What to Do if You Get COVID-19

On March 5, 2024, Columbia University updated its 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 

You’re not required to report to the University that you have tested positive.

  • If you need medical care, contact your primary care provider. For Morningside/Manhattanville/Teachers College students, your PCP is Columbia Health Medical Services.
  • For help navigating resources at Columbia, email [email protected] 
  • Remain at home or in your room, stay away from others, and don’t attend class.
  • You can return to daily activities 24 hours after:
    • Symptoms have significantly improved
    • No fever, without using fever-reducing medication

Even once you’re feeling better, there is a chance that you may still be able to infect other people for the next few days.

To help keep others safe, take the following precautionary measures for an additional 5 days once you return to daily activities:

  • Continue to maintain physical distance from others, where possible.
  • Wear a protective mask or face covering.
  • Continue to practice good hygiene, including cleaning high-touch areas, washing your hands frequently, and covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough.
  • Take steps to support proper air circulation and access to cleaner air.

In other words, stay at home until you feel better. Wait another full day after that to make sure your symptoms don’t return before you resume normal daily activities. These simple precautions contribute to a community of care at Columbia.


Students can stay in their shared residence hall room, apartment, or home.

Minimize contact with others as much as possible. If you live with others, some additional recommended measures to protect yourself and your household are:

  1. Wear a high-quality mask when in the same room as other people.
  2. Use a separate bathroom, if possible. Otherwise, use it at off-peak hours to minimize time spent around others. 
  3. Improve ventilation where possible, such as opening windows to increase airflow.  
  4. Don’t share personal household items like cups, towels, and utensils.  
  5. Monitor symptoms closely. eek emergency medical care immediately for emergency warning signs (like trouble breathing). 


If you’re on a dining plan, you may still visit the dining halls to get food to go. Wear a mask at all time, minimize touching utensils, and sanitize your hands before and after going to the dining hall. 

If you’re picking up food from a local restaurant, follow the same guidance as you would in a dining hall.

If you’re ordering from food delivery apps, practice precautions when leaving your space to pick up food. When picking up at your residence hall/apartment security desk or front door, wear a high-quality mask and avoid contact, as much as possible, with the delivery person or security officer. 


Consult your course syllabus for the make-up policy for illness and other excused absences.

Remember: you don’t have to disclose that you have or had COVID-19, nor are sick notes required at Columbia.  


Feeling unwell can have negative impacts on your emotional well-being. Remember that there is an entire community here to support you—from roommates and friends, to advisors and campus services. Reach out to resources in our community while you recover.

Some resources that may be helpful include:

  • Columbia Health
  • Religious Life
  • Your school’s Student Wellness office

What to do if you are exposed 

If you were exposed to COVID-19 and are experiencing symptoms:

  • Stay home and get a COVID-19 test.
  • Take precautions such as hand washing, masking, and physical distancing.

If you’re not experiencing symptoms, you don’t have to stay home. 

Take precautions for the next 10 days. For example, monitoring for symptoms, hand washing, masking, and physical distancing where feasible. Medical Services only provides COVID-19 testing (rapid and PCR) to students who are experiencing symptoms.

If you’re feeling well but worried about a recent COVID-19 exposure, you can purchase an at-home test from most drugstores (such as CVS or Walgreens) or find free testing options through NYC.  

Faculty and Staff 

The University continues to strongly recommend that affiliates stay home if they feel unwell and isolate according to NYC guidelines if they 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.