Update on COVID Campus Safety and the Upcoming Holidays

Uncertainty remains as we look ahead. And that is why, when it comes to our campus COVID policies, we have adopted a watchful stance for the remainder of this term.

November 22, 2021

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

We write today to update you about our ongoing efforts to keep our campus safe and to look ahead to the upcoming holidays. No doubt, the last twenty months have created many challenges for us in our work and personal lives. At the same time, we applaud your commitment to the safety of our community. Unfortunately, with the colder weather already impacting certain regions of the country, motivating more indoor activities and gatherings, we are seeing concerning increases in COVID-19 cases and test positivity, including in New York. This may very well be our “new normal” as activities, including most dining and socializing, move inside over the next few months, and we see an anticipated increase in both domestic and international travel. Despite vaccines and new treatments representing remarkably positive developments in confronting COVID, especially in its most serious forms, uncertainty remains as we look ahead. And that is why, when it comes to our campus COVID policies, we have adopted a watchful stance for the remainder of this term.

Unlike the surge of cases of a year ago, the 99.9% vaccinated status of our Columbia affiliates, as well as the high vaccination coverage overall in our City, should serve us well. As one of the first universities to adopt a vaccination mandate, we should be proud of this powerful expression of care for each other and our community. Thanks to the vaccine mandate, along with our ongoing indoor face covering and other safety protocols, we have much to celebrate in terms of our successful and safe return to campus and our ability to restore nearly all academic, research and service activities, as well as many social activities, including athletic events. We will continue to support these activities throughout the rest of this year, while looking for ways to fine-tune our policies to maximize safety and convenience for our community.

The ability of our affiliates to gather together has been expanded, offering opportunities for reconnecting and activating many of the extra-curricular activities. With the holidays approaching, further modifications have been approved, as we know you want to gather with colleagues in celebration of this year. Tomorrow we will publish new guidelines on dining and gatherings on the COVID-19 website.

In the coming days, you may be embarking on travel to celebrate with friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday. For your convenience we are providing you with the CDC guidelines on safe travel. In the interest of keeping you and your loved ones safe, we encourage pre- and or post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 testing. For pre-travel testing, testing is available throughout the metropolitan area, and our Columbia testing sites are open at our two locations through close of business on Tuesday, November 23rd. Columbia sites will reopen on Monday, November 29th for post-travel testing, as needed. As you prepare for travel at the end of December, we will continue this pre- and post-travel testing.

Many of you have also asked how the Spring 2022 term will be different. The process of assessing our COVID policies for the upcoming term is underway now, and we expect to announce details over the course of the next several weeks. Our guidance will depend on the prevailing status of the pandemic as well as projections for what to anticipate in the Spring term. The anticipated Thanksgiving and other holiday festivities and the onset of cold weather will reveal much about our resiliency—and by extension, our capacity to loosen the COVID-19 control measures currently in place.

More time indoors where COVID can be more easily transmitted means we must stay vigilant. But we can also be hopeful. In that spirit, we are striving to establish policies that mitigate risk to the greatest extent possible, while facilitating the restoration of our campus community to its fullest form.

Thank you for your continued support and patience.

Donna Lynne
Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, CUIMC
University COVID Director

Gerry Rosberg
Senior Executive Vice President