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Winter Term Update: Testing, Dining, Housing, and Indoor Events and Activities
January 01, 2022

To: The Caltech Community 
From: Kevin M. Gilmartin, Vice President for Student Affairs; David A. Tirrell, Provost; Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President
Date: December 29, 2021


As we prepare for the return of students, faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and campus employees for the start of winter term on January 3, we write to update the campus community on the Institute's strategy to resume campus operations and in-person instruction while supporting the health and well-being of all members of the community. 

While we had all hoped for more normal conditions upon the start of Winter 2022, conditions across the globe indicate that more care is required as we convene again as a campus community. Epidemiological data indicate we will almost certainly see substantial case activity on campus and that we must prepare for this together. Given the transmissibility of the Omicron variant, our experience this term could be more likely to mirror the national curve than our experience to date as a campus. With this reality before us, we request everyone's help as we plan the return to campus life, work, and study.

In addition to the planned first week of remote instruction, we detail below a series of preventative measures, to begin December 30, that include increased testing requirements, a narrowed window for return of students to residences, and restriction of activities in indoor spaces.

These measures are meant to reduce the risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2 by limiting the possibility that the virus is carried into the community by those returning from winter break, by closely monitoring for new infections through an expanded testing regime, and by limiting close interactions between members of the community. As with past preventative measures, these steps involve significant changes to our usual policies and practices. However, they are critically important to a safe return to campus after the winter recess, and to preserve our fundamental commitment to in-person learning for most of winter term. These steps are informed by conversations with public health officials and by recent infections within our community, which have included epidemiologically linked cases of COVID-19.

The following measures will remain in effect until January 10. At that time, we will examine the data and campus conditions to decide what next step, loosening or tightening of restrictions, is warranted. 

Student Arrival and Testing Requirements

  • All undergraduate students living in Caltech-owned housing are expected to arrive on campus between December 31, 2021 and January 3, 2022, and must present a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within 72 hours prior to their arrival. 
    • Undergraduates should present their negative test results in front of the Housing Office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on January 3 and January 4. 
    • Any undergraduate student who is unable to arrive on campus by January 4 at noon must fill out this form by 5 p.m. on December 31 in order to be entered in late arrival protocols. Individuals who initially planned to arrive by January 4 but are delayed because of unexpected interruptions to travel, should send an email to Student Affairs staff at winterreturn22@caltech.edu.
    • Students arriving late will be required to provide proof of a negative test result taken no more than 24 hours prior to arrival on campus and must check in to the Housing Office during business hours on the date of their arrival. Additional details on late arrivals will be sent in a separate communication.
  • Graduate students in residence who are arriving for the start of term should present to Office of Residential Experience (ORE) staff a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within 72 hours prior to their arrival. ORE staff will be in the central recreation room at the Catalina apartments between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on January 3 and January 4. 
    • Graduate students in residence who are arriving after January 4 must confirm the date of their arrival in this form. They will be expected to show proof of a negative test taken within 24 hours prior to their arrival to the Graduate Office during regular business hours, 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., in the Center for Student Services.
  • All undergraduate students and graduate students living in Caltech-owned housing are required to continue surveillance testing, which resumes operation on January 3. These students, who are already enrolled in the surveillance testing program, must provide three samples, 48 hours apart, between January 3 and January 8. 
    • The first sample must be submitted by January 4.
    • The second sample must be submitted by January 6.
    • The third sample must be submitted by January 8.
  • Before in-person classes begin, ALL students – undergraduate and graduate – who are participating in in-person learning or living in Caltech housing, must be enrolled in the surveillance testing program, and must submit at least two samples, 48 hours apart, for testing. Submission of two samples per week must continue throughout the term.
  • Students who fail to meet these surveillance testing requirements will be considered in violation of the 2021-22 Student Health and Hygiene Policy and subject to the sanctions therein.     

Testing of Faculty and Staff

  • All members of the community, especially those who may have engaged in travel over the winter break, are encouraged to seek community testing prior to returning to campus.
  • Similarly, all employees who are reporting on-site are strongly encouraged to enroll and participate in the surveillance testing program.
  • Faculty members and other instructors who are involved in in-person winter-term instruction should register for surveillance testing during the week of January 3, and begin submitting samples twice weekly no later than January 11. Earlier submission of samples is encouraged.

Masking

  • Masks continue to be required indoors.
  • All members of the community are strongly encouraged to use N95 and KN95 masks while on campus. Local public health officials recommend the use of high-quality masks over cloth face coverings, which have proven to be less effective.
  • Members of the community (Caltech ID required) may pick up KN95 and N95 masks for free from the Caltech Store beginning January 3. 

On-Campus Residences and Apartments

  • Undergraduate students may only access their own residential complex (Bechtel, Avery, Marks/Braun, North Houses, South Houses). Off-campus students may not access campus residences.
  • Outside guests are not allowed in any undergraduate residence.
  • Masking is required and will be strictly enforced at all times in the residences. The only exception is when a student is in their personal room or suite. 
  • All residents and employees are expected to wear high-quality masks indoors; students are strongly encouraged to use N95 masks in the residences and must continue to use them in all teaching spaces. Students may pick up N95 masks for free from the Caltech Store beginning January 3.
  • Lounges and collective dining areas and recreation rooms in all undergraduate and graduate residences, including the Catalina recreation rooms, will be closed. 
  • Social gatherings in outdoor communal spaces in and around the residences are also prohibited.
  • Students should familiarize themselves with the expectations and requirements set forth in the 2021-22 Student Health and Hygiene Policies.

Indoor Events

  • Student social events in lounges and other indoor communal spaces are prohibited.
  • For all other members of the community, on-campus indoor events are prohibited. 
  • Seminars and indoor research group and administrative group meetings must be conducted remotely.

Campus Dining 

  • Food from campus dining rooms and eateries will be served to-go only. Indoor dining in all venues is prohibited.
  • The Athenaeum private club will be closed for dining for the first week of the term. (The hotel remains open).
  • Density will be reduced at the tables and seating outside Browne Dining Hall, the Red Door Café and Marketplace, and the Broad Café, so that there are fewer tables overall and fewer seats at each table.
  • Dining staff will implement and enforce additional measures to manage the flow of customers ordering and picking up food. 
  • Students on board plans may pick up food from their residential complex serveries (Avery, Bechtel, North Kitchen, South Kitchen), Browne Dining Hall, or the Red Door Café to take outdoors or back to their room. To help prevent overcrowding in any particular dining location, students are strongly encouraged to use the servery closest to their residence.
  • In the residences, Open Kitchen will be staffed to support the flow of students in and out of those spaces.
  • The Red Door Marketplace (coffeehouse) will close at 10 p.m. Monday-Friday and will be closed for the weekend. Instead, Browne will be open for brunch and dinner for the weekend of January 8–9.

Gym and Athletics

  • The Braun Athletic Center will be closed to members January 3 through January 10.
  • Intercollegiate athletics programs with outdoor venues will continue with modifications; however, indoor events are prohibited at this time. Further information to follow from athletics staff.

As with the fall term, we believe that a careful approach to the transition back to campus will reduce the likelihood that we will need to implement more restrictive measures because of community transmission. We will provide updates on next steps as soon as we have data from this initial phase of return to campus life and operations.

Thank you for understanding and for complying with all these efforts. Each one of us has an important role to play in supporting the health and well-being of our community and in helping ensure that we return to normal practices as soon as it is safe to do so.