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Move-in and Quarantine Protocol for Fall 2020

Due to Columbia's move to an entirely virtual fall term, only a limited number of students are now approved to be in residence this fall and they will experience a different type of move-in process, as Columbia prepares to implement necessary health protocols that will protect each member of our campus community.

Columbia College has coordinated the details of how to prepare for and envision your arrival, in partnership with Columbia Health and Columbia Housing.

Preparing to Come to Columbia

What to pack:

Students are strongly encouraged to bring only what they can easily pack and travel with on their own, whether you are here for the Fall Term or the Full Year. Think airline style: one large piece of luggage and two carry-on items. Students are discouraged from bringing personal furniture, TVs, or other large items.

Students concerned about packing sheets, blankets and pillows should ship those items in advance to arrive at the Student Mail Center by their campus arrival date. Arrangements are being put in place for mail and package delivery to residence halls during the precautionary quarantine period. As we approach Check-In, Columbia Mail will provide more details. Incoming students received Information about the Columbia Mailroom and their specific mailbox number in the Housing Assignment letter, sent on August 7.

Come prepared with a face covering for you and your guest to wear on move-in day but all students will also be provided with two Columbia branded face coverings after they receive their SARS-CoV-2 test.

Arrival and Check-In

Fall term Check-In will take place August 31-September 4 between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Students moving to campus have been assigned move-in dates and times by Columbia Housing so that we can ensure appropriate distancing protocols as students move into their residence halls. Students’ assigned move-in date were communicated in their Housing Assignment letter, sent on August 7.

When to arrive in New York City:

Students should plan to arrive on campus on the date and time assigned to them. However, New York state requires a 14-day precautionary quarantine for students arriving from one of 36 designated states/territories or from outside the United States. If a student is arriving from a restricted state/territory or from outside the United States, they will be asked to quarantine for 14 days in advance of arriving on campus or in their assigned room once they have completed the Check-In process. Be sure to factor this into your travel planning depending on your preference for when and where you will quarantine.

Who Needs to Quarantine:

  • All students, regardless of origin, must quarantine upon arrival for 24-36 hours until confirmation of a negative test result.

  • All Columbia affiliates (faculty, staff, and students) arriving from outside the United States or from U.S states with high prevalence of COVID-19 are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival as required by New York State

  • The current list of states can be found on New York’s travel advisory webpage, with guidance on how to register arrival in New York

Per New York State’s Travel Advisory, all out-of-state travelers from designated states must complete the required form upon entering New York. Travelers who leave the airport without completing the form will be subject to a $2,000 fine and may be brought to a hearing and ordered to complete mandatory quarantine. Travelers coming to New York from designated states through other means of transport, including trains and cars, must fill out the form online.

*New York state guidance is subject to change; visit New York state’s travel advisory page for updates and to see the list of restricted states.

Detailed information on the quarantine process can be found on the COVID-19 website.

What to Prepare if You’ll Quarantine:

Students who will need to quarantine because they are arriving from a designated state/territory or from outside the United States can review this helpful information about how to prepare for the 14-day period, including what to bring with you.

Who can come with you to move in:

To limit density on campus, we are only able to permit one guest to assist you in your move-in. Your guest must complete an attestation form in order to be able to assist in moving into the residence hall but they will not be able to accompany you to the Check-in and Testing procedures. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to welcome international guests or guests arriving from restricted states into the residence halls, unless the guest has quarantined for 14 days prior to arriving on campus.

Parking locations nearby campus:

You can find a list of parking garages in the Columbia community online.

What to expect on move-in day:

Columbia has outlined a basic procedure for move-in day. It is important to note that while all students will be required to take the SARS-CoV-2 test upon arrival, they will also be required to quarantine for 24-36 hours, until they receive confirmation of a negative test result. Students should arrive prepared with basic toiletries and medication for this quarantine requirement. Columbia Dining will deliver meals to students on a meal plan during this quarantine period and students not on a meal plan can make arrangements for food deliveries to their building.

How the 14-day precautionary quarantine will work:

Students from designated states/territories, from outside the United States will be required to stay in their assigned room for 14 days, starting immediately after Check-In, unless they completed their 14-day quarantine in New York City prior to campus arrival. Students quarantining as classes begin will be required to attend classes remotely until the 14-days are complete. Arrangements can be made for course materials to be delivered to a student in quarantine.

Students on a Dining Plan will have meals delivered; more information about the daily menu and ordering process will be provided by Columbia Dining soon. Students not on a Dining Plan should make arrangements to have food delivered to their residence hall lobby.

Students who do not have private bathrooms (i.e. in buildings with shared bathrooms) will have full access to assigned restrooms but are expected to take precautions to limit their exposure. This includes, but is not limited to, wearing a face covering, maintaining 6 feet of physical distance from floormates, and refraining from socializing in the restrooms and hallways.

During this time, students are not permitted to:

  • Leave their room, unless to use the restroom or for medical reasons

  • Enter another resident’s room

  • Use building amenities like laundry facilities or lounges

Because of these limitations, it is important for students who will quarantine to arrive on campus with all necessary toiletries, medication or other items that will make for as comfortable a stay as possible.

Testing and tracing protocol after move in and for off-campus students:

All undergraduates in Columbia Housing and coming from off-campus in the NY area will continue to participate in periodic testing. Initially, students will get SARS-CoV-2 testing on a weekly basis. The frequency of the testing will be re-evaluated over time in view of the status of the epidemic in New York city and the campus. This testing is mandatory for all students returning to campus and will be cost-free.

In addition to testing, part of our shared duty to reduce transmission requires that all members of the Columbia community will monitor their health daily before coming to campus or leaving their residence hall room. All affiliates must attest to being free of any COVID-19 symptoms prior to entering campus each day.

In accordance with University policy and New York State regulations for re-opening, all University affiliates (faculty, staff and students) who will be on campus are required to complete a daily symptom screening assessment. This can be completed in one of three ways. All three methods require a UNI and password to log in and prompt an affiliate to answer three simple screening questions indicating whether they have any symptoms associated with COVID-19, have been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, or have tested positive for COVID-19.

Residence Life

Staff Available to Assist in your Building:

Each student will have a Resident Adviser (RA). The RA will be available for support, will host a virtual floor meeting, and will ensure that students know how to connect with them for questions and to learn about campus and community resources.

Note on Room Supplies:

Those students on meal plans will have a Welcome Box in their room with various items such as water, bottled coffee, local hot sauces, condiments and dining utensils, chips, a Columbia Dining cookie, and a voucher that can be redeemed for a CU Dining t-shirt and welcome letter with Dining’s contact information. Details will be confirmed in communications from Columbia Dining.

Students will find information on other helpful contact information in their rooms, upon arrival.

Medical Support

Columbia Health is an important resource for all students. Students with existing medical conditions or concerns should notify us in advance so any needed support can be provided as students arrive to campus.


For more information about Columbia’s public health protocols, visit the University COVID-19 website.

To read more about enforcement of protocols, visit the Enforcement Plan webpage.

Review the Columbia Community Health Compact, signed by Columbia affiliates who will be on campus at any time this fall.

Read more about the detailed Fall 2020 Check-In process and common Frequently Asked Questions, managed by Columbia Housing.

Health Advisory: Testing, Tracing, Quarantine, and Isolation (Columbia Health)