Campus Public Health Update

September 24, 2021

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

As we move past the start of the fall semester, we are delighted to see the successful return of over 40,000 Columbians to campus. It is gratifying to be together and witness our vibrant community taking steps to maintain our collective health and safety as we celebrate the return to in-person classes along with the continuation of research activity, clinical care, and other important services.

We write with an update on our campus COVID-19 status as we approach the end of September: where we are now and the precautionary measures we will continue to take in the weeks to come, including an extension of the current face covering mandate.

Our Columbia community compliance with the vaccine mandate is currently over 99.7%. The number of COVID-19 cases remains small, and cases typically are asymptomatic or have been very mild. Our systems to identify and prevent transmission are strong, and are adjusted as needed. Last week, after a modest uptick in cases among College and SEAS undergraduate students—which was tied to students gathering socially while unmasked—several new measures including more stringent residence hall guidelines and increased surveillance testing were quickly put in place. We have also further expanded our contact tracing team. The good news is that, to date, we have no evidence of documented transmission in classroom settings.

Even with last week’s slight increase, the overall number of positive cases reported was limited: Last week, of the more than 8,200 tests conducted through our testing program, just 0.6% – or 50 in total – were positive. And gateway testing since the start of the academic year has consistently returned positivity rates under 0.2%.

In-person instruction and other work proceeds as planned. According to our COVID-19 Monitoring Plan, we remain at the yellow alert level, which indicates a continued low level of risk that we take seriously. In an abundance of caution, we will extend the following measures, currently in place, at least through the end of October:

  • Face coverings will continue to be mandated indoors  
  • Voluntary, surveillance, and wastewater testing will continue
  • Meals will continue to be “grab and go”  
  • Gathering size restrictions will remain in place 

As always, we aim to keep you updated through announcements like these; you can also visit our COVID-19 Resources website for the most current information, including campus testing results.   

Thank you for the care you take every day in helping keep our community safe.


Mary C. Boyce
Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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