Update on COVID-19

February 25, 2020

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

The University continues to follow information and expert national and international recommendations regarding the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The virus has spread to Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea, among other places. To date, there are no known cases in the New York area and no known cases involving our students, faculty, staff, or affiliates. Presently, the immediate health risk to members of the Columbia community is considered low. However, the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 globally is high, so this risk assessment to our community may change. We must be prudently cautious, and we will continue assess our community's situation. We will keep you informed should the current level of concern alter.

Following the recommendations of local, state, and national health authorities to make sure we are undertaking evidence-informed procedures, the University has not made changes to classes, activities, operations, and events on our New York campuses. Please be assured, however, that planning is underway for potential effects to the remainder of the semester, Spring Recess, and Summer Session.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Warning (the highest level of warning), urging all U.S. residents to avoid nonessential travel to South Korea. As a result, the University is now restricting student, faculty, and staff travel to South Korea until further notice. Using the same framework as that in place for China, any Columbia employee, faculty, or staff who wishes to travel to South Korea for a compelling University-related reason must submit a written request to the appropriate dean. On approval by the dean, the request must then be sent to the Provost for review and final approval. Because of various associated travel restrictions, any such request must include confirmation of an evacuation plan. In addition, travelers will be required to comply with appropriate safety precautions and protocols as recommended by the CDC and other authorities. 

The CDC has also issued Alert Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions for Iran, Italy, and Japan. The CDC says that, “these destinations are experiencing sustained community transmission… Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel.” Columbia is closely following these alerts and will act if conditions change.

Columbia has published a series of FAQs around COVID-19 and will continue to update the website as needed. Please use these additional resources for more information:

Columbia Preparedness
World Health Organization (WHO) Information about Coronavirus
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Situation Summary
NYC Department of Health Information About Coronavirus


Finally, we know that many in our community may have family or friends affected by this outbreak. We encourage anyone who needs support during this time to contact Columbia Health’s Counseling and Psychological Services, CUIMC’s Mental Health Services, or the Office of the University Chaplain.


Ira Katznelson
Interim Provost
Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History

Lee Goldman
Harold and Margaret Hatch Professor
Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine