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Columbia is Back on Campus

Fall Update

UPDATE - 10/1 Residence Hall Restrictions

Due to COVID-19 positivity rates in our residential community, we are implementing temporary restrictions that will be in place until Friday, October 15. Contact tracing indicates transmission is not occurring in the classroom. Instead, testing and tracing indicates that the main cause is students socializing unmasked at gatherings in residence halls and at off-campus apartments, bars and restaurants.

Review these restrictions carefully to help us slow COVID-19 transmission, and move our community to green.


Columbia faculty, students and staff have returned to campus and are required to participate in the University’s COVID-19 protocols for public health. These include mandatory vaccination, daily symptom checks/attestations, surveillance testing, indoor masking when required and adherence to capacity limits for events and programs, amongst other precautions. Our goal is to ensure a healthy community, while also nurturing the academic and social aspects of a vibrant undergraduate student life.

Those who are fully vaccinated are required to participate in random surveillance testing or if COVID-19 is detected in their residential hall wastewater; those who have been exempted from vaccination are required to test weekly. The University COVID-19 web resource has more details about the fall testing program at Columbia. 

Mandatory vaccinations and public health protocols cannot fully guarantee a COVID-19 free community. Columbia has developed a comprehensive plan for managing contact tracing, and isolation and recovery for those who test positive or are deemed close contacts.

Is Columbia requiring the vaccine for everyone?

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory for all University students, faculty, and staff—this includes officers of instruction, officers of research, officers of the libraries, student officers, officers of administration, union and non-union support staff. Documentation of vaccination, or approved medical or religious exemption, was required by mid-August.

International students unable to access the vaccine in their home regions have been provided the opportunity to quarantine upon arrival, and then become fully vaccinated at Columbia.

What else is Columbia doing to keep faculty, students and staff safe?

While the vaccine is the single most important tool for fighting serious infection or transmission of COVID-19, there are additional measures that also help to keep the community safe, including:

  • Upholding the Columbia Community Health Compact is required for all community members on or accessing campus; student accountability will be monitored and violations of the compact are managed through the Dean’s Discipline process at each school.

  • Surveillance testing allows Columbia to monitor infection rates within our community. 
    • A random weekly sample of the population on or accessing campus (increasing to 25% through 10/15/21) is notified by email and required to test within two weeks, so that the status of the epidemic and other virologic and epidemiological data is captured.
    • Wastewater surveillance monitors undergraduate residential buildings on campus to detect the presence of COVID-19; if detected, all residents must test within 48 hours.
  • Daily attestations require everyone who is on or accessing campus to complete a symptom check before they can access any facilities. The attestation is completed through the ReopenCU app and students who have completed all requirements will receive a Green Pass that they can display to gain entrance into buildings and facilities.

  • Face covering and physical distancing requirements follow the University's COVID-19 Risk Assessment and Management plan – currently Low Risk (yellow). 
    • While indoors, both on and off-campus, face coverings are required at all times for vaccinated and unvaccinated persons, and physical distancing should be maintained by unvaccinated persons if feasible.
    • While outdoors, vaccinated persons are not required to mask or distance, and unvaccinated persons are required to mask and physically distance if feasible. 
  • Cleanliness is maintained through a robust cleaning and disinfecting program that meets–and in some areas exceeds–standards issued by the CDC, New York State Department of Health, and OSHA, with a strong focus on frequently touched surfaces. The CDC has concluded that in most situations, the risk of infection from touching a surface is low, and the most reliable way to prevent infection from surfaces is to regularly wash hands or use hand sanitizer

  • Temporary residency restrictions: As of Friday, October 1st at 5:00pm, the following temporary restrictions will remain in place for the residential community for a two-week period, at which time they will be re-evaluated to determine if they can be lifted or must continue. To slow the transmission of COVID-19 in social settings:​
    • Residential students will be able to sign in and host one undergraduate guest.
      • Guests must be a Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, Barnard or General Studies student, with an active CUID and GreenPass.
      • Only one guest is allowed at a time.
      • Guests may only visit their host’s room or suite.
      • The total number of guests in a room or suite shall not exceed double the assigned occupancy.
    • Social and extracurricular gatherings will return to the low risk (yellow) indoor limit of 25 people, masked, for Columbia College and Columbia Engineering students.
    • Students will only be able to swipe into their assigned residency hall.
    • Commuter access to residence halls will not be allowed, unless signed in as the guest of a resident.
  •  Travel continues to be limited or strongly discouraged in order to reduce the risk of external transmission into the Columbia community.  Travel policies can be found on the COVID-19 website.

What is an acceptable face covering?

Acceptable face coverings include:

  • Cloth masks that contain at least 2 layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric that provide an acceptable level of protection and block light when held up to a light source (bandanas and single-layer gaiters do not meet these requirements and should not be worn)

  • Surgical or medical procedure masks that contain multiple layers of non-woven material

Should students wear face coverings in the classroom?

Faculty and instructional staff may teach with or without face covering, even during the indoor face covering mandate, which may change based on the COVID-19 Monitoring Plan. If a faculty member or instructional staff chooses to teach without a face covering, they must maintain 6 feet of distance from the students. The faculty member must then use a face covering upon completion of the classroom instruction. 

When indoor masks are required, students should always be wearing face coverings during in-person instruction.

How does the daily symptom check (attestation) work?

All students on or accessing campus must complete a daily symptom check prior to accessing campus facilities.

Students will access the daily attestation via the the ReopenCU app on their phone, log in, complete the daily symptom check, and click Submit to generate a GreenPass that they can display in order to enter buildings on campus.

Reopen CU app
 

What happens if a student tests positive for COVID-19?

If a student tests positive for COVID-19 through the Columbia Testing Program, they will receive a call from Columbia Health. The healthcare provider will share guidance about next steps for isolation and ongoing care. This includes updating their attestation on the ReopenCU app and beginning an immediate mandatory isolation period in a designated building different from their assigned residence hall, or a local hotel. They will be supported by Columbia Health, their school, Columbia Dining, the Core office and advising, and other offices during the entirety of their isolation.

Columbia will also initiate a contact tracing process following the guidelines of New York State and the CDC. They will interview the individual who tested positive to gather information about who to trace and then will initiate outreach to all contacts.

How does contract tracing work?

Columbia University has established a comprehensive Contact Tracing Program consistent with CDC and New York State protocols to trace the contacts of an individual testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The Columbia Contact Tracing Program’s goal is to assist in conducting contact tracing for all COVID-19 cases identified among Columbia affiliates through the Columbia testing program, or as reported to the University through the symptom attestation process.

Columbia will interview the individual who tested positive within 24 hours,  gather information about who to trace, and then initiate outreach to all contacts. Contacts who are not fully vaccinated will be required to quarantine for 10 days after their last exposure.  Contacts who are vaccinated and asymptomatic will not need to quarantine but must wear a mask and be tested within 3-5 days of exposure.

More information on how the contact tracing program works can be found on the COVID-19 website. 

Where will a positive student isolate and what support will they receive?

Students that test positive for COVID-19 will be asked to isolate in specially designated residence halls that differ from their assigned residence hall. They will have access to a variety of support staff, ensuring they can isolate comfortably for the mandatory 10 day period.

In order to maintain the health and safety of students, staff and faculty, students who are in isolation or quarantine may not attend class. Student absences relating to COVID-19 will be recognized as circumstances for which absences are excused and students will not be penalized. Information about how students can manage in-person instruction during their period of isolation can be found on the University’s COVID-19 website under “Attendance Policies and Missed Classes.”

Can a student continue to take classes while in isolation?

Students must inform their instructor that they will be unable to attend in-person classes for medical reasons. The student may decide to share the reason for the absence, but they are not required to do so. 

Students should then work with their instructors to develop a plan to receive instruction and complete course related work. Instructors are expected to make reasonable accommodations for students who miss classes, assignments or exams due to necessary quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19 exposure or illness. More information on how students can manage in-person instruction during isolation can be found on the University’s COVID-19 website under “Attendance Policies and Missed Classes.”

Will someone from Columbia be checking in with students during their isolation period?

Columbia Health will check-in daily with students in isolation.  Residential Life staff will connect with students as they relocate into isolation housing to determine anticipated needs.

How can I see how Columbia’s community is doing in terms of COVID-19 positivity rates?

At the bottom of this page, Columbia lists the weekly testing results for the community.

How will dining work during the fall semester?

​​Outdoor eating and dining are preferred over indoor eating and dining in all cases. Vaccinated individuals are not required to distance, while unvaccinated individuals are required to distance (6 feet apart).

When eating indoors, students are required to show proof of vaccination, separate from the Green Pass, at the below campus dining locations:

  • John Jay Dining Hall
  • JJ’s Place
  • Faculty House
  • CUIMC Faculty Club
  • Café 212
  • Joe Coffee locations on campus
  • Nous Espresso Bar
  • Brownie’s Café
  • Uris Deli

This is part of the Mayor’s Emergency Executive Order, the “Key to NYC" program, which requires Columbia to check proof of vaccination and identification in indoor venues such as dining, fitness and recreation or arts centers.

Where can students gather and socialize while adhering to Columbia’s public health guidelines?

Information about safe gathering spaces, including tents, open spaces and dining venues, can be found on the COVID-19 website.