Update on the Start of the Spring Semester

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

Looking to the new year, and guided by our public health experts who are closely monitoring COVID-19 developments and the Omicron variant, the President’s COVID-19 Task Force has issued a series of policies and recommendations for all affiliates for January 2022.

For faculty, staff, and students involved in instructional activity, the first two weeks of classes for the spring 2022 semester will be conducted remotely. While much of the undergraduate and graduate community commences classes on January 18, a number of graduate and professional programs begin earlier in January. The two-week remote learning period will correspond with the scheduled start of instruction for each specific program and school.

This two-week remote learning period is designed to minimize disruptions for students who may be unable to travel or who must isolate because of COVID-19. It will also allow a period for gateway testing of all students prior to the start of in-person classes.

This change does not affect access to campus: All students are invited back to campus before and during the two-week remote learning period, but must follow the testing requirements noted below as well as other campus COVID-19 safety measures.

At CUIMC, clinical clerkships will continue as scheduled and in person.

For faculty, researchers, staff, and students involved in research, administration and all other non-instructional work, the President’s COVID-19 Task Force recommends that they conduct work remotely, if feasible, during the first two weeks of January. Individual units may determine who will be required to be in person versus remote. In general, beyond these two weeks, the approach to in-person/hybrid work is expected to remain the same in the spring term as it has been in the fall term. You can read more online about remote work in the spring term.

COVID-19 testing for students:

  • Before returning to campus: We strongly recommend that all students get a PCR test 48 hours prior to arriving on campus. While this test is not currently required, it may become so depending on public health conditions. Either way, we urge students to schedule a PCR test appointment well in advance, ensuring that your return to campus is not delayed or disrupted. Those who test positive outside of Columbia are required to isolate for ten days before returning to campus. Note that at this time, we do not require the results of negative tests from this external testing to be uploaded or submitted—but please report positive test results through COVIDtesttrace@columbia.edu.
  • Once on campus: All residential undergraduate students (in Columbia College, School of Engineering and Applied Science, and General Studies) are required to test through the Columbia testing program on the first business day after your return to campus and again between days 5 and 7. All other students are required to get a Columbia gateway test within 72 hours of their return to campus. 

COVID-19 testing policy for faculty and staff:   

  • Gateway testing is also required for all non-student affiliates who did not receive a Columbia gateway test in 2021.
  • Given possible holiday travel and socializing, we strongly recommend a PCR test, preferably prior to your return to campus, or when you return through the Columbia testing facilities at Lerner Hall or the Black Building.

Continuation of supplementary/voluntary and surveillance testing

Voluntary and surveillance testing will continue to be offered to all faculty, staff, and students. We will continue to adjust the size of the random sample selected for surveillance testing based on the COVID-19 context and will continue the wastewater surveillance of undergraduate student residential buildings.

Vaccine booster dose mandate

We remind you that all faculty, staff, and students must receive their vaccine booster dose (if eligible) by January 31, 2022. Students should upload evidence of their booster dose as they did with prior doses. For faculty and staff, information about documenting booster doses will be shared shortly.

Our prior message sent on December 14 provides details regarding the availability of booster doses and testing venues for our affiliates.

New Visitor Policy

All visitors, including those who enter any campus facility for any period of time, must be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination as part of visitor attestation.

New Gathering Policy

In-person, indoor gatherings of any kind during the first two weeks of January are prohibited.

We are extraordinarily grateful for the care and commitment each of you has shown to keeping our campus safe and healthy. We will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving situation and provide ongoing updates to our community.


Mary C. Boyce
Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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

Gerry Rosberg
Senior Executive Vice President