COVID-19 Campus Safety for Employees and Students

CUIMC is focused on the safety of our health care providers, our staff, students and the patients we serve. In charting a path forward, CUIMC is committed to continuing our missions of providing the finest clinical care, cutting edge research, and educating the next generation of leaders in science and medicine.

Much of the information below is also available in Returning to the Workplace: A Resource Guide (April 27). Please note that unless you have been identified by your department to be required on-site, you should continue working from home. For information on testing, tracing, and quarantine, please see COVID-19 Public Health Protocols. For updates on distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, please see COVID-19 Vaccine Information for CUIMC Employees and Students.

If you have further questions or requests after reading this guide, please email or your Senior Human Resources Business Partner. If you have any COVID-19 specific questions, please email


Public Health Guidance

Columbia University is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for all its faculty, staff, students, and visitors. COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for the CUIMC community outlines steps to minimize the potential for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in our community as faculty and staff gradually return to work on our campuses.

Testing and Daily Attestations

To provide an additional layer of safety to the ongoing public health and preventive efforts, Columbia University is supporting a SARS-CoV-2 testing program. For information on testing eligibility, locations, scheduling, and process, please see COVID-19 Testing Process.

Effective January 4, 2021, a NEW gateway test is required for all faculty, staff, and students accessing Columbia campuses and other facilities. This includes individuals who have been on a campus throughout 2020 and who previously complied with the requirements of the gateway testing program. This gateway test must be administered by Columbia University’s COVID Testing Program starting January 4, 2021 through January 25, 2021. For more information, please see Spring Term 2021 Required Gateway COVID-19 Testing (December 1).

All Columbia affiliates (students, faculty, and staff employees) returning to the medical center for any purpose or who are living in campus housing will be required to complete daily COVID-19 symptom attestations to ensure safety and prevent the spread of the virus. For more information, please see Symptom Self-Checking

The University has increased options to include weekly voluntary testing for those accessing campus regularly. For voluntary testing you simply select the “voluntary testing” option when scheduling online. Voluntary testing is currently available at the William Black Building (CUIMC) and Lerner Hall (Morningside) locations. 

COVID-19 Safety Training

An important requirement for everyone working on campus is to complete online COVID-19 safety training. Principal Investigators, supervisors, and departments are responsible for ensuring that their personnel (faculty, staff, and students) complete the required training. Everyone will complete the Columbia Community Health Compact as part of this training.

COVID-19 Tracking Portal for Employees

Effective April 16, 2021, all CUIMC employees may report any COVID-like illness, symptoms, test results, or COVID-related absences online through a new COVID-19 Tracking PortalThe self-service portal is to be used to report a COVID-like illness and/or quarantine orders. Positive COVID-19 test results must still be reported to regardless of being reported in the new tracking portal.

What’s Changing?

  • CUIMC employees may use the COVID-19 Tracking Portal to report a COVID-related illness, symptoms, and to upload PCR test results for themselves or a household family member.
  • CUIMC employees who use the portal will receive email notifications from the COVID-19 Tracking Portal with instructions for self-isolation dates, and return to work instructions.

What’s Staying the Same?

  • Continue to use the CUReopen App to self-monitor COVID19 symptoms and related issues
  • Continue to alert in the event of a positive COVID19 test
  • Follow Columbia Contact Tracing Team’s instructions and University policy for guidance and next steps 
  • Notify your manager on your absence, work status and return to work dates.
  • The Workforce Health & Safety (WHS) Hotline 646-697-9470 is available to answer questions about protocols related to COVID-19. The Hotline is available from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.   
  • Continue to work with CU Leave Management on Red Pass clearance procedures.

Questions regarding the University policy related to absences can be directed to Leave Management at Any other questions can be directed to CUIMC HR at

What To Do If You have Symptoms or Test Positive

For Employees

  • Stay home if you feel ill and contact your healthcare provider for assessment.
  • If you do test positive for COVID-19, you must immediately alert your department HR, Leave Management, and Workforce Health and Safety during regular business hours at (212-305-7590) and/or New York Presbyterian’s Workforce Health and Safety hotline at 646-NYP-WHS0 (646-697-9470) from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
  • CUIMC employees may use the COVID-19 Tracking Portal to report a COVID-related illness, symptoms, and to upload PCR test results for themselves or a household family member.
  • CUIMC employees who use the portal will receive email notifications from the COVID-19 Tracking Portal with instructions for self-isolation dates, and return to work instructions.

For Students

  • For up-to-date guidance on self-isolation and quarantining, please reference the Coronavirus Isolation Guide for Students and the Coronavirus Quarantine Guide for Students.
  • If you are a student with symptoms (including cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, chills, and/or loss of taste or smell), stay home and please schedule an appointment with Medical Services for a virtual consultation via our online health portal.
  • If your symptoms are mild, you may not need to seek in-person medical care. If you are a member of a higher risk group (including immunocompromised or severe chronic medical conditions) or your symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing, contact the CUIMC Student Health Service by calling 212-305-3400 (for after-hours assistance, press option 7).



CUIMC's Department of Psychiatry has partnered with ColumbiaDoctors and NewYork-Presbyterian in developing CopeColumbia, which provides information and resources for the CUIMC community, including 1:1 counseling sessions, peer support groups, guided meditations, suggested reading, and other resources for managing stress, fear and anxiety. To access these resources, visit CopeColumbia. For any questions or if you have any unmet needs, please email

Additional Resources for Employees

COVID has had tragic personal impacts on many of us. As described in the CUIMC Coping with Grief Resource Guide, grief is a natural human adjustment process triggered by loss. The bereavement guide above offers resources for counseling, pastoral care, emotional support, and more for all CUIMC employees. Additionally, at CUIMC we are proud of our cultural diversity and celebrating it through our Employee Resource Groups. It is important to respect how each employee chooses to grieve.

Narrative Medicine

The Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics and its Division of Narrative Medicine is responding to CUIMC’s urgent needs for connection, stress-reduction, and remedy for isolation in the face COVID-19 and challenges to our health and safety. 

Narrative Medicine provides critical resources in response to the COVID crisis. Through Columbia Narrative Medicine, Columbia faculty, trainees, and staff can:

  • Sign up for a private, small-group seminar with those you work with (Naturally Occurring Work Groups, or NOW groups) to meet with a trained facilitator for regularly-occurring narrative sessions.
  • Join hour-long Zoom sessions with persons across the globe uniting for creative and reflective work. Through a blog discussion board, participants post their creative work and respond to one another’s postings.
  • Listen in to Creative Director novelist Nellie Hermann reading aloud a short story each day.
  • Join the NM Book Club, currently reading Albert Camus’s The Plague (about 7 pages per day).
  • Use NM’s web resources of literary texts and visual images for reflection and solace and pleasure on your own time. We invite you to join us in all these projects at

We encourage you to write directly to Rita Charon, chair of Medical Humanities and Ethics, at with questions and requests.

Additional Resources for Students

The CUIMC Student Health Service has created a webpage with resources for students to cope with COVID-19-related stress. For more information on healthy coping strategies and how to take advantage of student resources, visit Coping During the Pandemic

Campus Safety and Facilities Guidelines

Facilities Guidelines

Rapidly-changing circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic require us to take strategic interim measures to support Columbia University Irving Medical Center's day-to-day operations. For information on facilities, on-campus housing, and campus services, please visit the Facilities Management and Campus Services COVID-19 Resources Page

Information shared will be updated as the impact of the virus changes locally and nationally.

Workplace Safety and Precautions 

Your safety, and that of your colleagues, is of paramount concern.

  • Consider virtual or remote interface with regular visitors where feasible.

  • Proper handwashing is necessary and hand sanitizer should be utilized as a stopgap before the sink.
  • Face coverings (masks) must be worn over the mouth and nose in all public areas and shared workspaces. Wearing a mask is not required in private offices when the door is shut and there is no other occupant.
  • For assistance with how to don and doff your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) please see this video and this job aid. When removing face coverings, do not touch eyes, nose or mouth or the front of the mask. Wash hands with soap and water or apply hand sanitizer.
  • Consistently wipe down all surfaces with disinfectant spray or wipes (e.g. the mouse, keyboard, doorknobs, counters, conference room tables, copiers, etc.)
  • Adhere to at work social distancing guidelines. The CDC suggests:
    • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people
    • Do not gather in groups (if you must have a meeting, keep it small)
    • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings

Continually check Environmental Health & Safety and other applicable University resources as guidelines may change:

Campus Housing 

For more information on campus housing, please read the FAQs on Student Housing and COVID-19 webpage and contact with further questions.


For questions about public area signage or to report an issue with any public area signage, please contact the CUIMC Facilities Customer Service Center at 212-305-HELP (4357), option 3 or at

If your school or department requires signage around physical distancing, use of masks, or other guidelines, you can download the signage files (including for digital screens) on Resource Space. You will need to login with your UNI, select “Phase 1 Operations Signage” in the right-hand column, and click “Search.”

ColumbiaPrint is open and available for signage printing. 

Travel Information

Summer 2021 Travel Policy

Effective June 1, there are a number of changes to our current travel policy which can be found here:

  • Domestic personal travel for faculty, staff, and students will require only that persons traveling follow NYS guidance.   
  • International personal travel for faculty, staff, and students remains unchanged. We continue to urge the postponement of international personal travel unless returning to a home country for personal and/or medical emergencies. 
  • Domestic Columbia-related travel for faculty and staff requires following NYS guidance and guidance issued by the state or states to which you are traveling. For students, the dean or administrative head must approve such travel. 
  • International Columbia-related travel for faculty, staff, and graduate students requires various approvals based on whether you are traveling to a Level 1/2 or Level 3/4 country. Many countries require an additional, more extensive approval process, which is outlined on the “Summer Travel Restrictions” table. International Columbia-related undergraduate student travel remains suspended. 

Transportation for Faculty and Staff

Columbia Transportation provides commuter shuttle service for faculty, staff and students from four outer boroughs and Manhattan to the Morningside, Manhattanville, and Medical Center campuses Monday through Friday. Seats on the bus are by online reservation only, and spaces are first come, first served. We have recently modified rider eligibility and made route enhancements. For routes, stops, and reservations, visit  Columbia Transportation—Commuter Shuttles.

Columbia students, faculty and staff working and studying on the Morningside, Manhattanville, and Medical Center campuses, as well as Barnard College and Teachers College, are eligible to ride.

About the Commuter Shuttle: 

  • Routes are focused on key areas within the outer boroughs and Manhattan with easy connections to commuter rail and park-and-ride locations. Shuttles will run periodically throughout the day. A route map is available on the Transportation website.  
  • The fare is $4.50 each way, to be paid by credit or debit card at the time of reservation.
  • Rides on the commuter shuttles are by online reservation only. Spaces are first come, first served. To view a list of departure times and make a reservation, follow the instructions on the Transportation website.
  • Fares are eligible for reimbursement under the Transit/Parking Reimbursement Program (T/PRP). You can also use an EBPA card to purchase tickets; enter it just like you would a credit card.
  • You can view bus locations in real time using the Passio Go! app, which is free to download.
  • Buses will be capped at 50% capacity to facilitate distancing.  
  • Please familiarize yourself with the COVID-19 safety protocols before you ride. Passengers not wearing a face covering will not be allowed to board the bus. 
  • Stops and schedules are subject to change when necessary to enhance the Commuter Shuttle service and/or address rider needs. Riders will be informed when changes are made that impact their commute.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are available on the Transportation website. If you have further questions, reach out to Columbia Transportation by phone at 212-854-3382 during business hours, or email us at any time at   

Additional Transportation Services:
In addition to the Commuter Shuttle, Columbia Transportation offers a number of travel options between campuses. This fall, the Intercampus Shuttle will be making stops at 96 Street throughout the day, and Saturday service will be available following the Red Line. Columbia also offers an on-demand Evening Shuttle, powered by Via, that runs between 4 PM and 4 AM each night. For those interested in using Via outside of the Evening Shuttle service, Columbia affiliates can use the code 'CU2020' to unlock 20% off all private rides. 

Guests and Deliveries

All visitors and vendors must fill out this Columbia University Health Screening Form before entering Columbia University buildings or locations. This form must be returned to the primary contact person of your service contract.

Access for non-employees to any CUIMC space will be strictly limited. You should:

  • Establish a notifications protocol for greeting outside guests.
  • Avoid bringing guests into any shared or common spaces.

All guests and delivery vendors should be approved and notified in advanced that they must wear appropriate PPE when entering any CUIMC building.

  • All guests and vendors should be registered by emailing Ps-mc- at least 24 hours in advance.
  • Include the date and time as well as the building and floor that the visitor or vendor will be visiting. Indicate who should be notified when they arrive, including a phone number.
  • All guests and vendors must have a valid government ID and be wearing proper PPE in order to enter any CUIMC building

Visitor Health Screenings When Visiting Campus

The COVID-19 symptom self-check requirement also extends to all visitors prior to being permitted to enter a Columbia University building or facility. While Columbia presently has a no-visitor policy, which will continue to be the policy after June 22, 2020, exceptions are in place. For more information, please see Visitor Health Screenings When Entering Campus.

Columbia University Benefits

Backup Care

As we begin to return to work onsite, you may experience issues with childcare or  eldercare. The Back-Up Care Advantage Program®, provides care for adults/elders, children, or yourself when normal care arrangements are interrupted or when short-term care is required but you still need to perform your work responsibilities. For these situations, Columbia University has contracted with Bright Horizons Family Solutions to provide access to 150 hours of back-up care. If you want to learn more visit the Adult and Elder Care website from the Office of Work/Life or contact your Sr. HR Business Partner.

Leave of Absence and Accommodation Requests

To learn more about COVID-19 Leaves of Absence and Accommodation requests visit this website, which covers the following topics:

  • Sick leave/Medical leave
  • Absence to care for a sick family member
  • Absence to care for a child
  • Medical accommodation
  • Quarantine order from the State

Employee Assistance Program

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a network of free or discounted services to support your personal success and help with everyday challenges. Humana is the EAP provider and featured resources include:

  • Legal, Mediation and Financial Consultation
  • Counseling Services for you and your dependents
  • Life Coaching

For Managers

Managers should review the Return to Work Guide (April 27). The guide provides managers at CUIMC with considerations and resources to help employees within their span of control as they transition back to the workplace following the modification of on-site reporting procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clinical and Laboratory Research

We are currently in the second stage of the Research Ramp-up. During the second stage, work that can be done effectively remotely must continue to be done remotely to maintain density limitations on campus.

What's New:

  • Maximum of 50% occupancy at any particular time, subject to an approved ramp-up plan
  • Columbia undergraduates may participate in on-campus laboratory research, provided they comply with all required return-to-campus protocols
  • Human subjects research may resume on all campuses, subject to applicable guidelines and requirements

For more information, please see Research Ramp-up.

May 4 Return to Campus Update Forum

On May 4, Columbia University hosted a Return to Campus Update Forum. This session included up-to-date information on campus access protocols, details on planning for the summer and fall terms, and a live question-and-answer session.

The forum featured:

  • Melanie Bernitz, Senior Vice President for Columbia Health; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine
  • Wafaa El-Sadr, University Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine; Director of ICAP at Columbia University  
  • Donna Lynne, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of CUIMC; University COVID Director
  • Gerry Rosberg, Senior Executive Vice President

Additional Information


If you have further questions or requests after reading this guide, please email or your Senior Human Resources Business Partner. If you have any COVID-19 specific questions, please email