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5/22/2020 - Partial Return to On-campus Research

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President; David A. Tirrell, Provost

Over the next few weeks, we expect to begin a phased reactivation of on-campus research activities that were shuttered as part of the Institute's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This initial resumption of research activity will be carried out in a cautious and measured manner that aligns with guidance from public health experts and mitigates risk for our community.

The guidelines for this phased return are detailed in a report from the Committee on Reconstituting On-Campus Research. The committee, which brought together faculty and staff representatives from across campus under the leadership of Vice Provost Kaushik Bhattacharya, met for weeks to assess paths for moving forward. Their final recommendations, delivered this week, have been reviewed by the Executive Policy Group, approved, and released to the division chairs for implementation. The committee report is posted on Caltech's coronavirus information website.

Integral to Caltech's approach is the expectation that all individuals working on-site will practice preventative hygiene (including wearing cloth face coverings and washing hands frequently) and physical distancing measures. Also essential is the expectation that all individuals working on-site participate in self-monitoring of their health and immediately report any symptoms to the Institute. The laboratory environments that we return to are not the same environments that we left in March. All of us must reassess our approaches to our work and determine how to manage and mitigate risk, collectively and independently, in this new pandemic environment.

It will be incumbent upon each of the divisions to work with the faculty and laboratory heads in their areas to assess each group's plan for resuming activity and to ensure that those plans align with the Institute's framework for returning. At an Institute level we are providing the broad guidelines to inform this process, but we expect the divisions and individual units to tailor those guidelines, safely, to their needs.

This restricted resumption of activity does not allow for everyone who wants to return to their workspaces on campus to do so, and while this is a disappointment to some, it is absolutely necessary that we carefully manage the resumption of activity to minimize risk to our community. Similarly, all business and administrative units that are not required to be on campus to support the research enterprise, and can continue to work from home, should continue to do so.

We know that some members of our community have concerns about what a return to on-site research means. We, and all of the senior leaders across campus, are committed to helping the Caltech community move forward with confidence. If you have concerns, please speak with your immediate manager or supervisor.

This will continue to be a fluid situation and we expect our policies and processes to evolve as circumstances change. We will track developments on campus carefully and, at every step, we will be prepared to advance, to reverse course, or to pause in a manner that the pandemic and the surrounding environment require. We are confident that the Caltech community will continue to respond to these trying times with strength and resolve, and we look forward to the day when we can all be on campus together.