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Information for Patients

COVID-19 is a new coronavirus, which originated in China in December 2019, and has since infected more than 550,000 people in 176 countries or territories and caused more than 25,000 deaths.  The World Health Organization has designated COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Columbia University Irving Medical Center is one of the world’s leading centers for the study of emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19.  Our researchers are already working to develop antiviral drugs to fight the disease and rapid test kits to help diagnose people in the early stages of infection.

Our physicians and clinical staff began screening all patients for COVID-19 in late January, and we are well prepared to identify and care for patients who have been infected and have become ill. 

Please note that beginning March 16th, all elective CUIMC and NYP procedures – inpatient and outpatient – have been suspended until further notice. All non-urgent ambulatory and outpatient visits have also been canceled, with as many as possible converted to video (telemedicine) visits. Your doctor's office will be calling you with this information. 

If you are a patient at CUIMC, you may be able to see your doctor through a virtual visit rather than an in-person one; if you are interested and have not yet heard from your doctor's office, please reach out to the office directly to see how you might schedule your next appointment as a virtual visit. Learn more about virtual visits.


The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC and other public health experts recommend everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Above all, practice proper social distancing. That means avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people; suspending discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits; and engaging in work, school, and other activities from home wherever possible.
  • Stay home, especially when you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with others. Maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others when in public.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.  
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask: Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. CDC also recommends the use of cloth face coverings for everyone, even those without symptoms, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.


Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, chills, and/or loss of taste or smell. These symptoms may be similar to the flu or the common cold. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia and other complications, especially in older individuals and those with underlying health conditions.

Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure. For more on signs and symptoms, see this reference guide by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Seeking Medical Care

If you have symptoms, have been in close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19, and have any other factors that relate to COVID risk (e.g. advanced age, COPD, cardiac disease, cancer, or an immunocompromising condition), call your primary care provider or visit the emergency room if you do not have a primary care provider. You may also contact one of our practices or fever and cough clinics to have an agent schedule a video visit with a physician. Your provider will determine if you need COVID-19 testing.

  • CUMC/Harkness Pavilion: (212) 305-5376
  • ColumbiaDoctors Morningside: (212) 305-2001
  • Fever and Cough Clinics: (646) 697-4747

Before you go to the doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and let them know of your symptoms and any other factors that relate to COVID risk (age, COPD, cardiac disease, cancer, or immunocompromising condition). Wear a mask if you need to leave your home when you are sick. At CUIMC, we are requesting 100% compliance with an expanded personal protective equipment policy that requires patients and their guests to don surgical masks upon arrival at ColumbiaDoctors clinical practices. Exceptions may be considered on an extremely limited basis.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has additional information for specific groups, including pregnant women and children.

Fever and Cough Clinic

As of March 23rd, Columbia University healthcare providers can refer patients to a Fever and Cough Clinic for COVID-19 testing when clinically warranted.  The clinic is located in the Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) in Washington Heights. Patients cannot access the clinic without a referral from a Columbia University healthcare provider.

The fever and cough clinic is available to patients who have first been screened (either by phone or via Telehealth) by one of Columbia University’s healthcare providers, and who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat).

The clinic is located at the ColumbiaDoctors Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Group location at 516 West 168th street. 

Please see the following questions and answers for more information.

1. What can I expect at the appointment?

During your visit, a clinician will confirm your history, conduct a physical exam as needed, and obtain appropriate lab tests. These may include a nasal swab to test for COVID-19. At this time, guidelines limit COVID-19 testing to patients whom providers determine need hospitalization, however, the guidelines may change in the days ahead allowing for broader testing.

Patients will also receive instructions about how to stay safe, and keep others safe while you recover, with sensible guidance such as social distancing and self-quarantining.

2. Should I wear a mask to the appointment?

During your clinic visit, we kindly request that you wear a mask, if one is available to you, or one will be provided to you when you arrive at your appointment.

3. How will I get the results of my visit?

If you have a Connect patient portal account, test results will be posted in your account.  For those without a Connect account, your results will be delivered by phone or mail.  COVID-19 test results will be delivered within one business day. A copy of the results will also be sent to the clinician who referred you to our clinic.

4. Can I bring someone with me to the appointment?

Patients can bring one family member, friend or caregiver with them. Please do not bring anyone experiencing respiratory symptoms, and please practice social distancing if possible.

5. Is there a cost?

A bill will be submitted to the patient's insurance carrier. Co-pays are waived.

The clinic is ADA accessible.

The address for the Washington Heights fever and cough clinic is 516 W. 168th St., New York, NY 10032.

Visitor Policy

The health and safety of our patients, doctors, and staff are a top priority at Columbia. In response to the spread of COVID-19 and in line with the latest guidance from the New York State Department of Health, we are temporarily revising our visitor policy.  

Visitors are not allowed to accompany patients to their visits with Columbia providers, except in certain situations, when one person may join the patient at their visit. These circumstances include:

  • Pediatric patients, who may be accompanied by one parent or guardian
  • Patients requiring physical or cognitive assistance may be accompanied by one person
  • Patients with a family member that is required to be a part of excessive teaching protocols, such as in outpatient transplant

Any visitor who is coughing or shows other signs of illness will be kindly asked to exit the practice.

We encourage patients to keep in contact with their loved ones through Skype, FaceTime, and/or phone during their visits, and we will help you do that.

This revised policy goes into effect on Monday, March 30. Until then, patients may be accompanied by one guest, though we strongly encourage following the guidelines above.

Resources for Discharged Patients and Caregivers

If a health care provider has determined that you or somebody in your care can be isolated and monitored at home after testing positive, please follow these steps until the provider says that you or the person you are caring for can return to normal activities. Consider printing these instructions and placing them somewhere visible for your quick reference.

If you have questions, please see our more detailed Discharge Instructions – Patients with Confirmed or Suspected COVID-19 and Caregiver Instructions for Respiratory Illness.

Additional Resources