Meals and Gatherings/Events Guidance

In addition to the policy outlined below, Columbia-related non-academic gatherings on and off campus are prohibited until the end of January.

  • In all dining halls, only grab-and-go food will be available for the first week of the undergraduate return beginning January 18.
  • All affiliates are strongly urged to avoid indoor social gatherings wherever they are located, unless aware of vaccination and testing status of all attendees. Masking in these locations is also strongly recommended as well as in crowded outdoor social gatherings.
  • Masking indoors at Columbia will continue through March 31, and we urge wearing of masks indoors in all public settings as well as in crowded settings when outdoors.
  • Columbia athletic events will permit no fans for the first two weeks of January.

As we approach the winter months, we recognize that weather poses challenges for our current policies that predominately encourage and support only outdoor eating and limited gatherings.  However, on the positive side, our on-campus University faculty, staff, and students have achieved a 99.99% rate of vaccination compliance, and we continue to see extremely low rates of COVID-19 positive cases through our internal and external testing, allowing us to provide more flexibility, effective November 29, regarding indoor eating and drinking. 

At the same time, we are carefully monitoring changes in public health conditions on the campus and in the surrounding community, especially as we note more congregating indoors due to colder weather, coupled with risks associated with the travel and various holiday gatherings that accompany the Thanksgiving and December holidays. Despite nearly universal vaccination on the campus, infections can still occur, including among vaccinated individuals, with some people at higher risk than others.


The mayor’s emergency Key to NYC program, requires the university to post this sign or a similar one in a conspicuous place that is viewable by prospective patrons prior to entering certain indoor entertainment, recreation, food services, gym, and fitness premises where vaccines are now required. The sign alerts patrons to the vaccination requirement and informs them that employees and patrons are required to be vaccinated. Columbia affiliates should be advised that a green pass does not meet the Key to NYC requirements and individuals with approved religious or medical exemptions cannot access these specific facilities.


Two types of guidance are provided in this update: eating on and off campus in private or in small groups and eating at gatherings/events.

1. Eating On and Off Campus in Private or in Small Groups

Vaccinated individuals may eat indoors with small groupings of students or colleagues, on or off campus. It is important to keep the time without masks as short as possible. Masks should be lowered when eating or drinking and put back on between bites and during conversations. They should be replaced when a meal is finished. Distancing as much as possible is also encouraged. 

Unvaccinated individuals must maintain six-foot distancing if eating and minimize time without masking.  

Individuals should always attempt to take food to a separate location where distancing is feasible so as to protect themselves and others who are at higher risk or who are uncomfortable with eating without distancing.

2. Eating at Gatherings and Events

As more and more in-person Columbia activities are planned, event organizers should ensure their events are planned and conducted in compliance with current University guidelines.  These guidelines apply to all events hosted on or off-campus such as academic, research and administrative events, as well as to social and extracurricular ones, including holiday gatherings.

Small gatherings—defined as 25 or less—will be subject to the same considerations as in No. 1 above.

Events with more than 25 persons must be approved via the Request for Exception form. Food for such events is limited to grab-and-go. Beverages are permitted to complement the event, as needed, while masking is required at all times.

For CUID-only Events

  • No capacity threshold
  • Green Pass required
  • Masks required indoors
  • Meals may be served consistent with the guidelines in #1, if 25 or fewer persons in attendance
  • Meals must be grab-and-go, if group of more than 25 persons

For Events with Non-CUID Guests

  • Non-CUID guests are not allowed without prior approval
  • If approved, proof of vaccination for non-CUID guests is required
  • ID information from non-CUID attendees is needed for contact tracing purposes
  • Green Pass required for CUID
  • Masks required indoors
  • Grab-and-go food and beverages only where non-affiliates are present, irrespective of gathering size

Please note that off-campus events and gatherings sponsored by Columbia are subject to the same considerations, restrictions, and approvals as those on campus, and CUID attendees must be compliant with the Columbia Community Health Compact.

These campus policies for COVID safety continue until further notice:

  • Events and gatherings with non-CUID holder visitors are restricted and require approval
  • Green Pass and daily attestation are required for CUID holders
  • Non-CUID visitors must show proof of vaccination
  • Surveillance testing for Columbia affiliates
  • Weekly testing for unvaccinated individuals with approved vaccination exemptions
  • Isolation of COVID-19 cases and extensive contact tracing in the event of a positive case with appropriate management of cases and close contacts