Return to Campus: Employees and Students

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. 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.

On August 3rd, the University released new health protocols for testing, tracing, quarantine and tracing which apply to returning students, staff and faculty (exceptions for clinical faculty and students are noted where relevant).

The information shared below is for CUIMC employees who are returning to the workplace and will be updated as circumstances evolve. Much of this information is also available in Returning to the Workplace: A Resource Guide (Updated July 22). Please note that unless you have been identified by your department to be required on-site, you should continue working from home. If you have any questions about whether or not your presence is required on-site or your specific return to the workplace date, please contact your immediate supervisor. 

If you have further questions or requests after reading this guide, please email cumchr@cumc.columbia.edu or your Senior Human Resources Business Partner. If you have any COVID-19 specific questions, please email covid19questions@cumc.columbia.edu

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 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, please see COVID-19 Public Health Protocols.

Additionally, as of June 22nd, 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

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.

Clinical and Laboratory Research

As of Monday, June 22, eligible persons gradually began to return to campus as part of the ramping-up of laboratory and clinical research with the following conditions:

Work that can be done remotely must continue to be done remotely to maintain density limitations on campus.

Plans must be approved in advance at the department and/or school level prior to resuming on-site research.

For more information, please see Research Ramp-up.

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 (first link below) and other applicable University resources as guidelines may change:

COVID-19 Testing and Antibody Screening

Testing is now widely available and can help our medical center monitor and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please follow the steps below and refer to these resources regarding your questions on testing, as well as what to do if you feel ill or test positive for COVID-19. 

Note: 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 State Phase 1 and 2 guidance. For more information, please see COVID-19 Initial Testing Implementation Process.

Changes to the Work Environment

There is wide agreement among experts that jobs and the nature of work are likely to change. These changes have begun and are expected to accelerate as a result of CUIMC’s responses to COVID-19. They include an increase in remote work, even more use of technology, more effort devoted to process redesign, and skills like critical thinking, collaboration, and interpersonal communication.

Below are CUIMC resources to help you develop these skills as you re-enter your roles:

Depending on your employment status, you may be eligible for tuition reimbursement and to take classes that are relevant to your work. To learn more visit the Tuition Program Benefits website here. In addition, a large number of free on-demand programs on a wide range of skills are available through sites like edx and Coursera.

Campus Space and 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. Please review the Space and Facilities Guidelines (May 27) and 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.

Signage

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 cumc.facilities@columbia.edu.

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. 

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- guestaccessrequests@columbia.edu 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

Supporting Your Colleagues

In addition to managers, colleagues can have a significant impact on the return to work of someone who has experienced a traumatic event. Below are some specific things colleagues can do to support each other:

  • Connect: When a person returns to work, do not be afraid to ask how they are doing. Re-establish rapport by sharing information as appropriate.
  • Be available. Balance listening with providing support. When providing support, be clear about your motivation, check to make sure the person wants input, and make sure that the advice you give is aimed at helping the other person.
  • Don’t take emotions personally. Individuals have different ways of processing and expressing their personal experience with the crisis. They may behave differently toward you than before the crisis.
  • Be aware that recovery can take a long time. Although most people are sympathetic toward an employee in the weeks or months following the traumatic event, they may continue to show signs of distress long after. This is something colleagues and managers should be mindful of.
  • Be reassuring. Communicate that you value your work relationship.

Grief and Trauma

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.

In response to the crisis, 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 CopeColumbia@cumc.columbia.edu.

There are also ways that your department or unit can honor colleagues, family, and friends who passed away as a result of COVID-19:

  • Moments of silence in the Department
  • A memory wall to record funny and sentimental anecdotes that remind you of the deceased
  • Staff check-ins with affected employees by peers and managers
  • Meetings to memorialize the deceased by discussing how much they meant or how they changed you/made you laugh
  • Writing letters to your loved ones recording things that you wish you could have said

For Managers

Managers should review the Return to Work Guide for Mangers (Updated June 24). 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.

For Students

Each of our Schools and Colleges (VP&S, Mailman, Dental, and Nursing) will provide information for their students. Check back here as resources become available:

July 28 Forum for CUIMC Staff, Postdocs & Students

On July 28th, Interim EVP and Dean Anil Rustgi, Interim Provost Ira Katznelson, and several members of the President’s Advisory Task Force on COVID-19 held a virtual Forum on Renewing the Campus for CUIMC Staff, Postdocs & Students. The forum offered an update on reopening activities and addressed questions regarding return to campus and related issues. The panel featured:  

  • Anil Rustgi, Interim Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine  
  • Ira Katznelson, Interim Provost, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History 
  • Donna Lynne, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Chief Executive Officer of ColumbiaDoctors; University COVID Director 
  • Wafaa El-Sadr, University Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine; Director, ICAP at Columbia University 
  • David Greenberg, Executive Vice President for University Facilities and Operations  
  • William Innes, Chief Human Resources Officer 
  • Melanie Bernitz, Associate Vice President and Medical Director for Columbia Health and Associate Professor of Medicine in the Center for Family and Community Medicine  

July 20th Forum for Faculty

On July 20th, Interim EVP and Dean Anil Rustgi, Interim Provost Ira Katznelson, and several members of the President’s Advisory Task Force on COVID-19 held a virtual Faculty Forum: Renewing the CUIMC Campus: Facilities and Public Health. The panel featured:

  • Anil Rustgi, Interim EVP and Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine
  • Ira Katznelson, Interim Provost, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History  
  • Donna Lynne, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Chief Executive Officer of ColumbiaDoctors; University COVID Director
  • Wafaa El-Sadr, University Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine; Director, ICAP at Columbia University
  • Steve Shea, Senior Vice Dean, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons; Hamilton Southworth Professor of Medicine and Professor of Epidemiology (in Biomedical Informatics), Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • Amador Centeno, Senior Vice President, Facilities Management, Operations and Planning and Vice Dean for Student Services, CUIMC
  • Ann D. Thornton, Vice Provost and University Librarian   
  • Melanie Bernitz, Associate Vice President and Medical Director for Columbia Health and Associate Professor of Medicine in the Center for Family and Community Medicine  

Additional Information

Contact

If you have further questions or requests after reading this guide, please email cumchr@cumc.columbia.edu or your Senior Human Resources Business Partner. If you have any COVID-19 specific questions, please email covid19questions@cumc.columbia.edu