Coronavirus Isolation Guide for Students
How to Isolate: A Guide for Morningside and Manhattanville Students
If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you will be asked to isolate for a minimum of 5 days before returning to work or class. You may also be asked to isolate while awaiting test results. Columbia University is here to support you as you navigate this period of uncertainty. Please work directly with your school's leadership on academic and research continuity.
Hearing that you need to isolate and disconnect from others may be disconcerting, but the goal is to ensure that you are healthy, while also protecting others from exposure to illness.
What to have on hand
Most people may isolate in their own room or residence; others may need to relocate. During this time, you will want to have enough clean clothes for at least 5 days, as well as a pillow and blanket, your cell phone, and laptop. You’ll also need a toiletry kit, eyewear, a thermometer, over-the-counter fever reducing medications, and any prescription and nonprescription medications.
Your self-care kit
Be prepared with a self-care kit that contains:
- Digital thermometer (for daily use)
- Hand sanitizer (for times you can’t wash)
- Alcohol wipes (for cleaning, as needed)
- Water bottle (stay hydrated!)
- Temperature and symptom log
What to watch for
Symptoms related to COVID-19 include:
- Fever (above 100.4°F)
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia and other complications, especially for older individuals and those with other health conditions.
Monitoring your symptoms during isolation
Please take your temperature twice daily and record your symptoms on the health log. If you develop symptoms or need medical triage/help while in isolation, please call Columbia Health at 212-854-7426. A nurse will determine if you should leave the premises to seek medical attention. A Medical Services provider will check in with you each day and will let you know when you no longer need to remain in isolation.
While you're in isolation
Remain at home for the entire period. This means:
- Do not go out, except when recommended by a medical professional.
- Residential undergraduates: Please refer to guidelines from the Undergraduate Student Life.
- Do not use public transportation.
- Maintain distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others.
- If sharing a bathroom, the person who is isolating should clean and disinfect the frequently touched surfaces in the bathroom after each use.
Communication with family
Your personal health information is confidential. You will need to sign a release before our staff will be able to speak with your parents or other family members or friends.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations that require changes in location or behavior. When you’re out of circulation, you may experience a range of feelings, including:
- Anxiety, worry, or fear related to your health status or that of others
- Anger or resentment at the inconvenience
- Worry about not having your things with you or not doing your usual routine
- Uncertainty or concern about how long you will need to remain in this situation
- Excitement to have some alone time to rest and catch up on reading
- Loneliness or feeling cut off
- Boredom and frustration
- Sadness or depression
- Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
Please contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) at 212-854-2878 if you need immediate counseling care. A provider is available to speak with you over the phone 24/7.
Public Health Terminology
When communicable infections circulate, communities try to reduce the spread in several ways, depending on the severity of the illness, the ease of transmission, and the local and national policies of the time. Often, more than one method is employed during an outbreak.
Isolation prevents the spread of an infectious disease by separating people who are already sick from those who are not. It lasts as long as the disease is contagious.
Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. Quarantines are typically used for individuals who are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19—particularly those who have had close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 without using recommended precautions for caregivers.
Social or physical distancing means avoiding crowds and public transportation (e.g., bus, subway, taxi, ride share), and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others.
Contact Information for Support
You are a valued member of the Columbia community, and your health and well-being are important to us.
Columbia Health is here to assist you if you need help.
- Medical Services: 212-854-7426 (available 24/7)
- Counseling & Psychological Services: 212-854-2878 (available 24/7)