the responsibility to diligently log their locations and interactions to the best of their abilities, and to maintain physical distancing at all times.Together with contact tracing interviews and building card swipe data, the information from the reporting application helps Student Wellness Services (SWS) to identify individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 so that we can offer COVID-19 testing as well as instructions for quarantine when necessary.
Reminder: Mandatory Flu Vaccination Policy Enforcement Begins November 1Caltech's mandatory flu vaccination policy requires all members of the Caltech community who report to campus to attest to having received their flu vaccine and/or to having an approved exemption through HR or SWS. Enforcement of this policy goes into effect on November 1, and any individual who has not completed the attestation in the COVID-19 Report Application, may have their building access restricted.
In addition, anyone who comes to campus is expected to comply with the Institute's policy on wearing face coverings. For more information on why face coverings are an effective means of hindering the spread of COVID-19, visit the Caltech Science Exchange.
Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to protecting your friends and colleagues in the Caltech community during this challenging time.