Students living on campus who test positive for COVID-19 before break starts will have to complete their isolation period on campus—unless they can travel elsewhere without using public transportation, according to Barnard and Columbia.

According to a Barnard College spokesperson, if a student tests positive at Barnard, the college’s policy remains that students must complete an isolation period of 10 days as per public health regulations. If residential students can safely get to an off-campus location without using public transit or airplanes, and can isolate there safely for both themselves and anyone else there, they do not have to stay in Barnard housing. If that is not possible, students may continue to isolate in Barnard housing. 

Essential services like heat, running water, and Internet will remain in operation over winter break for those in isolation housing, and daily support will still be provided by the quarantine/isolation team of case managers and runners. Anyone in Barnard housing will be notified by Barnard College about changes to services.

Columbia’s policy is similar: according to a University spokesperson, if a student can relocate to another isolation location without using public transit or airplanes, they will be allowed to leave campus. If that’s not possible, students will have to stay on campus. Housing, food, heat, and medical services via telehealth will still be provided after the semester ends.

Both Barnard and Columbia have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks, and cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in New York City. Barnard yesterday announced new dining restrictions for the remainder of the fall semester and vaccination requirements for the spring semester. Other New York colleges have implemented additional restrictions: Cornell University on Tuesday canceled all its events, moved finals online, and closed libraries and gyms, and NYU similarly moved its finals online starting Wednesday, according to an email sent to students included below.

Email sent to NYU students from Provost Katherine Fleming on Wednesday, December 15, at 9:30 am:

The continuous review of the data from our COVID-19 testing program has indicated a considerable acceleration in the rate of new cases in our community. It’s not a cause for alarm, but it is a cause for concern, caution, and appropriate actions.

Our foremost priority is the health and well-being of NYU community members. With that as a foundation and guide, our academic priority is to ensure that the academic progress of our students is maintained, and crucial end of semester assessments (examinations, papers, etc.) can be smoothly and successfully completed.  

Coming as it does after the end of classes, this development will entail less disruption. But the steps that, out of an abundance of caution, we take between now and the end of the semester are important. Schools and units should take the following steps:

Actions To Be Taken


We strongly encourage that final examinations and/or assessments be changed to remote/online format. Faculty should notify students of the final examination format as soon as possible and ideally no later than 5:00 pm, Wednesday, December 15.  

Notwithstanding the change to remote, if the examinations are going to be conducted synchronously, they should be held at their designated date and time (N.B.: “asynchronous” or take-home exams are not required to follow the exam schedule and may therefore provide more flexibility). Faculty members should consult the instructional technologists in their schools for any assistance they may need, such as protocols for proctoring online examinations. Only those assessments that are fundamentally unsuited to being conducted remotely (i.e. those that have a crucial in-person component) should proceed in person; in these cases, faculty should let their department chair and dean’s office know that they plan to conduct their exams in person. 

Gatherings and Events

All discretionary, non-essential, non-academic gatherings and events are to be canceled immediately. This includes events, club meetings, get-togethers for the holidays, celebrations, and athletic events, among other gatherings, both on-campus and off-campus, for students, faculty, and other employees. We are temporarily suspending the use of residence hall lounges and common/meeting spaces. In addition, we are temporarily suspending use of the athletic and recreational facilities.  

Study groups should plan to meet remotely rather than in person.


When eating, we strongly urge you to eat at least 6 feet apart from other people and for less than 15 minutes.  

While the weather remains a bit milder, we encourage  anyone who needs to be on campus to eat outside. We strongly encourage students to make use of “grab and go” eating, rather than sitting with others in a dining facility. If you do eat inside, you should keep your mask on until the moment you start eating, you should try to maintain physical distancing of at least six feet (two meters), and you should limit your meals to 15 minutes and then re-mask.

Remote Work

Offices should remain open and staffed in-person as necessary to support the end-of-semester academic needs of students and faculty and the daily operations of the University. Deans, vice presidents, department chairs, and unit heads must make appropriate determinations to ensure that there is sufficient in-person staffing to successfully and smoothly carry out the essential academic and operational functions of the University until winter break, which begins at the close-of-business on Wednesday, December 22. Provided those functions are met, leadership and managers have discretion to permit employees to carry on their duties remotely, if their work can be conducted in that manner.

Essential Employees

All employees whose duties are deemed essential continue to be required to report for their regular work assignments at their appointed place and hours. Employees unsure of whether their duties are considered essential should be in touch with their supervisor or manager.

COVID Testing

Consider getting a COVID-19 test whether you’re traveling for the holidays or not. You may want to get tested, especially if you have any reason to believe that you were put in a situation that involved a higher risk for transmission. Discretionary Testing is open to all students, faculty, and employees who wish to take a COVID-19 test. If you get tested off-campus and your test result is positive, complete the COVID-19 Reporting Form to notify the COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team.

In Conclusion

This is not quite how we expected to end the semester; however, if there is any consistency to the coronavirus, it is its unpredictability.

We take these steps, as we said earlier, out of an abundance of caution. By proceeding in this way, we can better safeguard the health and well-being of the NYU community but still fulfill our academic responsibilities.

Looking ahead to the spring semester: we will continue to carefully monitor public health guidance, COVID-19 rates and severity in New York City and at NYU, and data from our own testing, but as of now, we anticipate proceeding in the spring semester as we did in the fall: with the cautious, watchful resumption of in-person instruction and the progressive resumption of other activities and elements of campus life.

Lerner Hall Testing via Bwarchives