To the TC Community:

We are all still getting acclimated to the new normal – working remotely; teaching and learning virtually; and balancing the demands of family, school, and work. With the enactment of strict yet necessary social distancing measures that have forced schools, museums, libraries, restaurants, and other public gathering venues to close, perhaps many among us are struggling to get our bearings and establish routines that minimize stress, frustration, and even feelings of isolation.

I want to share a few thoughts with you: about updated health guidance for our community; about what we are doing to bring TC to you – wherever you are; and about my deep gratitude for all that you are doing.

Updated Health Guidance

Below my message, you will find an update that Dr. Melanie Bernitz, the medical director at Columbia, sent earlier today. She notes that “there is now widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in New York City. This means that COVID-19 is actively circulating in the community. Thus, the New York City Department of Health is no longer conducting contact tracing, is limiting testing for more serious cases and those needing hospitalization, and is focused on efforts to reduce community transmission. We continue to see a small but growing number of cases of COVID-19 in our affiliates and expect these numbers to increase.”

Indeed, we have now learned about a member of our community (who has not been on campus recently) who tested positive, and we expect that we will continue to learn of more cases. Along with our state and local leaders and our public health and medical professionals, we ask you to please practice social distancing and personal hygiene with utmost care. It is critical for all of those in our community that we do so, but particularly for our most vulnerable neighbors.

Coming Together (Virtually)

I want to let you know, first of all, that Teachers College is in the midst of putting together additional programming, resources, virtual events and other fare to keep our extended community – including families and children – closely connected, well informed, and better equipped to make the best of this challenging situation.

In the coming days, we will be launching a dedicated new website that will centralize and guide you to all of these offerings. We will present lectures from recent on-campus programming. We will stage live “virtual events” of readings, talks, panel discussions, and musical performances by members of our talented TC family. We will offer both ongoing tips on “home schooling” your kids and a “story hour” for them. And we will offer more teaching and learning resources for our community, including forums for faculty and staff to share their success stories, and lessons learned.

The purpose of this site – which we call “Come Together Right Now ... Virtually!” – is to preserve the closeness of our TC community, which is so critically important now, and to bring the richness and vitality of TC to everyone.

A Big “Thank You,” and a Reminder to Take Care of Yourself

To all of you – but at this moment, to our dedicated College staff and to our faculty who have worked valiantly to pivot to online teaching – I want to stress the importance of sustaining a healthy work-life balance right now.

On the one hand, many of us may be struggling with additional workload resulting from working online, the need to communicate constantly with scattered contacts, the dizzying pace of change that affects so much of what we do, and the sudden lack of boundary lines between workplace and home. Others may be in limbo because their work functions have been sharply curtailed or put on hold.  And for those of you with young children and/or aging parents under your care, the pressures of working remotely can be that much more daunting.

Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, try not to let work or fears about work overwhelm you. Work can be sustaining, anchoring and even uplifting. But even under optimal circumstances, work can also crowd our thoughts and erode our personal space. Right now, your top priority should be your own physical and emotional wellbeing and that of your partners, families and other loved ones.

I will continue to be in touch in the days ahead and, in the meantime, wish you and your families continued good health. And of course, you have my enduring gratitude for your unwavering dedication to TC.

President Thomas Bailey



From: Melanie Bernitz, Columbia Health
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2020 8:53 AM
Subject: COVID-19 Health Advisory 3-18-2020

Dear Fellow Members of the Columbia Community,

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe, we write to reiterate that there is now widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in New York City. This means that COVID-19 is actively circulating in the community. Thus, the New York City Department of Health is no longer conducting contact tracing, is limiting testing for more serious cases and those needing hospitalization, and is focused on efforts to reduce community transmission. We continue to see a small but growing number of cases of COVID-19 in our affiliates and expect these numbers to increase.

As such, everyone must assume they have been exposed and act accordingly. Please take these crucial measures to keep the virus from spreading further:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • If you are not feeling sick, stay home as much as possible and practice social distancing.
  • Practice essential prevention hygiene: frequent handwashing, coughing/sneezing into your elbow; sanitizing high-touch surfaces; avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands; waving/elbow bumping instead of shaking hands; do not share food or drink.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet from others, when possible.

Older adults or those who have other serious chronic health conditions, including chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or a weakened immune system, are especially at risk for severe illness and must stay home as much as possible to avoid exposure.

If you have symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat), stay home. If your symptoms are mild, you do not need to seek medical care. If you are a member of a higher risk group or your symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing, contact your primary care provider (PCP) or go to the emergency room (many request that you call first). Columbia students, please reach out to your campus medical service: Morningside (212-854-7426) or CUIMC (212-305-3400). Faculty and staff should reach out to your primary care provider. If your symptoms do not go away after 3 or 4 days, contact your PCP. In about 80% of cases, symptoms resolve by themselves with supportive care (including rest, fluids, and taking fever reducing medications such as Tylenol). Stay at home for at least 7 days after your symptoms first start, and at least three days after you no longer have a fever (without the need to use fever-reducing medications).

If you were in contact with someone who is a confirmed case/is waiting for confirmation/recently traveled from a CDC Level 3 areaself-monitor for COVID-19-like illness (see symptoms above) for 14 days from the date of last contact with the ill person. If you are concerned, please call Columbia’s COVID-19 hotline at 212-854-9355 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or your primary care provider. Please use this guide to understand your level of exposure and the appropriate action.

We understand that this new guidance will engender numerous questions and concerns. We ask you to visit the Preparedness FAQs which addresses a majority of concerns we have heard. If you have questions about your health, please call 212-854-9355. If you are a student and need support, please consider using our online coping tools and reaching out to your friends, family and student affairs staff in your school. If you have an urgent concern about your well-being or the well-being of a friend, contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 212-854-2878 (Morningside) and Mental Health Services at 212-305-3400 (CUIMC).

In sum, the best way to take care of ourselves and our community is to stay home and practice social distancing. Stay up to date by visiting

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)