Dear members of the TC Community,
With spring break approaching (and, for many, its accompanying travel) and the evolving news about the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a topic of daily conversation, I am writing to provide some information and assurances related to this situation.
I want to remind you that the College has processes and guidelines in place to handle crises as they emerge, and to ensure that we can continue to operate during disasters and/or states of emergency. We have also put together a new website to serve as a repository of communications related to possible disasters, emergencies, or similar situations, and which links to Columbia’s excellent website about preparedness: https://preparedness.columbia.
As you can see in the message below from Columbia’s Interim Provost Ira Katznelson, Columbia has recommended that all affiliates (students, faculty, and staff) postpone any non-essential international travel. We concur with this recommendation.
While we hope that it is unnecessary to do so, we are developing plans should the College need to limit physical presence on campus, including possibilities for supporting the online delivery of course material in ways that both support learning and comply with New York State regulations.
Finally, I encourage you to continue to practice preventative measures as recommended by the CDC, including handwashing and staying home if you are feeling unwell.
Together with Provost Katznelson, I want to thank everyone for their calm, evidence-based response to this challenging situation, and to remind all of us that it is critical that we remain respectful of every member of our community through this and all moments.
President Thomas Bailey
From: Ira Katznelson, Interim Provost
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2020 at 8:54 AM
Subject: Travel: Spring Recess and Beyond
Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:
At this time of year, my predecessors traditionally have issued a message noting that during spring break many will be traveling abroad for research, teaching, and learning. Unfortunately, this year is different. In the context of the international reach of COVID-19, there is no choice but to outline restrictions on travel imposed by the spread of the virus. Further, as U.S. travel regulations for citizens of certain countries recently have been expanded, I must describe these as well.
All Columbia affiliates are strongly urged to postpone any non-essential international travel. For students, all upcoming travel outside the United States organized, led, or financed by Columbia is suspended until further notice.
Further, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance that institutes of higher education should “consider postponing or canceling student foreign exchange programs.” This advice is motivated in part by an awareness that, in the near future, “students may face unpredictable circumstances, travel restrictions, challenges in returning home or accessing health care while abroad.” Sharing that concern, I have asked the Center for Undergraduate Global Engagement to contact our students on study abroad programs and begin the process of determining the options for a safe and orderly return home.
As you know, the University has restricted all Columbia Travel to China, South Korea, and now Iran and Italy until further notice in light of the CDC’s Level 3 Travel Warning. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you believe your trip warrants exemption from these restrictions. The CDC also has issued an Alert Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions for Japan.
Persons who still must travel overseas should make every effort to stay up to date regarding often fast-changing governmental regulations, including Executive Orders and guidance issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of State, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Visa and entry restrictions have been placed on Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan, and Tanzania in addition to Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
Please be assured that active oversight and planning take place every day by a policy task force that consults closely with members of our University faculty who are leading research virologists and epidemiologists. Based on their expert guidance, as well as that of the CDC and the New York City and New York State health departments, the University’s core campuses continue to operate normally.
Current circumstances manifestly are uncertain, just the kind of situation that can generate deep anxiety. It is important that all of us modulate our responses to be consistent with the facts and the best information on hand.
I close with appreciation for the professionalism and thoughtful calm that characterize how our community is grappling with difficult current pressures.
Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History
Columbia International Students and Scholars Office
World Health Organization (WHO) Information about Coronavirus
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Situation Summary
NYC Department of Health Information About Coronavirus