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Caltech COVID-19 Cases, Testing, and Tracing

Updated September 25, 2020 at 2:09 p.m. PDT

The information on this page provides frequent updates (weekdays by 2 p.m. PDT) on total known cases of COVID-19 within the campus community, dating back to March 2020. This information reflects both individuals tested at Caltech and those who self-reported test results obtained elsewhere. You may also opt-in to receive timely email notifications of new positive COVID-19 cases among members of the campus community.

Please note that not all confirmed COVID-19 cases in our community involve individuals who have been present on campus. In the instance that an individual with a confirmed case has accessed the campus or Caltech-managed facilities, the Institute will initiate contact-tracing procedures, provide instructions for isolation and quarantine, and offer guidance on testing of individuals identified as close contacts.


This table is intended to inform the Caltech community about known cases of COVID-19 within our community in a manner that is respectful of individuals' privacy and wellbeing and in alignment with public health guidance. Updated counts will continue to be provided in the chart every weekday by 2 p.m. PDT. A date stamp at the top of the page will clearly indicate when the information was last updated. This chart will be updated as Student Wellness Services (SWS) receives reports of positive tests from community members, even if their illness occurred more than 14 days ago.

Individuals who report symptoms of illness will be contacted by a medical professional from the COVID-19 management team, and any identified close contacts will be informed about potential exposure and provided with appropriate instructions. (See "Contact Tracing" below.)

In any instance where the potential for exposure is determined or believed to extend beyond those identified as close contacts, the Institute will send an update to those community members who may share public spaces on campus and building spaces with the affected individual, and, if warranted, to the broader campus community.

Workspaces and other indoor areas accessed by the ill individual will be promptly cleaned and disinfected by Caltech Facilities staff or as specified in individual laboratory protocols.

Case Update Log

This section provides information on confirmed COVID-19 cases known to Caltech. The cases represent both individuals who were tested at Caltech and those who reported off-campus test results to the Institute. Whether each individual was on campus or at a Caltech-managed facility at the time of, or immediately preceding, testing is noted below.

In accordance with public health protocols and the Institute's guidelines for responding to a reported or suspected illness, anyone from within the Caltech community who is identified to have been at risk for exposure from one of these individuals has been or will be notified with specific directions for quarantining, self-monitoring, and testing.

Individual health information is confidential; all members of the community must respect those privacy rights.

Reported Cases (organized by the day the case was reported to Caltech)

July 31: Campus employee; last on campus on July 28.

July 30: Children's Center at Caltech employee; last reported to campus on July 27

July 28: Three campus employees: one last on campus on July 21, the second was on campus on July 27*, and the third has not been on campus since July 10; this person developed symptoms while completing a quarantine period after an off-campus exposure.

*This individual was later determined to be a false positive.

July 26: Campus employee; last on campus on July 20.

July 21: Campus employee; last on campus on July 20.

July 20: Campus employee; last on campus on July 13.

July 14: Campus employee; last on campus on July 10.

July 12: Campus employee; last on campus on July 8.

July 10: Campus employee reports a positive COVID-19 result from mid-June; last on campus in March.

July 7: Campus employee; last on campus on June 26.

July 6: Campus employee; last on campus on July 2.

June 29: Campus employee; last on campus in mid-March.

June 9: Campus employee; last on campus on May 28.

April 23: Graduate student in non-Caltech housing; last on campus in mid-March.

April 11: Family member of a graduate student in Caltech family housing; no direct contact with campus.


As of mid-August 2020, Caltech now provides COVID-19 testing for all members of the community (faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars, and students) through Student Wellness Services (SWS). Individuals who are ill, are identified as a close contact of an ill person, have had known exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19, or who otherwise have participated in activities that present an elevated risk for exposure may be eligible for testing, and should contact Student Wellness Services by phone (626-395-6393, Monday-Friday, 8am–5pm), so that a medical provider can evaluate your situation and provide you with further instructions.

Individuals experiencing COVID-like symptoms should promptly report the illness through the Caltech COVID-19 Reporting App. A member of the medical staff will follow up, evaluate the individual's situation, and provide further instructions. In general, test results are available within 24-48 hours, and provided at no cost to the individual.

Individuals who do not have specific risk factors for exposure to COVID-19 may be referred to testing through primary care providers or other testing resources in the community.

All incoming graduate students will be tested upon arrival, and required to quarantine for seven days. At the end of the quarantine period, each student will be retested, and on confirmation of a negative result will be moved to their permanent housing assignment.

The Institute continues to explore approaches to surveillance testing, and is currently evaluating both epidemiologically-informed models for sampling community members as well as emerging technologies and ongoing developments in the testing landscape.

Student Wellness Services ordered several point-of-care, rapid result instruments for COVID-19 testing; supply of these instruments has been directed to critical care settings, delaying the arrival to our campus. We will continue to pursue additional options and deploy this technology as soon as it is available.

The counts recorded below reflect only testing done through SWS.

COVID-19 Tests Performed by Student Wellness Services

Campus Population Positive Negative Pending Total
Students 2 405 9 416
Staff 1 448 24 473


In accordance with public health guidelines and patient privacy rules, broadly distributed positive case notifications include the Caltech affiliation of an ill individual (faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholar, students) and the date they last accessed campus.

The contact tracing process identifies close contacts (those who spend 15 minutes or more, within six feet) and evaluates each situation to determine whether additional notifications to potentially impacted individuals are indicated. The Caltech COVID-19 Reporting App, tracing interviews, and card swipe data are used to facilitate this process. Individuals who are determined to be close contacts will receive a phone call from the contact tracing team, offered COVID-19 testing, and provided instructions for quarantine.

More specific information related to the rooms a COVID-19 positive person accessed is provided to the division leadership, operation officers, principal investigators, and custodial services for the purpose of facilitating cleaning and disinfection, and managing business operations.

The Institute's required risk mitigation protocols, which include requirements for reduced density on campus and in laboratories, maintaining physical distance, the use of face coverings, practicing preventative hygiene and frequent sanitizing, and remote work, as well as following isolation and quarantine practices, are the most effective measures for mitigating the risk of disease transmission.

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Below are resources and information on the protocols and processes that will be initiated when a member of the campus community becomes ill or tests positive, or when there is an identified exposure to illness consistent with symptoms of COVID-19.

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If a student becomes ill and COVID-19 is suspected after medical evaluation, or a student has a positive test for COVID-19, Student Wellness Services will initiate the transfer of the ill student to Avery House to implement appropriate isolation measures. The table below indicates how many students have been transferred to Avery so far.

Isolation of ill individuals is initiated to reduce or eliminate contact between an ill person and others to reduce the spread of illness, while quarantine of exposed (but not sick) individuals is intended to prevent potential spread while testing to see whether the exposed individuals in fact have COVID-19. Please note that isolation or quarantine in Avery does not necessarily indicate a positive COVID-19 case; students exhibiting symptoms may be transferred to Avery while they await test results.

Graduate students arriving at Caltech to live in student housing during fall term are required to undergo a COVID-19 test, then quarantine for a minimum of one week, and then undergo a retest. After a negative test following the quarantine, they will move into their student housing assignment. Quarantined students will be provided with meals and supportive services during their stay.

Students in Avery

Current Total
Isolation 1 8
Quarantine 1 6

Students in Bechtel

Current Total
Isolation 0 0
Quarantine 13 94

Students in the Catalinas

Current Total
Isolation 0 0
Quarantine 0 21

Avery House has been prepared to accommodate ill students for the duration of their illness and isolation period per the guidelines put forward by public health authorities. While in some cases students will be able to isolate in their current housing assignments, the congregate nature of our residential community, particularly multi-room Catalina apartments and undergraduate residences, makes a separate housing arrangement a necessary step to help prevent spread of disease. Students in isolation will be provided meals, medical care, and supportive resources.

Students in residence who are determined to be close contacts of an ill individual will be relocated to quarantine space in the undergraduate South Houses if they are unable to effectively quarantine in their primary housing assignment. Students in quarantine will be provided meals, instructions for monitoring of symptoms, and supportive resources.

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