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General FAQ

Updated July 16, 2020

International students and scholars who are residents for tax purposes are eligible to receive and accept the CARES Act stimulus checks. Residence for tax purposes is determined by the green card test and the substantial presence test for the calendar year. Since eligible individuals and their dependents need to have social security numbers, if a dependent has an ITIN, an international student or scholar who filed a joint tax return will not receive a stimulus payment. 

The stimulus payments will be treated as "Economic Impact Payments" and will not be counted for Public Charge inadmissibility purposes. If an individual erroneously filed a tax return as a resident and erroneously received a CARES stimulus payment, they should prepare an amended tax return and return the funds to the IRS. More information about the stimulus payment can be found on the IRS Economic Impact Payment Information Center website.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), renamed by the World Health Organization on February 11, 2020, is a respiratory illness caused by a novel, or new, coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS, SARS, and now with COVID-19.

A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. COVID-19 is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Because this novel coronavirus is a strain that had previously not been found in humans, its health impact is currently being closely monitored internationally, nationally, and locally, by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Pasadena Public Health Department, among others.

For confirmed COVID-19 infections, symptoms include fever (38°C/100.4 °F), cough, and shortness of breath.

Those with chronic underlying medical conditions appear to be at high risk for serious complications.

Runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, and diarrhea are NOT common symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses.

Although this virus probably originally emerged from an animal source, it now seems to be spreading from person to person. It is important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. At this time, it's unclear how easily or sustainably COVID-19 is spreading between people.

Information about transmission is evolving and is being closely investigated by CDC and the World Health Organization.

The most current information can be found on the COVID-19 Cases, Testing, and Tracing page, which will be updated every weekday by 2 p.m. PDT.

Given the growing number of cases in Los Angeles and in California, as well as increased testing availability and frequency, we must be prepared for additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Caltech community. Caltech will continue to work with local public health officials to monitor this situation and expeditiously contact individuals who may be at risk of exposure. The broader community will be updated about Caltech's ongoing response to the pandemic through the Caltech Coronavirus website and through Ion Caltech.

Caltech is actively monitoring and adapting to this rapidly evolving situation. For specifics about our response, please see the information at the top of our main COVID-19 page.

Classes will be exclusively taught online for the spring term for both graduate and undergraduate students. More information can be found below under "Spring Term FAQ."

Caltech is canceling all campus and off-campus events through September 30.

Prevention measures are similar to those utilized against the common cold and flu, which are currently infecting large numbers of people in California and throughout the United States.

  • Get a flu shot. We strongly recommend that everyone obtain seasonal flu vaccination. While there is no vaccine currently to prevent COVID-19, influenza is currently in widespread circulation in California, and initial symptoms can be similar to COVID-19. Any illness right now can increase anxiety and concerns.
    • Students can contact Student Wellness Services at (626) 395-6393 to get a flu shot. Staff, faculty and postdocs should contact their healthcare provider to receive the flu shot.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Do not share food and drinks.
  • Clean and disinfect shared surfaces and objects that are touched frequently (e.g. doorknobs, desks, phones).
  • If you can, avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

Read more about COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment.

In accordance with new guidance and recommendations from the CDC and the LA County Department of Public Health, and the Pasadena Public Health Department, Caltech requires the following regarding face coverings for all members of the campus community while present on the campus:

  • The face covering may be removed for the purpose of recording, filming or online meeting, if others are more than 6 feet away and all surface/equipment must be sanitized after use.
  • Continue to practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet even with the face covering on.

The face covering is not directly designed to protect you from inhaling harmful viruses but prevents you from shedding droplets from your mouth/nose into the surrounding environments.

If you were recently in any of the CDC Level 3 countries (identified as areas with wide widespread or ongoing community spread) and become sick with a fever (38°C/100.4 °F) or a cough within 14 days after leaving that country, please follow the following advice. (If you are experiencing a medical emergency (e.g., shortness of breath, chest pain), call 911 immediately.)

  • Seek medical advice right away. Before you go to a doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Caltech students should immediately notify Student Wellness Services by calling (626) 395-6393.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • If you have active respiratory symptoms, please wear a mask, if possible.

At this time, diagnostic testing for COVID-19 can be conducted only by CDC or a select number of qualified laboratories.

If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness within 14 days after travel from China, or have had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from China, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your recent travel or close contact. Your healthcare professional will work with your state's public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

All members of the Caltech community with personal health concerns related to COVID-19 should contact Student Wellness Services. While Student Wellness Services only provides medical care to students, our team is actively involved in assessing risk for all campus community members and is working closely with the Pasadena Public Health Department to determine next steps. In addition to notifying SWS, non-student community members should also contact their primary healthcare provider to obtain medical care if showing signs of illness.

What if I am not feeling well?

  • Stay home when you are sick. Do not report to work or attend classes if you are ill.
  • If you are ill, please know that it is highly likely that you have either a cold or the flu. The number of active influenza cases is currently very high, and over 10 million people in the U.S. have been sick with the flu this year. Please contact Student Wellness Services or your healthcare provider for assistance.

For medical emergencies: Call 911

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

Caltech employees and postdocs may utilize the Staff and Faculty Consultation Center. Please call (626) 395-8360.

Coronaviruses do not live very long on surfaces, so handling packages from China is considered to be very low risk. There has been no evidence to support the spread of the virus through imported goods.

The "Safer at Home" order from the County of Los Angeles allows the construction of commercial and institutional buildings to continue. Contractors on campus are following social distancing and preventative hygiene guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

Suppliers who need to conduct essential on-campus functions should do so in accordance withhealth professionals' guidance on social distancing, which includes:

  1. maintaining a distance of six feet (2 meters) per person,
  2. following preventative hygiene measures to the greatest extent possible,
  3. and wearing face coverings/masks when in close proximity to others and when entering spaces where they can contaminate surfaces.

In all cases, anyone who is ill should not come to campus.

Parking operations are still in effect at Caltech and regular parking fees still apply.

However, individuals that wish to cancel their parking permits may do one of the following:

1) Return the permit by mail to the address below

2) Return the permit in person to the Security office located in the Holliston Parking Garage (open 24 hours)

3) Send a picture of the destroyed permit (cut into at least 4 pieces with the permit number still visible) to: parking@caltech.edu

Parking fees will not be refunded. More information can be found on the Caltech Parking and Commuter Services webpage.