Coronavirus: vial with pipette in laboratory

COVID-19 Information and Resources for Clinical Staff

Columbia University Irving Medical Center offers the following guidance and resources to help our clinical staff respond to COVID-19. Our top priority is to provide the best possible care for our patients while ensuring the safety of our clinical staff who are on the front lines.

If you have questions about the screening or management of a patient, please contact Shunichi (Nick) Homma, MD, CMO ColumbiaDoctors, at sh23@cumc.columbia.edu. For all other questions, please email covid19questions@cumc.columbia.edu.

For more information on how the CUIMC campus is preparing for return to work and operations during Phases 1-4 of re-opening, please visit Return to Campus: Employees and Students

Testing & Daily Attestations

To provide an additional layer of safety to the ongoing public health and preventive efforts, Columbia University will require an initial single COVID-19 PCR diagnostic test of all faculty, staff, and students who are returning to campus per New York guidelines. Clinical faculty are exempt. For more information, including on the exemption, please see COVID-19 Public Health Protocols.

All members of the Columbia community are expected to monitor their health daily before coming to campus or leaving their residence hall room. All affiliates must attest to being free of any COVID-19 symptoms prior to entering campus each day. For more information, please see Symptom Self-Checking

COVID-19 Safety Training

As the ramp-up continues, an important requirement for everyone working on campus is to complete online COVID-19 safety training, before returning to their workplace, or as soon as possible for essential personnel. 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.

Screening & Testing Patients

Testing

All hospitalized and ambulatory patients scheduled for aerosol-generating procedures or surgery or other procedures that require general anesthesia, deep sedation, or moderate sedation should be tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by PCR testing before the procedure. This will allow identification of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients and may help to prevent transmission to other patients and healthcare personnel.

For more information on testing in the ED/Inpatient setting, please see Interim Guidance for ED and Inpatient Setting: Screening, Testing, and PPE for COVID-19 (July 17). Note that repeat testing (on readmission, prior to inpatient procedures) is no longer recommended for patients who previously tested PCR-positive for SARS-CoV2 and have met criteria for discontinuing transmission-based precautions. For more information on testing in COVID patients and discontinuing precautions for COVID recovered patients, please see FAQs for COVID-19 Isolation Precautions and Duration of Infectivity (August 14). For information on screening and pre-procedure testing of ambulatory and hospitalized patients who are scheduled for surgery or other procedures that require general anesthesia, deep sedation or moderate sedation, or for aerosol-generating procedures, please see FAQs for SARS-CoV-2 Testing for Patients Having Surgery Or Other Procedures (August 14).

For more information on screening and testing in the ED/Inpatient setting, please see NYP COVID-19 Screening Tool for Patients and Visitors (August 14)

Patient screening prior to an appointment

Interim Ambulatory COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Testing Guidelines for Patients and Symptomatic Healthcare Personnel (May 15) outlines general management strategies and appropriate testing strategies (and supplements the ambulatory protocol) for outpatients at any Columbia, NYP or WCM practice using labs outside of NYP.

When scheduling an appointment, staff should ask all patients if they have been in contact with anyone with a confirmed COVID-19 infection and about any other factors that relate to COVID risk such as age, COPD, cardiac disease, cancer, or immunocompromising condition. Please note that we expect this screening criteria may change over time.

If the patient answers yes to exposure, the call should be referred to a clinician who can obtain more details on symptoms and other existing risk factors. If the patient answers yes to exposure and other risk factors and is also experiencing mild symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath), the clinician should contact IP&C for further instructions

If the clinical illness (described) warrants an in-person evaluation, the clinician should refer to the closest Emergency Department (ED) and instruct the patient to wear a surgical mask and avoid public transit. The clinician should also alert the ED.

If the patient does not have symptoms, visits should be scheduled for more than 14 days after last exposure. Patients should be instructed to call back if they develop symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath).

Patient screening after arriving for an appointment

All patients should be screened for fever or cough.  If the patient has none of these symptoms, proceed with routine registration.

  • If the patient acknowledges fever, cough, and/or rash, provide the patient and anyone accompanying the patient with a surgical mask and instruct them to wash their hands. The patient should be relocated to a single room with the door closed as soon as possible. Note: fever and rash without respiratory symptoms is not suggestive of COVID-19; screening for rash in addition to these symptoms identifies and helps prevent transmission of measles, chickenpox and other infectious diseases.
  • If the patient acknowledges fever or cough or shortness of breath, the patient should be asked about exposure to someone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. If no exposure occured, it is recommended to keep the patient separated from other patients or in a closed door room.
  • If the patient reports exposure to a known or suspected case, relocate the patient and anyone accompanying the patient to an exam room with a closed door and notify clinical staff. If a negative pressure room is available, it should be used.

Clinicians should follow the PPE Requirements, Symptom Screening, and Testing in Ambulatory Settings (June 5) and Interim Guidance for PPE Requirements in the ED/Inpatient Setting (June 11).

Airway Management

The NYP Guidelines for Airway Management of Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 Patients outlines the directions and inventory for the PPE kit as well as provides guidance for airway management including personnel, pre-intubation, intubation, post-intubation, extubation, transportation and CPR. 

For additional guidance on airway management, please see NYP Guidelines for Respiratory Support of Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 Patient: Non-invasive Ventilation, High Flow Nasal Cannula Oxygen, Invasive Ventilation and Patients with Tracheostomies (March 23) and NYP Process for Using Intubation Bags for Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 Patients (March 21).

Transmission Precautions for Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19

Please see FAQs for COVID-19 Isolation Precautions and Duration of Infectivity (August 14).

Patients with severe respiratory illnesses

Patients who did not have contact with COVID-19 patients but require hospitalization for severe respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress should also be tested for COVID-19.

Patients who are pregnant or nursing

For additional guidance regarding suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients who are pregnant or nursing, please see Interim Guidelines for Suspect and Confirmed COVID-19 for Obstetrics (Antepartum, Labor & Delivery, Post-partum, and Ambulatory Care), Neonatal ICUs, and Well-Baby Nurseries (June 24)

If a patient comes in with suspected COVID-19 or a positive case, please enter the event in SafetyZone.

Protecting Health Care Personnel

Please see this Summary of Recent Changes in COVID-19-Related Recommendations and Requirements from New York City and New York State DOH (July 2)

Providers and other members of the health care team can take several measures to minimize exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19, including setting up triage mechanisms to identify patients at risk for the illness. As part of efforts to protect all patients, visitors, and health care personnel (HCP) from exposure to SARS-CoV-2, NYP recommends the use of a face mask by all patients (regardless of SARS-CoV-2 test results), visitors, and HCP at all inpatient and affiliated ambulatory locations. For more information, please see Interim Guidelines for Use of Face Coverings and Personal Protective Equipment by NYP Patients and Visitors (June 17).

Testing for CUIMC Faculty and Staff

​NYP, in collaboration with CUIMC and Weill Cornell Medicine, are offering the diagnostic PCR/nasopharyngeal (nose) swab test to NYP, Columbia, and Weill Cornell health care personnel (HCP) who are symptom-free and have been in contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19 or with symptoms of COVID-19, either at work or at home. The PCR test detects the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Please see FAQs for SARS-CoV-2 PCR Testing of Health Care Personnel (August 14).

Please note: PCR testing is not recommended for asymptomatic HCP who have not been in contact with someone at work or at home with confirmed COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19.
 
How to Access Testing 

HCP who believe they have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 but are symptom-free should call the Workforce Health and Safety COVID hotline at 646-697-9470  to arrange an appointment for testing. Tests will be available only by appointment through Workforce Health and Safety. At this time, PCR testing for symptom-free HCP  will be available one-time only unless the HCP begins to show symptoms of  COVID-19. At the time of appointment scheduling, it is important for HCP to indicate that they are requesting PCR testing for symptom-free employees. HCPs presenting to testing sites for their appointment should practice social distancing and wear a protective mask.

HCP who test positive for the virus will be advised to stay home and isolate for ten days from the date of the test (not the date of the results). Results can take from 24-48 hours or longer to turn  around.

You may also review the Interim Ambulatory COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Testing Guidelines for Patients and Symptomatic Healthcare Personnel (May 15).

Serologic Testing

Serologic (blood) testing for antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is available for all Columbia, NYP, and Weill Cornell health care personnel (HCP) who would like to be tested. Previously, testing was offered only to HCP who were symptom-free for more than 14 days after a confirmed positive COVID-19 test or after a COVID-19-like illness.

The serology test is being offered to help HCP understand if they were infected by SARS-CoV-2 but may or may not have had symptoms. Additionally, testing will also contribute to the medical community’s overall knowledge of COVID-19.

If HCP have had recent symptoms, we recommend waiting at least 14 days after symptoms have subsided to be tested, because it can take three to four weeks after symptoms start for the body to make antibodies. Serologic testing is not recommended for HCP currently experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, chills (with repeated shaking), headache, muscle or body aches, diarrhea, or new loss of taste or smell. HCP with symptoms should get the PCR/nasopharyngeal (nose) swab test being offered at NYP testing sites.

How to Access the New Serologic Test

HCP who would like to be tested should call the Workforce Health and Safety COVID hotline at 646-697-9470 to arrange an appointment for testing; no virtual visit will be required before serology testing. Tests will be available only by appointment through the Workforce Health and Safety Hotline, and appointment slots are subject to availability at each NYP location. At this time, serologic testing for symptom-free HCP will be available only once.

When scheduling an appointment, it is important for HCP to indicate that they are requesting serologic testing for employees. As always, HCP presenting to testing sites for their appointment should practice social distancing and wear a protective mask. Generally, results will be available within three to five days but may take longer depending on testing capacity.

Please note a positive serology test does not mean that a person is immune and protected from getting re-infected with SARS-CoV-2. We still have much to learn about how long antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 can be found in the blood after infection.

Masks and PPE

Please see Interim Guidance for PPE Requirements in the ED/Inpatient Setting (June 11) and these Updated Recommendations for Conservation and Reuse of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Other Supplies (June 2). Until further notice, all members of our workforce will receive a surgical mask that they must wear continuously throughout their entire shift, at all times while around others, in order to protect themselves, their coworkers, and our patients. We will provide one N95 respirator for all patient-facing faculty and staff. 

Governor Cuomo has signed an executive order requiring “…any employees who are present in the workplace shall be provided and shall wear face coverings when in direct contact with customers or members of the public” as of April 15.

Previous CUIMC mask mandates may not have impacted certain groups of faculty and staff. In light of this new executive order, all staff will be supplied with face masks and will be required to wear them whenever they are in direct contact with others. To request and pick up masks, contact the following:

Please note that while we do have a sufficient supply of surgical masks, all should preserve and reuse them until they are damaged, soiled or wet. Additional masks requests should be submitted to those listed above as needed.

Please see MAD (Mask-Associated Dermatitis) for helpful guidelines from the nursing quality and wound care teams for protection against mask-associated dermatitis and pressure injuries.

Free Virtual Urgent Care for CUIMC Employees

All CUIMC employees are now eligible for free virtual urgent care visits with CUIMC and Weill Cornell emergency department physicians via NYPOnDemand. The NYPOnDemand app can be downloaded by visiting the NewYork-Presbyterian website.   

What to do if You Have Symptoms

If you have symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, chills, loss of taste or smell), stay home

  • If your symptoms are mild, you do not need to seek medical care.
  • If you are a member of a higher risk group or your symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing, contact your primary care provider (PCP). 
  • If you are not a member of a higher risk group and your symptoms worsen after three or four days, contact your PCP. In about 80% of cases, symptoms resolve by themselves with supportive care (including rest, fluids, and taking fever reducing medications such as Tylenol or ibuprofen). Stay at home for at least ten days after your symptoms first start and at least three days after you no longer have a fever (without the need to use fever-reducing medications), whichever is longer. 

Contacting Workforce Health and Safety

All health care workers who were exposed to a patient or staff member under investigation or positive for COVID-19 in an NYP facility and who develop a fever, cough, or shortness of breath must call the Workforce Health and Safety (WHS) hotline: 7 days a week, 6:00 a.m.- 11:00 p.m., Phone: 646-697-9470.   

All health care workers who were contacted by DOH because of a confirmed community exposure or believe they may have exposed to someone outside of NYP with COVID-19 must call the Workforce Health and Safety hotline: 7 days a week, 6:00 a.m.- 11:00 p.m., Phone: 646-697-9470.   

A Workforce Health & Safety provider will contact the Department of Health as required on behalf of staff members and staff will be provided with instructions and guided through the process by WHS.

If you need immediate medical attention, please call your local ED, identify that you have had contact with a COVID-19 positive patient and they will ensure that you and all staff have proper personal protective equipment to prevent potential transmission.

If you test positive for COVID-19 at an outside provider or testing facility or you have been in close contact with a symptomatic and laboratory confirmed individual, immediately contact Workforce Health & Safety (646-697-9470).

An employee who follows an advised period of self-isolation should contact Workforce Health and Safety (646-697-9470) after the advised period of self-isolation and confirm their clearance to return to work and  CUHR Leave Management. 

Coping with Grief

It is important to know there are ways to cope with grief and to support those who are grieving for personal loss and loss of loved ones. Coping with Grief: A Resource Guide provides information and resources to help in the grieving process. For additional wellness resources, see CopeColumbia and Narrative Medicine below.

Transportation for Faculty and Staff

Beginning September 9, Columbia Transportation will provide commuter shuttle service for faculty and staff working on the Morningside, Manhattanville, and Medical Center campuses on weekdays during the Fall term.  

  • Service will begin on Wednesday, September 9.  
  • 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.
  • Columbia University faculty and staff are eligible for this service.
  • The fare will be $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.
  • 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. 
  • We will evaluate the usage of these shuttles for long-term service.  

Please consult the Transportation website for a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). During business hours, you can call Columbia Transportation at 212-854-3382 or email us at transportation@columbia.edu.  

In addition to the Commuter Shuttles, Columbia Transportation offers a number of travel options between Columbia’s campuses. This fall, the Intercampus Shuttle will be making stops at 96th 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.

Travel Guidelines

Please note that the University’s current travel restrictions have just been modified to permit domestic travel for faculty and staff only when video participation is not available. All other restrictions, including on international Columbia-related travel, remain in effect until further notice. For up-to-date information regarding travel restrictions, please see Travel Restrictions by Affiliate Type.

Additionally, due to rapidly changing COVID-19 hot spots throughout the U.S., Workforce Health & Safety (WHS) guidance still encourages healthcare personel (HCP) to avoid non-essential travel. For HCP returning from travel to a U.S. state or territory with high rates of COVID-19 community transmission, New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) requires such HCP to be tested within 24 hours of returning from travel and be SARS-CoV-2 negative before returning to work. Please see FAQs for SARS-CoV-2 PCR Testing of Health Care Personnel (August 14) for more information.

CopeColumbia

The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented and uniquely trying time for our community, particularly for providers on the front lines.

In response, the Department of Psychiatry has partnered with ColumbiaDoctors and NewYork-Presbyterian in developing CopeColumbia, which provides information and resources for the CUIMC community, including counseling sessions, peer support groups, guided meditations, suggested reading, and other resources for managing stress, fear and anxiety.

To access these resources, please visit CopeColumbia. For any questions about CopeColumbia, or if you have any unmet needs, please email CopeColumbia@cumc.columbia.edu

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 www.narrativemedicine.blog

We encourage you to write directly to Rita Charon, chair of Medical Humanities and Ethics, at rac5@columbia.edu with questions and requests.

Human Resources Policies

For up-to-date human resources information and resources, see this document covering Frequently Asked HR Questions Regarding COVID-19, which builds on pertinent Columbia University Human Resources policies and will generally pertain to all full-time and part-time employees (Faculty and Staff – Officers and Support Staff). Other employee groups will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. For unionized employees, please contact Labor Relations for additional guidance.

Updates will be provided as needed.

Return to Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has created fundamental changes in the workplace. Although we would prefer to go back to business as usual, some of the changes brought on by the crisis may become permanent and require long-term adjustment. Once you have returned to the workplace, CUIMC HR will continue to support and assist you with this transition. See Return to Work for Staff for resources that will help you with the transition back to work, such as workplace safety and benefits including child care. Managers, see Return to Work for Managers.

Essential Personnel

During an emergency, Essential Personnel provide services that relate directly to the health, safety, and welfare of the University, ensure continuity of key operations, and maintain and protect University properties.

  1. Each School and Department is responsible for final determinations as to which of its personnel are Essential. Essential Personnel are generally defined as the Faculty and Staff who are required to report to their designated work location, to ensure the operation of essential functions or departments during an emergency or when the University has suspended operations.
  2. There are some individuals who may be required to perform essential services remotely and those individuals will be identified in advance and notified by their managers.
  3. If unable to report to work, appropriate leave time—Vacation or Personal Days—must be taken. If leave time is not available, pay is not provided. Exceptions to this guidance must be approved by the Senior Business Officer (SBO) of the School or Department.
  4. Essential Personnel are expected to work in emergency situations unless they are specifically excused by their departments.  Failure to report to work as directed may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Telecommuting and Alternate Work Schedules

CUIMC is committed to maintaining its mission of patient care, research and education during this time of uncertainty. As with all health care and research institutions, much of our work must be performed on-site by our dedicated faculty and staff.

For the most up-to-date information regarding telecommuting accommodations for clinical, non-clinical, and research faculty and staff, please see CUIMC’s Remote Work Guidelines and Tips.

Self-Isolation Guidance

If you’re unsure whether you need to self-isolate, see this resource. If you have confirmed the need to self-isolate, see How to Self-Isolate

Please visit Columbia University's webpage for coronavirus information and up-to-date guidelines.

Hiring Freeze

Effective March 24, Columbia University instituted a hiring freeze for the remainder of FY2020, and we expect the freeze may be extended in FY2021.

Effective immediately all academic and administrative hiring across all schools and departments at CUIMC will require that a proposal from the hiring unit (department, center, or institute) first be endorsed in writing by the director of that unit, then be endorsed by the school’s dean, and then be forwarded to CUIMC for central review.

Central review will be required for new positions and before filling existing vacant positions, unless the exceptions from central review outlined below apply. In addition, promotions and position upgrades that result in an increase in salary for officers of administration and support staff must follow this new process.

Exceptions for Central Review to be reviewed by CUIMC

  • Re-filling of roles deemed by the school to be essential onsite employees
  • CUIMC hires deemed essential for its clinical mission
  • Accepted, written offers prior to March 24, 2020
  • Temporary workers approved by the school, institute or administrative unit and contracted for under two months duration
  • Casual workers approved by the school institute, or administrative unit

Only requests that are approved by this process and by the Office of the Chief Executive of CUIMC will be forwarded to the central university for consideration. Click here to access the form.

NOTE: THIS GUIDANCE MAY BE MODIFIED AS CIRCUMSTANCES RELATING TO COVID-19 CHANGE

Reference

Campus Status

For the most up-to-date information regarding campus status, including closures, parking information, and campus operations, visit Facilities Management and Campus Services COVID-19 resources page. Information is updated frequently as the impact of the virus changes locally and nationally.

Recent updates, campus resources, and additional information are also available through the University’s COVID-19 Guidance for the Columbia Community.

NYP Coronavirus Daily Briefing

Dr. Forese and members of leadership share up-to-date information about NYP's response to COVID-19, our care for patients, and commitment to the safety of our workforce across NewYork-Presbyterian, ColumbiaDoctors, and Weill Cornell Medicine.

Watch the videos (login required)

Additional Resources