COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information for Faculty and Staff

COVID-19 Guidance
COVID-19 Guidance

Columbia University's central resource for COVID-19 information.

Remote Working for HR Managers
Remote Working

Guidance for HR Managers on transactions and remote managing.

Research and Coronavirus
Research Activities

FAQs on conducting research, research operations, and sponsored projects.

Campus Events

Non-essential events of more than 25 people is strongly discouraged on all of campuses.

Travel and Coronavirus

All Columbia business travel is suspended for all affiliates. Risk Assessment By Country

Food Relief Fund
Food Relief Fund

Support food relief in the neighborhoods around Columbia campuses. 

Key Resources

Anyone who will be physically on campus, whether intermittently or on a regular basis, must have a new SARS-CoV2 test (also known as a Gateway test) prior to returning to campus. If they will be on campus beginning in January, the test must be completed by Monday, January 25. If they will be returning later than January 25th, they should schedule and complete the test prior to their first day on campus.

Schedule your appointment on the Online Patient Portal.

Updated: 12/29/2020, 1:00 p.m.

New York State vaccinations are in Phase 1b and includes people age 75 and older, education workers (through grade 12 and in-person college instructors), and public sector transit and public safety employees. Learn more about eligible groups and scheduling a vaccination.

Note: Columbia University itself does not have access to the vaccine.

Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Updated 1/12/2021, 9:15 am

View Returning to Campus information 

For the safety of our community and in accordance with the Enhanced University Health and Safety Policy, everyone must complete the following protocol before returning to campus:

Visitors and vendors must complete a health screening form before reporting or entering any University building or location. 

Updated: 12/29/2020, 1:00 p.m.

If you have not already, sign up for direct deposit of your paycheck via My.Columbia.

Updated:12/29/2020, 1:00 p.m.

Learn about the types of Leaves of Absence if you cannot work — and the required approval processes. 

Take a Leave of Absence

HR Managers: Go to Managing Leaves of Absence.

Updated:12/29/2020, 1:00 p.m.

Columbia TogetherStories, images, and shout-outs by Columbia Faculty and Staff

Use the Columbia ReopenCU App

Before returning to campus buildings, you must complete the daily COVID-19 Symptoms Attestation.

Watch a tutorial:

For all information regarding COVID-19, email
[email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions


  • Do you have any tips for staying healthy at this time?  
    Several preventive actions can help to prevent spread of all respiratory viruses. See the COVID-19 Health Guidance.
    (last updated: 8/5/2020)
  • What is social distancing?
    To prevent or reduce the spread of infection, all faculty and staff should implement social-distancing practices meant to reduce close contact within the workplace. Review the updated COVID-19 Guidance on Social Distancing.
    (last updated: 8/5/2020)

  • I believe that I am in a high-risk group for COVID-19. What should I do?
    If you believe that you are in a high-risk group, please reach out to your supervisor to determine if an accommodation can be made to either work remotely or work an alternate work schedule. Wherever possible, your supervisor will approve the work-from-home request. Documentation of the underlying medical condition that prompted the request may be required to process with Leave Management.
    (last updated: 3/16/2020)

Campus Operations


  • Can I get tested for COVID-19 if I was exposed but have no symptoms?  

    Yes.Columbia University is taking multiple approaches to create a COVID-19 ready campus and to limit the potential spread of the virus. Learn more about the Test and Trace Program.
    (last updated: 11/18/2020)

  • Should I go to work if I have no symptoms and have not traveled?
    As part of our shared duty to reduce transmission of COVID-19, all members of the Columbia community are expected to monitor their health daily before coming to campus. COVID-19 Public Health Protocols
    (last updated: 11/16/2020)
  • Should I go to work if I have no symptoms but recently traveled?  
    To reduce further spread of COVID-19, Columbia University continues to have travel restrictions. Columbia faculty, staff, and students are required to follow local, state, and federal travel guidelines. COVID-19 Public Health Protocols
    (last updated: 11/16/2020)
  • ​​​​​What should I do if I am sick? 
    If you are sick with a fever or respiratory symptoms, do not report to work (either in person or remote). Your time off should be treated as a standard sick time absence, and you and your manager should work with Leave Management. Questions about how to code your absence should be directed to your local Human Resources department.
    (last updated: 11/16/2020)
  • What do I do if I tested positive for COVID-19 or I have symptoms or I am waiting for test results?
    Do not report to work if you tested positive for the Coronavirus or you are experiencing symptoms or are waiting for test results.  Your time off should be treated as a standard sick time absence, and you and your manager should work with Leave Management. Employees should submit requests for an emergency absence to their managers. Information regarding your self-isolation is sensitive and should only be shared on a need-to-know basis.
    (last updated: 3/25/2020)
  • What do I do to return to work after recovering from COVID-19?
    The decision to stop home isolation and return to work should be made in consultation with your healthcare provider, state and local health departments and your supervisor. Learn more about clearance and returning to work
    (last updated: 11/16/2020)
  • Do I need to be quarantined if I was in contact with someone that may have been COVID-19 positive and I do not have any symptoms?

    Yes, all affiliates are required to quarantine. More information
    (last updated: 11/16/2020)
  • I have been told by my manager that I am essential personnel and must report on-site, but I do not feel well. Do I have to come in anyway?
    No. If you are not feeling well, stay home. Contact your supervisor, as you would any other time you are requesting sick time. Please also exercise the usual precautions associated with seasonal illnesses like colds and flu:

    • Stay home to rest and drink plenty of fluids
    • Contact your healthcare provider (see above) for guidance
    • Limit contact with other household members
    • Do not share items like drinking glasses, towels, eating utensils
    • Wipe down high touch surfaces (e.g. doorknobs, telephones, remote controls, and bathroom surfaces) often with a standard household disinfectant
      (last updated: 11/16/2020)


  • I lost a family member to Covid-19. He/she was a frontline healthcare worker. Are there resources available to me?
    The New York Life Foundation and the Cigna Foundation established the Brave of Heart Fund to offer monetary grants to families of frontline healthcare workers who lost their lives to COVID-19. Please find information about the program, including FAQs, at
    (last updated 12/30/2020)

  • Is Columbia University modifying health and welfare plan provisions or deadlines as a result of COVID-19?
    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, agency-issued guidance impacting Plan participants is constantly evolving. If you have concerns under the Plan with respect to your coverage or meeting an applicable deadline due to the national emergency concerning the COVID-19 outbreak, please contact the Plan Administrator at (212) 851-7012 to determine if relief may be available to you.  

    Active employees may also reference the Columbia University Group Benefit Plan COVID-19 Pandemic Summary of Material Modification (SMM). The SMM describes important changes being made to the Columbia University Group Benefit Plan, as amended and restated effective January 1, 2020.
    (last updated: 8/3/2020)
  • I have a medical or mental health concern; how can I speak with a professional while at home?
    • If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 (coronavirus), contact your primary care provider immediately.
    • Virtual Visits are ideal for asking questions of a medical professional while at home or if you don't have a primary care doctor. 
  • Will UnitedHealthcare cover the cost of COVID-19 care?
    • UHC will cover antibody detection tests (Serology - IGG/IGM/IGA for SARS-nCOV2 (COVID19). From April 10, 2020 through April 20, 2021, UnitedHealthcare will cover COVID-19 antibody tests ordered by a physician or health care provider to diagnose COVID-19 at no cost share to the member, In and Out of Network.  
      (last updated: 1/20/2021)
    • Your health benefits plan administered by UnitedHealthcare will cover the initial provider office visit and subsequent lab testing specifically related to COVID-19 testing at no cost to you from February 4, 2020 through April 20, 2021. Effective December 18, 2020 your pharmaceutical benefits administered by Optum Rx will cover the cost for FDA approved COVD-19 vaccines.
      (last updated: 1/20/2021)

      See UnitedHealthcare's COVID-19 FAQs for additional answers related to cost, coverage and support for faculty and staff affected by coronavirus.
      (last updated: 11/16/2020)
  • Are COVID-19-related medical items Healthcare FSA eligible?
    The CARES Act (COVID Stimulus Bill) that was recently passed by Congress permanently reinstates coverage of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medicines as eligible for reimbursement from FSAs and HSAs without need for a prescription. This change is effective for expenses incurred on or after January 1, 2020. For a list of eligible expenses, go to UHC’s website or IRS Publication 502.
    (last updated: 04/21/2020)

  • What happens if the spending card does not work on the OTC purchases?
    A member may use the accounts to purchase the products. However, when a person attempts to use the payment Mastercard it may not work at the moment. This is because individual pharmacies and convenience stores must update their systems to recognize these products as qualified medical expenses for FSA purchases.

    You should first try to use the card as you normally would to make the purchase. If the same does not process, you may pay out of pocket and then reimburse yourself with their account funds. Keep the itemized receipts, which are needed to verify the purchases.

    Reminder for HSAs, the debit card may be used as it normally is since no claim reimbursement process is required. As always the receipts should be kept for tax purposes.
    (last updated: 04/21/2020)

  • Can I increase, reduce or suspend contributions to my 2020 Dependent Care FSA?
    Due to COVID-19, the IRS is providing the opportunity to make changes to 2020 Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) outside of the annual benefits Open Enrollment period.

    To change an existing 2020 Dependent Care FSA election or newly enroll for 2020, log in to CUBES,  select Qualified Life Status Change (QLSC), and Change in Dependent Care Cost. 
    (last updated: 11/17/2020)

  • Can I increase, reduce or suspend contributions to my Transit/Parking Reimbursement Program (T/PRP)?
    You can make changes your T/PRP account at any time. 

    • Log in to CUBES; confirm access through multi-factor authentication (DUO).

    • Click the “Benefits” tab at the top of the screen, then “Update Your Transit/Parking Elections.”

    • Changes made on or before the 20th day of a month will be effective the first day of the following month (March 20 change effective April 1). Changes made on or after the 21st day of a month will be effective the first day of the second following month (March 21 change effective May 1). 

    • Click the “Change” button for either the Transit Reimbursement Program or the Parking Reimbursement Program. Enter a monthly contribution amount and “Add to Cart.”

    • View your cart and be sure to “Checkout” to save your election.
      (last updated: 3/19/2020)

  • I am anxious about the Coronavirus, who can I speak with?
    The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a free, confidential resource available 24/7 that gives you the opportunity to speak with a licensed mental health professional, who can direct you to additional resources as needed.

    If you're feeling nervous about the coronavirus, you're not alone. Being concerned and empathetic about this outbreak is normal. However, you may experience feelings of discomfort, impacting concentration, productivity and even disrupting sleep patterns. 

    Stick to the facts as communicated by public-health agencies or medical professionals. Instead of reading every article and going to every website, avoiding the web is probably a good idea. If you're concerned, sites that include accurate information include the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

    Try to keep it in perspective. Social media can amplify misinformation. Keep in mind that there's a concerted global effort to contain this virus, and the World Health Organization has answers to common questions.

    10 Tips to Enhance Well-Being When Working Remotely
    (last updated: 3/31/2020)


  • How do I keep motivated when working remotely?

  • I am a non-union support staff member. Is working remotely an option for me?
    Yes. Only designated personnel required to perform essential functions should report to work on-site. If you have not already discussed alternate work arrangements with your supervisor, please contact them as soon as possible.
    (last updated: 3/16/2020)

  • I am a union support staff member. Is working remotely an option for me?
    Yes. Only designated personnel required to perform essential functions should report to work on-site. If you have not already discussed alternate work arrangements with your supervisor, please contact them as soon as possible.
    (last updated: 3/16/2020)

  • I am working remotely. What are the general expectations from the University on remote-work?
    While specific expectations and guidance is provided by your department and supervisor, the following are general guidelines and procedures that should be followed:

    • When working remotely you are required to be fully active and engaged in your work for the entire working period.  You must be available by phone, email or other appropriate communication methods at all times.
    • If you become ill during the course of working remotely, please follow the same time away from work procedure in place from your School and/or Department for sick days while working on-site.
    • To the extent possible, your performance and productivity should remain consistent with on-site expectations from your supervisor.
    • As much as possible, remote work environments should be quiet and separate from outside activities and distractions.
    • You may use your own equipment or equipment supplied by your School and/or Department.  Any equipment provided on a short-term basis by the University must be returned immediately after the remote work arrangement ends.  You should make every effort to ensure laptops, telephones and any other devices are in satisfactory working order, and work with your local IT resource to address any malfunctions.
    • Review and familiarize yourself with the University’s guidance on computer security.
    • You are responsible for maintaining the security of confidential and restricted files, data and other information.
    • Managers should schedule regular check-ins with you or your team to ensure necessary work is being completed.  In some situations, daily check-ins may be required.
      (last updated: 3/13/2020)
  • I am a manager, do I have to allow my employees to work remotely?
    While the university remains open, managers should implement telework plans for non-essential employees, so that the university can maintain operations while taking every precaution to reduce the spread of infection. 

    • Non-essential employees should work from home when possible.
    • Eligible employees are those whose university duties can be completely or substantially performed at a distance or from home, as determined by their manager.
    • For detailed information on conducting transactions and managing staff at a distance, visit HR Manager Remote Working.
      (last updated: 3/26/2020)

Time Off/Flex-Time

  • What options do I have to take a leave of absence?
    Learn about the types of Leaves of Absence if you cannot work — and the required approval processes. Learn more.

    HR Managers: Go the Toolkit for help with managing leaves of absence.
    (last updated: 12/29/2020)

  • I am unable to report to work due to school closure, or another family situation related to COVID-19. How will I be paid?  
    Columbia offers full-time and regular part-time employees a one-time allotment of up to 10 paid work days of COVID-Absence in these situations, in addition to any other available leave benefits under our existing University policies (including up to 56 hours under the New York Safe and Sick Leave Policy). Employees should submit requests for COVID-Absence to their managers. 

    Learn more about other University leave policies.
    (last updated: 12/29/2020)

  • I would like to alter my work schedule to travel during off-peak hours. What should I do?
    At the discretion of your School/Department leadership and your supervisor, you may request a flex-time schedule. For example, staggering the start and end time of your day to assist our city officials in reducing the amount of traffic at peak times on public transportation. All time reporting policies and processes remain in place, even if working an alternate work schedule.

    All University staff who can telecommute should speak to their manager to discuss options to telecommute
    (last updated: 3/31/2020)

  • What resources are available to help me adjust to working remotely?

  • Can I take a voluntary furlough?
    Columbia University is offering certain employees the option to take a full or partial unpaid furlough.

Child Care

What options/resources are available for child care?

  1. Bright Horizons can assist with backup care. Here are instructions for reserving care:

  2. Health AdvocateResources for parents supporting at-home children

    (last updated: 11/18/2020)​​​
  3. Columbia's Office of Work/LifeResources for parents during COVID-19

    (last updated: 11/18/2020)​​​


News & Events

COVID-19 Vaccination Update

(1/12/2021) While “in-person college instructors” are eligible to be vaccinated beginning today, Columbia does not have access to the vaccine allocation at this time. 

Spring Term 2021 Required Gateway COVID-19 Testing

(12/1/2020)  Effective January 4, 2021, a NEW gateway test is required for all faculty, staff, and students accessing Columbia campuses and other facilities. 

COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Should Know

(11/11/2020) Magdalena Sobieszczyk, associate professor of medicine at the Vagelos College and and chief of infectious diseases at NewYork-Presbyterian/CUIMC, answers questions about the COVID-19 vaccine candidates and the future of the pandemic.

Health Advisory: Testing, Tracing, Quarantine, and Isolation

(8/5/2020) Columbia is instituting critical public health measures, including face covering and mask wearingphysical distancinghand hygienedaily symptom checking and reporting, and enhancements to facilities such as maximizing fresh air, air filter replacement, and supplementary cleaning

Voluntary Furlough Application

(7/22/2020) In response to the economic toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken, Columbia University is offering certain employees the option to take a full or partial unpaid furlough.

Voluntary Furlough Application     |     Voluntary Furlough Policy

COVID-19 Safety Training Reporting

(7/2/2020) 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.

Target Date Set for Ramping Up Laboratory and Clinical Research 

(6/12/2020) We are pleased to announce that President Bollinger has set a target date for beginning the ramping up of laboratory and clinical research on campus: Monday, June 22.

How New York City Phase One Affects the University

(6/8/2020) Remote work arrangements for Columbia will remain in place. Unless you have been identified by your department as required to be on site, you should be working from home, and you should continue to do so.

COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know

(5/12/2020) There are many different coronavirus tests out there. They fall into two main groups – diagnostic tests and antibody tests. This information is intended to help you understand these tests and determine whether either may be right for you.

How to stay social and upbeat during COVID-19

(4/23/2020) Watch this webinar recording hosted by Humana for tips on social distancing, rethinking routines, ways to stay connected virtually, addressing food insecurity, and finding community resources.

Looking Ahead

(4/16/2020) Interim Provost Ira Katznelson and Executive Vice President for Finance and Information Technology Anne Sullivan reflect on what lies ahead for the University.

University Life Forum: Your Questions Answered on COVID-19

(4/12/2020) Join the virtual University Life Forum: Your Questions Answered on COVID-19 on Monday, April 13 at 12:15 PM on Zoom.

PAC System Upgrade Coming April 6, 2020

(4/1/2020) The HR, Payroll and CUIT teams have been working on upgrading the current People @ Columbia (PAC) system. The upgrade will be implemented at the beginning of April and the updated system will be available on Monday, April 6, 2020.

Update on COVID-19: Temporary Policies in Place

(3/26/2020) We have all made a great number of adjustments to our daily lives over the last several weeks. The following outlines two new temporary policies related to pay continuity and paid emergency absences. 

University Life Forum: Update on COVID-19 for the Columbia Community

(3/25/2020) Watch a discussion about COVID-19 with leading experts from Columbia University. 

Public Health Now Podcast: Flattening the curve?

(3/24/2020) Dr. Stephen Morse discusses approaches to control the spread of COVID-19 and contain the virus.

Public Health Now Podcast: Next moves, according to science

(3/24/2020) Famed "virus hunter" Dr. W. Ian Lipkin answers your questions about what a virus is, where did COVID-19 come from, and what's on the horizon for potential treatments.

Public Health Now Podcast: Health systems (dys)function

(3/24/2020) Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, a veteran of the HIV, tuberculosis and Ebola epidemics of the past decades, provides some perspective on the lessons learned from previous outbreaks and how knowledge is our greatest defense.