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Social Distancing FAQ

Updated March 27, 2020

Only employees involved in essential functions should report to work. Essential functions include: distance learning and the operation of student housing and dining facilities; custodial, security, payroll, and student wellness services; and the maintenance and management of laboratories and facilities with unique agents and equipment.

Individuals responsible for essential support functions already should have been identified and informed by their managers or supervisors of continuing responsibilities.

Those employees who will need to conduct these essential on-campus functions should do so in accordance with health professionals' guidance on social distancing, which includes maintaining a distance of six feet per person, staggering personnel schedules, and following preventative hygiene measures to the greatest extent possible.

Those employees who can do their work from home must do so at this time. If you are unsure about your options or the transferability of your tasks to a remote location, please consult with your manager. Guidance for remote work is available on Caltech's telecommuting website.

If your work functions ordinarily require you to report to campus, but are not identified as essential services, please do not report to campus. The Institute has committed to continue to pay all full-time and part-time benefits eligible employees at their current base rate of pay.

Yes. The Institute has committed to continue to pay all full-time and part-time benefits-eligible employees at the current base rate of pay even if their work cannot be done remotely or if their skillset is not deployable to serve another function during this time. We will continue to review this on a regular basis and communicate any changes. Further details can be found on the HR website.

Graduate student stipends will continue to be paid and will not need to use their 10 days of vacation time if they are ill or working from home.

The last physical pickups of paychecks at Mail Services will be on Friday, March 20 (for biweekly) and Thursday, March 26 (for monthly), from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m..

After April 1, physical checks will be mailed to the address on file. In order to avoid potential delays in delivery of your paycheck, we strongly encourage you to switch to direct deposit or update your mailing address to an offsite location.

Graduate housing remains open, as well as critical Institute services to support graduate students (dining, wellness, Graduate Studies Office). Please note that some of those services may be curtailed as dictated by staffing limitations.

The Institute's policy, as communicated on March 16 and 18, is that only essential research may continue and division chairs must approve any continuing work in the laboratory. Routine continuation of research activities does not qualify as an essential research operation.

All heads of laboratories and research units are evaluating their continuity plans and identifying critical operations that require human, in-person support for maintenance and preservation. Information on critical operations should be communicated immediately to the Division Chairs.

A critical project is one that involves time-sensitive experiments that cannot be easily repeated, or those whose research experiments that would suffer irreversible loss if abandoned. New projects are not considered critical projects; these should be postponed until after the closure. More details can be found on the Office of Research Compliance website.

Graduate students should work remotely to the extent possible, unless they are involved in an essential research function. All lab meetings should be conducted via teleconference, Zoom, or other virtual tool. Lab group members and administrators should use electronic communication whenever possible to order supplies, reconcile reports, and accomplish other crucial administrative functions, practicing appropriate hygiene and social distancing when picking up and dropping off materials.

If a graduate student has an essential role in a critical research function or in work that is at a critical stage in the laboratory, accommodations should be made to conduct those essential functions in a manner consistent with social distancing while maintaining laboratory and experimental safety protocols. For example, labs should minimize the number of people in a space while still adhering to relevant safety protocols that may require supervision or a buddy system.

If possible, graduate students should focus on reading and writing papers, data analysis, preparing for candidacy or thesis defenses, and any other activities that do not involve close contact with others.

The schedules of everyone who must be in a lab or shared office space should be staggered as much as possible, and everyone should work remotely whenever possible to reduce person-to-person contact. Maintain 6 feet (2 meters) of distance from other people.

Always practice good hygiene and follow recommendations of the CDC, especially when using shared instrumentation and resources.

In all cases, anyone who is ill should stay home and not come to campus. In the event of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, notify the Institute (students should notify Student Wellness Services; faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellows should notify Human Resources). Follow self-isolation instructions.

Notify supervisors, Environmental Health and Safety, and/or Student Wellness Services immediately if you believe that you or someone in your group has been exposed to COVID-19. In the event of a diagnosed case of COVID-19, laboratories, offices, and other impacted spaces will be closed for cleaning and prepared for re-occupancy.

Employees can access additional information and resources related to wellness, assessment, self-care, and more at the Staff and Faculty Consultation Center website.

Participants in the Anthem High-Deductible Plans (HDHP 1400 and HDHP 2800) and the Anthem HMO Planhave online access to physicians 24 hours a day through Anthem's LiveHealth Online website, livehealthonline.com

  • Anthem High-Deductible Plan participants (HDHP 1400 & HDHP 2800) will be charged $59 per visit to see a physician for medical care until their 2020 deductible has been met, after which they will not be charged for LiveHealth Online medical services.
  • Anthem HMO participants can access LiveHealth Online medical services at no cost. There is a separate fee schedule for psychological services offered through LiveHealth Online.

Kaiser HMO plan participants can access Kaiser's Telehealth service at no charge. Members can contact Kaiser's appointment desk at (833) 574-2273; and a representative will work with the member to determine if the medical need is best met through an in-person appointment, a call-back by the doctor, or Telehealth.

Employees can access additional information and resources related to wellness, assessment, self-care, and more at the Staff and Faculty Consultation Center website.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the benefits office via e-mail at hrbenefits@caltech.edu and a benefits representative will promptly contact you.

Undergraduate students who feel they need to access campus facilities should contact the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for permission to enter campus per the March 20, 2020 letter. Exceptions to this are students who are picking up food at Chandler, using the ATM machines at Spalding or outside Chandler, or using the campus grounds for exercise.

As an open campus, it is not possible for Caltech to completely restrict or regulate entry to the campus grounds. We ask that all individuals who come onto campus practice appropriate hygiene and "social distancing" and that they do not congregate in any locations.

Access to campus buildings is restricted to essential staff and faculty who are approved by their supervisors to be on campus and have been given "essential personnel" letters. The only students who are allowed access to the academic buildings are graduate students who have been designated "essential personnel" in order to provide essential maintenance or critical monitoring of laboratories. Only the undergraduate students residing in Bechtel may enter Bechtel, all other undergraduate residences are closed and off limits. Only graduate students residing in Braun, the Catalina Apartments or off campus housing should be in those units.