[Morningside] Health Advisory: Caring for Yourself and Our Community

Clarifying public health guidelines and reminder to prioritize caring for one's health during this challenging time.

Melanie Bernitz, Columbia Health
April 15, 2020

Dear fellow members of the Columbia Morningside community, 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we write to remind you of the utmost importance of prioritizing your health and well-being during this challenging time

Public Health Guidelines 

Guidelines have been evolving near daily since the onset of the pandemic, as government officials and public health experts respond to the changing dynamics of the crisis. Given the sheer volume of communications and reporting about COVID-19, we are writing to clarify steps you can take based on the most updated guidance:  

  • Physical distancing applies to all circumstances. Widespread community transmission of COVID-19, especially in New York City, means reducing your inadvertent exposure to the virus is key to slowing and stopping the spread of the disease. This means you must stay at least 6 feet away from other people at all times: on the sidewalk, in the grocery store, on public transportation, while running or exercising outside, etc.  
  • Use a face covering when you are in public. Individuals who need to leave home for essential reasons are required (New York) or recommended (other areas in the US) to cover their mouth and nose with a cloth while in public settings where physical distancing measures are difficult to sustain (to obtain food or medicine, to go to work, on public transit, etc.). Essential workers on campus should wear a face mask, provided by the University.  The U.S. Surgeon General has a video on how to make a cloth face cover. Please wash this face cover after every use.  
  • Continue good prevention hygiene. Even with measures like face coverings and physical distancing, continue to take basic preventative measures like frequent hand washing, not touching your face with unwashed hands, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily, coughing/sneezing into your elbow, and staying home if you’re not feeling well. 

During times of uncertainty, it is natural to feel anxious or distressed about coronavirus and risks to yourself or others. The University COVID-19 page is the hub for updated information and addresses many questions and concerns. If you have questions about your health, please call the Columbia COVID-19 hotline at 212-854-9355 (M-F, 9 AM - 5 PM Eastern). 

Crucially, Columbia continues to provide services and resources to support your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, wherever you may be. 

For Students on the Morningside Campus:

For information about CUIMC student health and mental health services, please see https://www.cumc.columbia.edu/student-health/.

For Faculty and Staff 

  • Virtual Visits are ideal for asking questions of a medical professional while at home or if you don't have a primary care clinician.  
  • NYP OnDemand is a virtual urgent care service available to all University employees, regardless of insurance coverage, to connect with an emergency medicine physician from Columbia or Weill Cornell Medicine.  
  • 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.  
  • Please visit the Columbia HR website for more details on available resources and benefits. 

If You are Sick 

If you have symptoms (including cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat), stay home. If your symptoms are mild, you may not need to seek medical care. If you are a member of a higher risk group (including immunocompromised or severe chronic medical conditions) or your symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing, contact your primary care provider (PCP) or go to the emergency room.  Students, please reach out to Medical Services at 212-854-7426.  

Additional Information and Resources 

Please continue to visit the University COVID-19 website for updates to operations and for more information and resources to support your transition to living, studying, or working remotely.  

Many members of our campus have been personally and professionally impacted by this crisis. We are grateful for the comfort and support we continue to provide to each other within this community. While each day brings new challenges for us all, we will continue to navigate through this time together. 

With care for our community,  
Melanie Bernitz, MD, MPH   
Associate Vice President and Medical Director, Columbia Health   
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine (in the Center for Family and Community Medicine)