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3/11/2020 - Update for Graduate Students

To: Caltech Graduate Students
From: Doug Rees, Dean of Graduate Studies

In follow up to the most recent community update regarding Caltech's decision to officially end the instructional term on March 11, I wanted to provide you with additional guidance that is particularly relevant to the graduate student community.

Your faculty and advisers will be in touch with you regarding classes that you are TA'ing, with instructions on how to proceed for the quarter. Moving forward, on-campus instruction is scheduled to resume with the start of the spring quarter on March 30. Given the rapidly evolving situation, however, campus leadership is proactively planning for the option of conducting teaching online, through such video conferencing platforms as Zoom.


During this academic break, the campus will remain open and active research projects will continue. Caltech's custodial teams have introduced enhanced cleaning measures on campus, including lab spaces. Additional guidance on the preventative steps and measures that you and your colleagues can take to sanitize your lab space will be made available to the divisions and posted on Caltech's COVID-19 information website.

As much as possible, we advise you to replace in-person lab meetings with remote teleconferencing or video conferencing options. Any work that can be done remotely during this time should be, as we all work to support social distancing as a means for mitigating the spread of disease.


Right now, we strongly advise against international travel. We understand that many of our graduate students have family abroad, but if you leave the United States, you must understand there is a chance that there may be a self-isolation requirement for 14 days upon return, and that there may be air travel or governmental restrictions beyond Caltech's ability to control that could hinder your return.

We also continue to advise limiting non-essential domestic travel. If you must travel, we ask you to avoid any area where there is community spread of the disease, meaning that spread cannot be traced back to contact with a traveler from an affected country.

Preventative Care and Planning

There are several simple and effective steps you can take to make sure that you are prepared for any infectious disease, including COVID-19:

  • If you are taking a medication, make sure that you have an adequate (30-day) supply.
  • Make sure you have stocked up on food and other essential items for at least a 14-day period.
  • Practice good hygiene at all times: cover your cough, wash your hands with soap and water, and avoid touching your face.
  • Be mindful of your proximity to people you don't know when in public. Consider replacing handshakes with a wave and a smile.
  • Finally, misinformation about COVID-19 is rampant, and can create confusion and panic. Rely on official communications from the CDC, PPHD, and the Caltech COVID-19 information webpage.

If You Become Ill

If you are ill with a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other flu-like symptoms (such as sore throat, body aches, congestion), stay home. Caltech's response to COVID-19 has emphasized that members of the community should not come to campus if they are ill, as it is not beneficial to the welfare of the individual nor the welfare of their colleagues. The faculty have been given guidance in a letter from President Rosenbaum that if a group member appears to have or has reported to them flu-like symptoms, that person should avoid coming to campus. Your stipend will continue during this period.

This advice is in accordance with guidelines from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which state that students should stay home and not return to work or classes until they are free of fever for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.

If you exhibit any of the symptoms above, call Student Wellness Services at (626) 395-6393. Please do not come to the Student Wellness Services building unless you are directed to do so. It is important to limit your contact with others if you are ill. A healthcare provider will inquire about your symptoms and risk factors, and give you further instructions regarding self-isolation. At this time, testing for COVID-19 is taking place at the direction of the Pasadena Public Health Department until commercial testing is available.

If you experience a medical emergency, please call Campus Security at (626) 395-5000.

Mental Health Resources

Students who are experiencing increased anxiety or stress related to the virus, concerns about family overseas, or your personal health may contact Student Counseling Services for consultation and support. Call (626) 395-8331 to arrange an appointment.

For more information on COVID-19 and ongoing updates on the Institute's response, please visit caltech.edu/coronavirus. Targeted information for Students and Parents, as well as for Institute employees is also being collected online.