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11/02/2022 - Changes to Caltech's Surveillance Testing Operation

To: The Campus Community

From: Kevin M. Gilmartin, Vice President for Student Affairs
Karen L. Sisson, Vice President for Administration

Re: Changes to Caltech's Surveillance Testing Operation

We write to share important updates to Caltech's COVID-19 Testing Operation. As of Monday, November 14, the on-campus Caltech COVID Surveillance Lab (CCSL) will close, and daily saliva samples will be processed through the external UCLA SwabSeq service. The new system will provide a CLIA-certified negative or positive test result the next day, and there will be no need for a confirmatory test of a positive result.

Please note that this change to surveillance testing program will not impact or alter any of the surveillance testing requirements: all undergraduate students; graduate students living in Caltech housing or participating in teaching; and students and employees with an Institute-approved exemption to the Caltech's vaccination and booster requirement must continue to submit two separate surveillance samples each week. Others may participate on a volunteer basis. However, the move will result in changes to sample collection times, as well as how and when test results will be processed. All participants must register new testing kits. 

Further information on the program changes and what this means for participants is outlined below:

Surveillance Testing Registration Process
All participants—including those who are required to participate in Caltech's surveillance testing program and those who may elect to do so voluntarily—will need to register new "blue cap" testing kits to participate in the program run through SwabSeq. Current participants must register by Friday, November 11 on the Olive Walk at the entrance to Lloyd House. Registration can be completed between November 7 and November 11; the Olive Walk will be staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Beginning November 14, the Olive Walk registration desk will be open 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

When you re-register, you will need to fill out a fresh consent form and will receive new collection tubes with blue tops. 

Sample Collection Tubes
The change to blue-top tubes distinguishes the sample tubes used by SwabSeq from the orange-top tubes currently in use by CCSL. Samples must be submitted in the correct tubes for the corresponding laboratories. Failure to submit a sample with the correct tube will prevent the lab from processing your sample, leading to possible non-compliance with Institute testing requirements.

  • The new tubes will have blue tops. These tubes must be used starting November 14.
  • Orange-top tubes must be used through Friday, November 11, the last day that the CCSL will collect and process samples. 
  • Samples are still self-collected using the same protocol

Sample Collection Drop-off 
Samples should continue to be deposited in one of the four drop-off locations currently available: In front of Bechtel on the Moore Lab breezeway, the Beckman courtyard, the Linde Laboratory courtyard, and in front of Lloyd, room 107.

  • Samples are to be dropped in the bins between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Monday to Friday. 
  • There will be no weekend collection (i.e. after 11 a.m. Friday until 8 a.m. Monday).

Testing Results
With the move to the external laboratory, results will report differently. Notably, there is no need for a confirmatory test of a positive result. This means:

  • Individuals will now receive results showing a CLIA-certified negative or positive test result. If you do have a positive result, Student Wellness Services will contact you with instructions and next steps through the Institute's health portal. 
  • To ensure next-day results, you must drop-off your sample between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on the day of collection. 
  • Results will be returned to you before 10 a.m. the following day. 

As a reminder, students who may be absent from campus and not able to submit a sample, should record their absence with Student Wellness Services through this online form (you must be logged into Google Workspace with your access.caltech credentials).

An individual who is required to participate but does not complete testing may have their access to campus restricted. Non-compliance will be managed in consultation with the Office of the Provost, or the Graduate and Undergraduate Deans' offices.

Voluntary participation in the surveillance testing program is available to anyone on campus. 

Further information and updates will be posted to the Caltech Together site's testing page, and questions may be directed to covid19@caltech.edu. Thank you for your continued cooperation and participation in the surveillance testing program.