Summer Term Health Advisory

May 06, 2021

Dear Columbia community members,

Longer days, warmer temperatures, and increased vaccination uptake are a welcome turn as Columbia enters its summer term. While positive developments in the national effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in the easing of several public health restrictions, the worsening crises in other countries reminds us that we still have a long way to go before we can claim success.

This email contains important updates and reminders for keeping you and our community safe and healthy during this term and through the summer. For students who are newly arriving to campus this summer term, welcome, and please remember that Columbia Health is here to support your health and wellbeing, whether you are joining us on campus or virtually.

Updated mask guidance

The new CDC guidelines no longer require fully vaccinated individuals (considered to be two weeks after their final dose) to wear face coverings outdoors except in certain crowded settings and venues and indoors when gathering with other fully vaccinated individuals or one other unvaccinated household with no individual at high risk for complications of COVID-19.

Please note that vaccinated individuals may still choose to continue to wear a face covering/mask and physically distance outdoors. The choice to wear a mask should be respected with no assumptions about why an individual is observing masking or distancing in such circumstances. Learn more by reading the full CDC guidance for vaccinated individuals.

Please continue to practice the health and safety guidelines. Even with the easing of outdoor mask requirements for vaccinated individuals, everyone including those who are vaccinated must continue to practice protective behaviors to keep our community safe.

Get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can

Eligibility for and availability of the COVID-19 vaccine has rapidly expanded across the country in the past few weeks. We encourage everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible, in the location that is most convenient for you. Find an appointment at Columbia, in New York, or elsewhere in the country. If you are getting a two-dose vaccine, please complete your series at the same location.

If you have questions or concerns about getting the vaccine, particularly around side effects and allergic reactions, please speak to your primary care provider (staff and faculty) or with your Columbia Health Medical Services provider (students). You may also speak with the healthcare providers at the vaccine site prior to your vaccination. In addition, please see responses to frequently asked questions regarding vaccines on the Columbia COVID-19 website.

Next week, we will be sharing guidance with students on the documentation upload process for vaccination records in advance of the Fall COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students.

Keep getting tested

In partnership with the contact tracing program, Columbia has been able to contain the spread of COVID-19 in our community through our robust COVID-19 Testing Program. All Columbia faculty, staff, and students on campus must continue to participate in regular and random testing. They must also complete a daily symptom self-check on ReOpenCU and receive a green pass before they enter campus premises. As a reminder, especially for students, faculty and staff accessing the campus for the first time, Columbia requires all individuals coming to campus to receive a gateway test prior to accessing campus. You will receive a red pass on ReOpenCU if you have not completed this step.

Any affiliate can get tested voluntarily at the Columbia testing sites, granted they did not already receive a test that week. Testing centers at the Morningside and CUIMC campuses will remain open during normal business hours throughout the summer.

Quarantine as recommended

As of April 12, 2021, New York State no longer requires asymptomatic domestic travelers to test, quarantine, or furlough from work. Unvaccinated domestic travelers who have not recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months are recommended to test 3-5 days after arrival in New York, quarantine (7 days if tested on day 3-5 or 10 days without a test), and avoid people with higher risk for severe disease for 14 days. Asymptomatic international travelers are also not required to test, quarantine, or furlough from work, with some exceptions.

Regardless of vaccine status, returning domestic and international travelers must follow all other guidance including face coverings, hand washing, and physical distancing; immediately self-isolate if any symptoms of COVID-19 develop and report the symptoms to [email protected].

Travel safely

Spring travel restrictions remain in effect, however starting June 1, some international Columbia-related travel will be permitted for faculty, staff, and graduate students. Domestic Columbia-related travel will also be permitted for all groups but requires approval for students, both undergraduate and graduate. The University continues to urge community members to postpone international personal travel unless returning to their home country or for personal or medical emergencies.

Care for your well-being

We recognize the mental and emotional toll this pandemic has continued to exact on each of us. Continue to care for your physical health by taking advantage of telehealth services, in-person medical appointments if you are able to do so safely, and reach out to the resources below to care your mental health.

For students on the Morningside Campus, Columbia Health is here to support you, wherever you may find yourself living and studying this term. Visit the Coping Tools webpage for resources for coping with stress, anxiety, and other concerns due to COVID-19. In addition to individual virtual counseling sessions, Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) is offering more than 20 virtual support spaces open to students anywhere.

For Faculty and Staff, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a free, confidential resource available 24/7 that gives you the opportunity to speak with a licensed mental health professional, who can direct you to additional resources as needed.  

The CDC also has resources for taking care of your mental health during the pandemic.

Monitoring COVID-19 at Columbia

Visit the University COVID-19 website for the latest information about COVID-19 and the Columbia community.

The Columbia community has successfully weathered more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic in large part due to the hard work of all our essential workers who continued to do what is needed on campus and the continued commitment of everyone in the community to keep each other safe. We are grateful to be able to count on each of you to Keep the Compact and stay on track to enjoy a successful summer semester and welcome our community back to campus in the Fall.

With care for our community,

Melanie J Bernitz, MD, MPH, Senior Vice President, Columbia Health, and Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine (in the Center for Family and Community Medicine)