What to Do if You Get COVID-19

On August 30, 2023 Columbia University issued updated guidance regarding COVID-19. Please refer to this guidance for policies on vaccination, masking, and reporting. Learn more about COVID-19 Vaccines and Testing at Columbia Health.


What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 

Isolate immediately at home/in your room and do not go to class.

You do not need to report to the University that you have tested positive. However, if you need additional support, please email [email protected] for help navigating available resources, including academic accommodations.  


Students with mild or no symptoms can stay in their shared residence hall room, apartment, or home. They must: 

  1. Wear a high-quality mask at all times.
  2. Stay home and separate from others as much as possible.  
  3. Use a separate bathroom, if possible. Otherwise, utilize facilities at off-peak hours to minimize time spent around other people. 
  4. Improve ventilation where possible, such as opening windows to increase airflow.  
  5. Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.  
  6. Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (like trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately. 

Individuals with severe illness will be provided support as clinically indicated and should send a secure message or call Medical Services.  


If you are on a dining plan, you may still visit the dining halls to grab food to go. Please wear your mask at all times, minimize touching utensils, and sanitize your hands before and after going to the dining hall. 

If you are picking up food from a local restaurant, please follow the same guidance above. 

You may also order food through various food delivery services. When picking up at your residence hall/apartment security desk or front door, please make sure to wear a high-quality mask and avoid contact with the delivery person or security officer. 


Please consult your course syllabus for the make-up policy for illness and other excused absences. Note that you do not have to disclose that you had COVID-19, nor are sick notes required.  


Feeling unwell and having to isolate can have negative impacts on your emotional well-being. Remember that there is an entire community here to support you—from roommates, friends, advisers, and campus services such as Columbia Health, Religious Life, and so much more. Please reach out when you feel it would be helpful. 

Ending isolation  

If you had no symptoms: You may end isolation after day 5 and must continue masking through day 10. 

If you had moderate symptoms: You must continue to isolate until you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms are improving.  Continue masking through day 10. 

If you had severe symptoms (had difficulty breathing or were hospitalized): You must isolate through day 10. 

If you are uncertain if your symptoms were moderate or severe, please contact your Medical Services provider via secure message on the Patient Portal or by calling 212-854-7426

What to do if you are exposed 

If you were exposed to COVID-19 and are experiencing symptoms, please stay home and get a COVID-19 test. Please mask for 10 days after exposure. 

If you are not experiencing symptoms, you can continue on as you typically would but encourage monitoring for symptoms for the next 10 days. Please mask for 10 days after exposure. 

Medical Services does not provide COVID-19 testing to students who are not experiencing symptoms. If you are feeling well but worried about a recent COVID-19 exposure, you can purchase an at-home test from most drugstores or find free testing options through NYC.  

Medical Services only provides PCR testing for COVID-19 for students who are symptomatic and for whom it is clinically indicated. 

Faculty and Staff 

Per Columbia’s guidance, please stay home if they feel unwell and isolate according to CDC guidelines if you test positive for COVID-19.  

Columbia Health does not provide PCR or rapid tests for faculty and staff.  

Please refer to Human Resources or your specific school or department’s policies for specifics about accommodations and returning to work.