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11/12/2020 - Guidance on Private Social Gatherings and Isolation and Quarantine

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

We have again seen a significant increase in positive cases of COVID-19 in the county and across the country in recent weeks. I write to encourage everyone to remain mindful of your actions and to continue to adhere to the preventative health measures and practices that we have adopted within the Caltech community. Research continues to demonstrate that maintaining physical distance, wearing face coverings, self-monitoring, and minimizing interaction outside of your household reduces the risk of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As Thanksgiving, the December holidays, and the new year approach, many of us may be feeling "quarantine fatigue." Yet it is critical that we remain vigilant and continue to find alternative, lower risk ways to manage feelings of isolation and to safely and responsibly connect with friends and family.

To help all of us navigate the end of the year in a manner that supports individuals' wellbeing and reduces the risk of disease transmission, the Pasadena Public Health Department and the Los Angeles County Public Health Department recently updated their health orders. These updates provide more specific guidance on private social gatherings, and protocols for isolation and quarantine procedures. Caltech has updated its guidance accordingly, as detailed below.

Social Gathering Guidance

The Pasadena health officer orders, which previously had prohibited any intermingling of households for social gatherings, now allow for up to three households to meet outdoors for up to two hours when adhering to all other preventative health measures, including wearing face coverings, maintaining a minimum of six feet of distance, and using only single serve or disposable plates, cups, and utensils when food and drinks are served.

Public health officials still strongly recommend limiting all private social gatherings outside of your household as an important measure for preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, if you do choose to gather with others, you should do so in accordance with these guidelines. Keep in mind that Institute-sponsored or affiliated events that bring any number of individuals together in-person for social activities or engagements are still prohibited.

It should be noted that the updated guidance assumes that if individuals choose to engage in private gatherings of this type, their household should only gather with the same three individuals or households. It is also important to highlight that the orders specifically exclude dormitories/residence halls, group living situations, boarding houses, fraternities, and sororities from the definition of a household. Finally, remote laboratories and other Caltech-affiliated locations are subject to guidance from their local public health officials, and should follow instructions and protocols within those jurisdictions.

New Isolation and Quarantine Protocols

As of November 9, Caltech also has updated its protocols for isolation and quarantine for all members of the Caltech community in accordance with the local health departments' guidance. These new protocols more clearly outline the expectations of and restrictions for those individuals who potentially have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, have symptoms of a respiratory illness, or have tested positive for COVID-19 themselves. Please see the complete guidance online for each situation. Any questions should be directed to Student Wellness Services at

For more information about Caltech's response to the pandemic and for news and answers to frequently asked questions, visit the Caltech Together website at

Thank you for your continued cooperation and adherence to the Institute's preventative measures. Together, we can mitigate the spread of infection and support the health and wellbeing of the entire Caltech community.