March 10, 2020 at 6:40 p.m.

Additional Updates and Resources regarding the Coronavirus

Dear CSSW Community,

I am writing again regarding the coronavirus. Your safety is very much top-of-mind among University and School leaders. It is critically important that we remain informed and act on the basis of the best available data and recommendations from local, state, and federal public health agencies. As I noted in a previous message, we are fortunate to be here at Columbia with a substantial number of world-class experts on infectious disease. They are helping us to interpret the data and develop recommendations for our community, making them an extremely valuable asset.

How We Can Stay Informed

There is an abundance of information on the University’s dedicated coronavirus webpage that is continually being updated. Please refer to it frequently.

In addition, the School has begun its own webpage to consolidate all coronavirus-related messages that have been distributed thus far. The most recent messages will be posted at the top of the list.

The ICAP Center at the Mailman School of Public Health conducted an excellent webinar on coronavirus last week and has kindly agreed to share it with us. You can access it here.

Our very own Dr. Alissa Davis, an infectious disease epidemiologist on faculty here at CSSW, has participated in our Social Impact LIVE series discussing COVID-19 with host Dr. Richard Hara. Watch the interview here.

What Experts Tell Us about the Virus

According to the CDC website, the primary symptoms of COVID-19 infection include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

From the data so far, those at increased risk of complications from exposure to COVID-19 include adults aged 60 and over, people with certain chronic medical conditions, and those who are immune-compromised.

Children with the coronavirus seem to experience only mild respiratory infections.

People of Asian descent are NOT any more likely to get COVID-19 than other people.

According to the World Health Organization website, members of the general public who are healthy do not need to wear a mask.

The NYC Department of Health website indicates that as of this afternoon (3/10/20 at 2:30pm), there are currently 36 confirmed cases of coronavirus New York City.

What’s happening at the University and at the School

While a member of the Columbia community has been exposed to COVID-19, no one in our community has been diagnosed with the illness.

Although in-person classes have been canceled on March 9th and 10th, the University and its campuses remain open. All in-person classes will move to online format as of Wednesday March 11th and after spring break, through March 27th Classes already offered online will continue as usual.

The University Task Force continues to meet multiple times per day to stay abreast of the latest news and information and to consider policy changes as a result of new information.

The School has established a team of senior leaders who meet daily and are in constant communication regarding the coronavirus, latest news, and updates from the University and public health agencies. We are continuing to develop contingency plans for a range of possible scenarios.

We are mindful of keeping the hand sanitizer dispensers full within the CSSW building. In addition, our facilities staff are employing “high touch cleaning” approaches using hospital-grade, heavy duty disinfectants.

The University has updated its events policy to strongly discourage non-essential events of more than 25 people.

For students all upcoming travel outside the US that is organized, led, or financed by Columbia is suspended until further notice.

What You Need to Know about practicum Placements

practicum placement sites have remained open in order to continue to serve their clients and communities.

Both residential and online students are continuing to report to practicum placements.

If you are a student and are at higher risk or have specific concerns about your own situation, please contact Dean Moira Curtain in Advising ( and Dean Kathryne Leak in practicum (

What You Can Do

As noted in my message on Sunday and as you’ve seen elsewhere, there are everyday preventive actions that you can take to help stop the spread of COVID-19. They include: washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into the bend of your arm (or covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue to be discarded immediately thereafter), bumping elbows in greeting rather than shaking hands, and cleaning frequently touched objects like doorknobs.

Please stay home if you are feeling sick. This is essential to protecting yourself and others.

If you are a student and your practicum site has imposed any restrictions or is planning to discontinue operations, please let us know immediately by contacting your advisor and Dean Leak (

It is deeply saddening to see continued news reports of xenophobia related to the virus. If you are the victim of discrimination or observe any incidents of discrimination in our School, please contact Dean Karma Lowe ( Be sure to take commonplace precautions to be safe on the subway, for example, traveling with a friend when possible and staying in areas that are busy and well-lit.

Students who have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should call the Columbia Health hotline: 212-854-9355. Faculty and staff should call their primary care provider. Seek medical attention promptly if you have fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

Remember that support is always available if you need it. University Life offers student resources, and HR’s Employee Assistance Program offers free, confidential counseling to faculty and staff.

I am so grateful to everyone for their dedication, patience, and kindness as we work our way through this together. I have seen so many examples of our social work and social justice principles in action, and encourage all in our community to continue to demonstrate compassion, respect for science, and dependence on reliable information sources. We are facing new challenges, and many in our community are fearful and anxious – this is a natural reaction. I suspect that lack of knowledge is perhaps among the greatest sources of anxiety. I hope the above information is helpful in increasing knowledge and reducing anxiety to some degree. Policies and recommendations will inevitably change as the situation unfolds. We will stay in touch regularly – at least once every few days – to keep you apprised of further changes. As we make our way through the weeks ahead, it’s important to remain informed and support one another.

With best regards,