Public Health Update: Masking Recommended in Public Settings

For more COVID-19 guidance and updates, visit the COVID-19 Resource Guide for the Columbia Community website.

December 13, 2022

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community, 

We write to update you on the recent increase in the number of cases of COVID-19,  influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in New York City. The city is currently experiencing a concurrent spike in all three respiratory illnesses. These trends are also being observed nationally with hospitalizations for influenza reaching their highest level at this point in time in more than a decade. 

In an effort to slow transmission, the NYC Department of Health issued a Health Advisory on Friday, December 9, strongly recommending that all New Yorkers wear a high-quality mask in public indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings and take other proven precautions such as vaccination, testing, hand hygiene, and staying home when sick. As per the Advisory, this is especially important for people who are – or are meeting – those who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19, RSV, or influenza, such as those age 65 and older and people who are immunocompromised.

Consistent with this Advisory and existing recommendations, the University is strongly recommending that all Columbia affiliates wear high-quality masks in public indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings on campus. This includes classrooms, offices, laboratories, and while gathering indoors for events such as holiday parties.

In addition to masking, we strongly recommend that all Columbia affiliates take the following precautions through the remainder of the holiday season:  

  1. Test for COVID-19 prior to travel and large indoor gatherings  
  2. Test for COVID-19 prior to your return to campus for the Spring semester   
  3. Wear a mask while traveling and in crowded indoor and outdoor public settings  
  4. Get the COVID-19 bivalent booster vaccine dose as soon as you are eligible 
  5. Get the influenza vaccine  
  6. Stay home if you feel sick  

Both COVID-19 and influenza vaccines are widely available at community pharmacies and through medical providers (including Columbia Health and CUIMC Student Health on Haven for eligible students).  

As always, the University will continue to monitor the public health status and provide updates as needed.  

Thank you,  

Wafaa M. El-Sadr, MD, MPH, MPA, Executive Vice President, Columbia Global, University Professor, and Chair, Public Health Working Group, President’s COVID-19 Task Force

Melanie Bernitz, MD, MPH, Senior Vice President, Columbia Health and Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine (in the Center for Family and Community Medicine)

Gerald M. Rosberg, Senior Executive Vice President