According to an email sent out today, students who test positive for COVID-19 will now isolate for five days if asymptomatic.

Asymptomatic individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will now be able to end their isolation after five days—a shift from the previous mandate of 10 days—according to an email sent out today by Senior Vice President of Columbia Health Melanie Bernitz. This comes after New York State updated its guidelines in accordance with recent measures from the CDC. The full text of the email can be found below. 

Under the new guidance, isolation for asymptomatic students will begin on day zero: the first day of COVID-19 symptom onset or of a positive test result when the student is fully asymptomatic. Individuals who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster do not need to quarantine if exposed but are still encouraged to get tested five to seven days after the most recent exposure. However, exposed individuals who are either not vaccinated, not fully vaccinated, or have not received a booster dose when eligible, should quarantine for five days if no symptoms are present. 

Additionally, all individuals who isolated for five days are encouraged to wear a “well-fitting mask” in the five days after the initial isolation period. Those who are unable to wear a well-fitting mask post-isolation must follow the 10-day isolation guidance, along with those who are moderately-severely immunocompromised. 

The email also encouraged students to upload their vaccine and booster information through the Columbia Health Patient Portal and reminded students of the mandated Spring 2022 gateway test. As a reminder, students must submit their booster information by January 31 or within 31 days if they reach eligibility on or after February 1. In order to enter campus, students are also required to obtain a PCR test from a Columbia location by January 28. Finally, students should continue to wear face coverings around campus—including in crowded settings.  

Update on January 10 at 7:21 pm: 

Undergraduate schools sent individual messages to their respective student bodies today clarifying how isolation will look in the spring semester. The respective emails, one jointly from Columbia College and Columbia Engineering and the other from Barnard, can be found below. All three schools will require a minimum of five days of isolation for students who test positive, and most students will be isolating in their housing assignments. All three schools will also provide dedicated isolation space for students with severe symptoms or high-risk underlying conditions, while Barnard will subsidize food and transportation by car for students who are able to isolate off-campus. For students who remain on campus to isolate, CC and SEAS have appointed a “designated location on campus” for students to pick up grab-and-go meals, while Barnard will deliver meals to students. All schools have instructed students to upgrade to high-quality, non-cloth masks for the term, and CC and SEAS specifically require roommates and suitemates of isolating students to get tested for COVID-19 five days after exposure.

Barnard also instituted a new restriction on guests in its residence halls, barring all non-residential Barnard students and all CU students who do not already live in Barnard housing from entering Barnard dormitories beginning Friday, January 14.

Update on January 13 at 8:30 pm: Beginning tomorrow, January 14 at 5 pm, residence hall access will be restricted to students in Columbia College and Columbia Engineering, according to an email sent out today by the two colleges. Students in Barnard and General Studies, and those with commuter access, will be temporarily barred from entering CC/SEAS residence halls. These measures will continue until the end of January, at which point the University will reevaluate. The full text of the email can be found below.

Email sent from Senior Vice President of Columbia Health Melanie Bernitz to students on January 7 at 3:03 pm: 

Dear Students,

The University is carefully monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic status in the New York City metro area and among our affiliates. I write to share updated guidance on isolation and quarantine in case of COVID-19 infection or exposure, as well as to remind you of critical safety measures as the Omicron variant surges throughout New York City and across the country.

New isolation and quarantine guidelines. New York State, acting on guidance from the CDC, has updated isolation and quarantine guidelines as follows:

  • Isolation:
    • All individuals who test positive for COVID-19  can end their isolation after 5 days if they are asymptomatic. Day 0 is considered the first day of symptom onset or the day of a positive test result (fully asymptomatic).
  • Quarantine:
    • Individuals who are fully vaccinated AND have received booster dose do not need to quarantine. Such individuals are recommended to get tested on day 5-7 after last exposure.
    • Individuals who are not vaccinated OR not fully vaccinated OR are eligible for a booster but have not yet received one should quarantine for 5 days – where day 0 is the last day of exposure – if symptoms do not appear. Such individuals are recommended to get tested on day 5-7.

Please wear a well-fitting mask while around others for an additional 5 days. Individuals who are unable to wear a well-fitting mask for 5 days after a 5-day isolation should follow standard (i.e., not shortened) 10-day isolation guidance.

Individuals who are moderately-severely immunocompromised should also follow standard (i.e., not shortened) 10-day isolation guidance.

Upload vaccine and booster information. As you are aware, the Omicron variant has been shown to be more transmissible than prior virus variants.  However, there are reassuring data suggesting that this variant causes less severe illness and that our vaccines, and particularly once boosted, also protect against symptomatic and severe COVID-19.  

Students can currently upload their COVID-19 vaccine and booster information on the Columbia Health Patient Portal. If you are uploading your booster information, please also make sure to enter the date of your booster shot under COVID-19 Vaccine History. Students who have already uploaded documentation of their booster will have their dates updated. Submission of booster information is due by January 31, 2022 or within 31 days if you reach eligibility on/after February 1. For students who received a WHO-authorized vaccine, we remind you that you must also get a booster dose with an FDA-approved mRNA vaccine (Pfizer/Moderna) if you are in the United States.

If you are an incoming student this Spring term, or a continuing student who has not submitted the mandatory seasonal influenza documentation, please also submit documentation as soon as possible. You may have a registration hold if you are not compliant with any current immunization requirement and the hold will remain in place until you are fully compliant with all current items.

Report outside positive test results. While Columbia is doing its own asymptomatic testing on campus, we also urge you to report any outside positive test results as soon as you receive your result to so that we have an accurate picture of COVID-19 positive cases in our community and can provide you with information on available resources.

Continue to wear face coverings. Data continue to confirm that a mask or face covering worn by all individuals will reduce transmission as well as acquisition of the virus and prevent community spread of the disease. Please wear a well-fitting face covering in all public settings, all social gatherings even when vaccination status or testing status of all individuals is known, as well as in crowded outdoor settings.

Get your Spring 2022 gateway test. All students are required to get a PCR test from a Columbia location by January 28 to access campus. Please review the COVID-19 website for your specific requirement and timing.  If your first time on campus is after January 28, you will have a red pass until you have completed the gateway test and the app updates (within 72 hours).

Please continue to take essential preventive measures to stay safe and healthy as we grapple with the latest wave of COVID-19. We look forward to welcoming you back to campus in the coming weeks.

Be well,

Melanie J. Bernitz, MD, MPH

Senior Vice President, Columbia Health

Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine (in the Center for Family and Community Medicine)

Email from Columbia College and Columbia Engineering sent to students on January 10 at 4:14 pm:

Dear [student],

As we prepare for the beginning of the spring semester on January 18, the current trajectory of the omicron variant suggests we will experience many more positive cases on campus than we did this past fall. However, we are a fully vaccinated community with a booster mandate. The impact of the virus, in particular the omicron variant, is very different under these circumstances than in the early stages of the pandemic. While highly transmissible, this variant tends to result in asymptomatic or mild infections, allowing a different balance to be struck between the benefits and negative impacts of isolation.

Accordingly, the University has updated several key policies in consultation with the President’s COVID-19 Task Force and consistent with updated guidance from the CDC and New York State Department of Health. Please review the information below carefully, and find additional details on these and other policies impacting undergraduate students on this website, which will be kept up-to-date with the latest information.

Isolation Protocols

Effective tomorrow, January 11, students who test positive after returning to campus will be instructed, in most cases, to isolate in-place for a minimum of 5 days – either in their assigned campus residence or non-Columbia housing. Separate isolation facilities will be reserved for students with underlying health conditions, and those with symptoms that require close monitoring.

  • All students who test positive will be provided with resources and support when contacted with instructions to begin their isolation period.
  • Approved masks (i.e. non-cloth) must be worn at all times by those in isolation while in the presence of others.
  • Students isolating in Columbia housing may only leave their room in limited situations:
    • Up to 3 times per day to pick up grab-and-go meals from a designated location on campus
    • Medical appointments or treatment
    • Relocation to an off-campus location (i.e. with family) for isolation via private vehicle
  • Anyone concerned with their own symptoms, or those of a roommate or neighbor, should proactively contact Columbia Health or Public Safety for medical assistance.
  • All roommates or suitemates of students in isolation should wear an approved mask at all times and will be required to test 5 days after exposure, unless otherwise indicated.
  • No guests are allowed in any room or suite where students are in isolation.
  • Only students who have not received a booster (if eligible) will be required to quarantine in-place after close contact with a student in isolation.

Dining, Events & Gatherings

  • Columbia Dining halls will offer grab-and-go food only during the first week of the term, January 18-24. Additional information on dining services will be shared in the days and weeks ahead.
  • Non-academic Columbia-related gatherings, both on and off campus, are prohibited until the end of January.
  • Students are strongly urged to avoid indoor social gatherings, wherever they are located, unless you are aware of the vaccination and testing status of everyone present. Approved masks should be worn at all times while indoors, and in crowded outdoor gatherings.

Pre-Arrival & Gateway Testing

In addition to required gateway testing, all students are strongly encouraged to test 48 hours prior to their return to campus. If you test positive before arrival, email ASAP to notify Columbia Health. They will provide isolation instructions and support information. Do not travel to campus. Isolate in-place, and do not return until you complete your isolation period.

Pre-arrival testing will help to protect our community by reducing the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus upon arrival.

Please remember to confirm your gateway testing requirements and schedule your tests in advance. Appointments can be made 7-10 days in advance via the Columbia Health Patient Portal. If you are already back on campus and have not tested, make an appointment now.

Booster Documentation

Please upload documentation and details for your required booster shot as soon as possible. The deadline to receive your booster, if eligible, is January 31, 2022. Upload your booster documentation now via the Columbia Health Patient Portal. 

We look forward to seeing you on campus in the coming weeks and hope you are staying safe while enjoying the winter break —

Columbia College and Columbia Engineering

Email sent from Dean Leslie Grinage and Vice President of Health and Wellness Marina Catallozzi to Barnard students on January 10 at 4:17 pm:

Dear Barnard Students,

We look forward to seeing you back on campus. Prioritizing the health of our community along with in-person living and learning requires that we continually evolve along with the pandemic. As such, we write to update you on Barnard’s health and safety measures so that you know what to do to return to campus and what to expect for the Spring semester.

We invite students and their families to join us for a webinar this Thursday, January 13 from 12:30 to 1:30 PM EST to review our COVID-19 updates and plans for the beginning of the semester. Please register in advance. A recording will be shared afterward to accommodate those unable to join us live. Please submit your questions in advance using this Google Form so that our speakers can be sure to address those topics; there will be an opportunity to ask questions during the event as well.

Before returning to campus:

Inform us of your anticipated return-to-campus date

Complete the non-binding Return to Campus Plans Form as soon as possible. Having a good sense of students’ intended arrival dates helps us plan for testing volume, isolation support, dining services, and more.

Review the arrival guide

This arrival guide prepared by the Pandemic Response Team (PRT) includes a checklist for pre-arrival requirements, as well as what residential students should expect when returning to the residence halls.


Provide a negative result of a PCR test taken no earlier than 5 days before returning to campus. (Students who tested positive within 90 days of their return to campus and completed isolation will be exempt from the required pre-arrival COVID-19 PCR test.)

If your pre-arrival test result is positive, you must complete your isolation prior to returning to campus.

Non-Barnard positive COVID-19 tests taken since December must be uploaded into Coverified if they haven’t been already.

Refer to the arrival guide for further details around testing, uploading test results, and what to do if you have or have had a positive test result.


Upload COVID-19 booster vaccination documentation if eligible for the COVID-19 booster prior to returning to campus as part of the College-wide booster requirement. If you are not yet eligible for the booster, you will be required to receive the booster as soon as you become eligible.

Upload the required flu vaccine by the January 10 deadline.

Students who received a vaccination at PCHS do not need to upload any further documentation.

Refer to the vaccine webpage for further information on the College’s vaccine requirements, including instructions for how to upload your vaccines and what to do if you’re having any issues. Questions that aren’t answered by the vaccine webpage can be directed to

Once back on campus:


As we wrote on December 22, the first two weeks of classes (at both Barnard and Columbia) will be remote. The reasoning behind this decision is two-fold: (1) to allow for a natural staggering of students back to campus to reduce initial density and testing and isolation space demands and (2) to make it as easy as possible for students who are testing positive during this surge time to access class. After this two-week period, we expect in-person teaching to fully resume.

College-wide Testing Requirements

Take a PCR test within 24 hours of returning to campus.

Non-Barnard PCR tests will continue to be accepted for Barnard’s testing requirement and must be uploaded into CoVerified, which continues to be linked to ID swipe-access into Barnard’s buildings.

Do PCR testing twice a week when accessing campus as part of the College’s response to the current Omicron surge in New York City. This twice-weekly testing requirement is currently set through January.


Wear the most protective and best-fitting mask you can find, preferably a N95, KN95, KF94, multi-layered surgical mask, or double mask. Masking is a vital component of our layered approach to decreasing the transmission of COVID-19.

Cloth masks are not protective against Omicron transmission when worn alone. N95, KN95, and KF94 masks are available upon request in the testing center for all community members.

Until further notice, masking will continue to be required indoors, including in all shared residential spaces such as lounges, kitchens, and bathrooms (when possible). Individuals may be unmasked if in a private space alone.


Indoor campus dining will be to-go only; no eating will be permitted inside Hewitt Dining Hall, Diana Center Cafe, or Liz’s Place. In addition, indoor dining is only allowed in private locations such as individual offices, break rooms, or residential spaces. Indoor dining will be reassessed during the month of January. Details about dining operations will be updated on the COVID-19 Information website.

Guests & Gatherings

Only residential students will be permitted to access Barnard’s residence halls starting January 14. Students will not be able to sign in non-residential Barnard students and only CU students who live in Barnard housing will be permitted to access the residence halls.

No social gatherings or in-person events are permitted through the end of January. We have continued to see that unmasked social gatherings play a major role in transmission. All events, gatherings, and meetings should be held virtually during this time.

Contact Tracing

Barnard’s contact tracing operations have been updated.

Following contact tracing outreach to community members who test positive for COVID-19, only significant contacts will be notified (i.e. someone who spent more than 15 minutes or shares an apartment or suite with someone who has tested positive).

Additionally, people at a higher risk for complications of COVID-19 may self-identify via this form to be notified if they have been identified as a close contact. We encourage you to self-identify in this matter if you are concerned about your personal risk factors.


Like other schools in New York City and around the country, we have adjusted isolation policies and procedures. Our priority is to mitigate further exposures or contact with anyone who tests positive for COVID-19.

The required isolation period can be shortened from the full 10-day period. Students (residential and non-residential) may be granted permission to end their isolation period after 5 full days following their isolation start date, which is established by Barnard’s Primary Care Health Service (PCHS). Isolation can end early only following a clinical assessment of symptoms. Antigen (rapid) testing may also be utilized to end isolation as directed by PCHS.

Residential students who are able to isolate and recover at home or elsewhere off campus are asked to do so. The College can provide private car service at no cost, gift cards for food for students on a meal plan, and other support so that residential students can isolate off-campus safely.

Due to the limited amount of dedicated isolation housing at the College and anticipated positivity rates, students should be prepared to recover in their housing assignments if they test positive and they are unable to do so off-campus. Barnard will continue to provide meal and delivery support to these students, minimizing any further exposure to the campus community. The PRT will share recommendations with students to minimize further risk of transmission should in-place isolation be necessary. PRT and PCHS will determine if any students will move to temporary housing assignment based on the likelihood of transmission, underlying conditions and risk of infection.

Our holistic approach to Spring 2022 planning includes monitoring campus data and regional data summarized on our campus dashboard, as well as consultation with our infectious disease advisors at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

We recognize that this semester is starting out with more restrictions in place. Our goal is to ride the Omicron surge in the best possible way so that we can enjoy a fuller in-person living and learning experience on campus for a majority of the Spring semester. We will continue to make decisions that best serve our community in the current landscape and to communicate these changes clearly. By being proactive and adapting now, we are confident that the systems, responses and communications that are in place will help us move toward a vibrant and fulfilling Spring semester.


Leslie Grinage

Dean of the College

Marina Catallozzi, MD, MSCE

Vice President of Health and Wellness, Chief Health Officer

Email from Columbia College and Columbia Engineering sent to students on January 13 at 7:16 pm:


In preparation for your return to campus, please take a moment to review the updates below and familiarize yourself with all of the Spring 2022 COVD-19 policy updates.

Schedule Your Gateway Testing

Gateway testing is mandatory for all Columbia University students and we encourage you to schedule yours as early as possible.

Students returning to their residence hall: You must complete an initial covid test, via Columbia Health, the first business day after you arrive on campus. A second gateway test will be required five to seven days later.

Students living off-campus: You will be required to complete an initial covid test, via Columbia Health, within 72 hours of your return to campus.

Students already on campus: If you have not tested with Columbia Health, schedule an appointment ASAP – followed by your second gateway test five to seven days later.

Gateway testing appointments can be made 7-10 days in advance via the Columbia Health Patient Portal. Schedule Now

Updated Guest & Visitor Policy

Effective tomorrow evening, January 14 at 5:00 p.m., we are implementing temporary access restrictions for guests and visitors in Columbia residence halls. CC/SEAS residential students will continue to be able to swipe into all residence halls.

Barnard, GS, and students with commuter access will be temporarily prohibited from entering Columbia residence halls as a guest or visitor.

Non-affiliates continue to be prohibited from entering Columbia residences, and these revised restrictions will remain in effect until the end of January, at which time we will re-evaluate and provide updated information.

Spring 2022 Policy Updates

Columbia has updated several key policies in consultation with the President’s COVID-19 Task Force and consistent with updated guidance from the CDC and New York State Department of Health.

Review the latest updates on boosters, testing, masks, isolation protocols, dining and events.COVID Updates

We look forward to seeing you on campus next week and hope you have enjoyed the winter break —

Columbia College and Columbia Engineering

testing center via Bwarchives