Columbia University Cancels Classes After a School Member Is Put Under Quarantine

IBL News | New York

Columbia University in New York announced yesterday all classes had been canceled Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 after a school member was exposed to the Coronavirus and is now under quarantine.

“From Wednesday until the start of Spring Break on Friday, classes will be taught remotely,” said president Lee C. Bollinger in a message sent to the university community.

“We do not have a confirmed case of the virus on campus. This action is intended to prevent the virus from spreading,” Bollinger explained.

The closure came as the city’s mayor Bill de Blasio announced the 13th confirmed case in NYC and more than 105 people tested positive statewide.

Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Saturday.

Columbia University’s decision followed a similar decision made by a number of schools—most notably Stanford, University of Washington and Seattle University—to cancel in-person classes.

Columbia Spectator: Columbia temporarily cancels class, quarantines affiliate after exposure to COVID-19

Universities Adopt Emergency Plans

In this context, universities have activated serious measures against the Coronavirus at their campuses. Many of them created specific planning teams to fight the spread of the disease, following the CDC’s and local health agencies’ recommendations.

School officials sent emails and messages to their communities this weekend. For example, Sacred Heart University (SHU) in Connecticut set a pattern of precautions, along with a thematic website, that could inspire other institutions.

This message was sent to the SHU community this Sunday:

“Dear students, faculty, and staff,

Welcome back from break. In today’s update, we want to tell you about the precautions we have taken—and will continue to take—to protect the University community from the coronavirus. These are precautions recommended by the CDC and local health agencies:

  • Bathrooms in all University housing have been disinfected in anticipation of students’ return
  • Touchpoints (doorknobs, faucets, flushers, etc.) will be disinfected daily with more frequent cleaning and sanitizing of public/common restrooms
  • Extra attention is also being paid to athletic areas because of the high traffic flow
    • Gym equipment is disinfected daily and wiped down with Clorox wipes
    • Hand soap is available in all restrooms and hand sanitizer can be found throughout the gym area
    • Clorox disinfecting wipes are also available throughout the gym area. These kill 99.9% of all bacteria in 10 seconds
  • In addition, extra protocols will be in place in dining halls
    • Food services personnel will go above and beyond in following CDC hygiene guidelines Hand sanitizers will be available to workers at all food preparation sites
    • Touchpoints (doorknobs, horizontal services, tables & chairs, condiment dispensers, drink dispensers, etc.) will be cleaned often
    • In addition to other locations on campus, portable sanitizer stations will available for students, faculty, and staff in the dining halls
    • We ask that you practice good food hygiene—don’t touch food with your hands (a piece of fruit, for example) and then put it back
  • The cleaning staff is available 24/7 to respond to any emergencies anywhere. Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., call 203-371-7870. Nights and weekend, students should report issues to their RHD to submit an off-hours MOP request

We are also asking that all students and employees do their part by following the hygiene guidelines set forth by the CDC:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipes

We are in regular contact with our cleaning contractors and food services staff to ensure that CDC guidelines are being followed in all areas of the University.

More information can be found on the coronavirus page on the SHU website. In particular, you may want to check out the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on that page.

We want you all to have a great finish to the spring semester, while at the same time taking the necessary precautions to keep us all healthy and safe.”


Beyond these measures, several media outlets paid attention to the pressing questions around the virus. This New York Times’ article was one of the most remarkable.