NYU Returns: Looking Ahead to Academic Year 2020-2021’s Health Protocols
Date: July 7, 2020
TO: THE NYU COMMUNITY
FROM: Andrew Hamilton, NYU President; Katherine Fleming, Provost; Martin Dorph, Executive Vice President; Dr. Carlo Ciotoli, MD, MPA, Executive Lead, NYU COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team and Associate Vice President, NYU Student Health
Since mid-March, when the University closed the student residence halls at our New York Campus and moved to remote classes, NYU’s leadership has been looking ahead and working on plans for a return to in-person, on-campus activity to be accompanied by an effective set of health and safety protocols.
Our decision-making is guided, first and foremost, by the health and safety of the NYU community. University Leadership, in consultation with the Public Health Working Group, has been developing an evidence-informed, multi-layered public health strategy to reduce the risks to our community posed by COVID-19.
No single intervention will prevent the spread of COVID-19. Rather, the best strategy is to implement ‘layers of safety,’ each of which decreases the risk. When combined, these individual strategies are designed to be effective in helping to protect the NYU community.
Our plans also emphasize the importance of individual and collective responsibility. We must recognize that in addition to steps the University takes — testing, the required daily symptom check, contract tracing, restrictions on travel, enhanced cleaning, etc. — each student, faculty, staff member, and administrator makes a significant impact on the well-being of the entire NYU community. We must be in this together to keep each other safe.
There will doubtless be challenges in 2020-2021. The NYU community has already shown its steadfastness and resiliency in the months since the coronavirus spread; more will be required in the months ahead. By being conscientious and committed to one another, we can make the coming year constructive, satisfying, and memorable.
With that as a backdrop, we want to share with you some of the preliminary core elements of our public health strategy. Among the key initiatives and policies we are putting in place to prevent and reduce transmission of COVID-19 within our community are:
- Face Coverings / Masks: All members of the community are required to wear face coverings over both the mouth and nose at all times when they are on the University campus, with limited exceptions. The University is working to procure a substantial supply of masks, but we strongly urge that community members obtain and use their own face coverings.
- Physical Distancing: All members of the community are expected to maintain a 6 ft (2 m) distance from others.
- Reducing Density in NYU buildings and rooms: We are reducing density in NYU facilities by:
- Setting in place enrollment and space capacity caps, adjusting class schedules, ensuring classroom occupancy remains below 50% of total capacity, reconfiguring classrooms, and only using classrooms in which students and faculty can maintain 6-foot distancing.
- Prohibiting all non-essential, large, in-person gatherings at the start of the semester. The possibility of safely gathering for purposes such as social events or informal get-togethers will be re-assessed regularly throughout the semester.
- Assigning fewer students to our residence halls and securing additional suitable off-campus accommodations.
- Changing seating and how meals are served in dining facilities, including expanding take-out options.
- Having units and schools plan for a reduced in-person administrative presence and continued telework by staff and administrators while ensuring that high priority activities — teaching and learning, duties performed by essential employees, research activity, supporting students’ return to campus — are fully covered.
- COVID-19 Testing: We are working to finalize the details of our testing program, including resolving issues involving testing availability and locations, and alignment with the latest public health guidance. Additional details will be available later in the summer. Our testing strategy will involve multiple components:
- Asking members of the community to get themselves tested prior to reconvening on campus.
- A testing protocol for those returning to campus, in line with recommendations of medical experts and established best practices.
- Testing when a member of the community has COVID-like symptoms or has been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19.
- An ongoing testing program of representative segments of the NYU community for the purpose of general disease surveillance.
- Contact tracing: The NYU COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team will oversee the University’s efforts to identify and isolate members of the NYU community with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and find and quarantine their NYU close contacts. We will coordinate and work in collaboration with New York City’s NYC Trace program.
- Quarantine and Isolation: We are setting aside space within the student housing system for students in University housing who need to isolate or quarantine.
- Symptom Screening - the COVID-19 Symptom Check: Those authorized to be on site — a number that will grow as we get closer to the start of classes — will be required to regularly complete a brief questionnaire, accessible on computer and NYU’s smartphone app (NYU Mobile) that screens for COVID-19 exposure and symptoms (e.g. elevated temperature, coughing etc). Those who do not have recent COVID-19 exposure or symptoms will receive permission to enter NYU buildings. Those who report a recent exposure or symptoms will be instructed to stay home until they are cleared by the NYU Prevention & Response Team. Members of the NYU community will receive further instruction when they are authorized to be onsite.
- Enhanced Cleaning: Plans for enhanced cleaning, particularly more frequent disinfectant cleaning of high touch surfaces and areas and the placement of additional sanitizing stations, are being formulated.
- Education and Awareness: Working with members of the NYU community, we will implement an expansive public education campaign — KEEP each other SAFE — to remind members of the community of what they need to do in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including:
- Wearing face coverings over nose and mouth routinely, and always when indoors with others
- Regular, frequent hand-washing and hand-sanitizing
- Practicing physical distancing of 6 ft (2m) at all times
- Avoiding attending or arranging large gatherings
- Compliance: We expect students and other members of the NYU community to follow the health guidelines we are setting for the good of everyone in the community. However, the campus code of conduct is being modified to permit the Office of Student Conduct to be able to ensure compliance with campus public health rules.
- Travel Prohibition: The University currently prohibits all non-essential University-related international travel until further notice. We also encourage members of the University community to keep domestic air travel to a minimum and to pay close attention to conditions in areas within the US prior to travel.
In the coming year, our dedication to our academic mission will go hand-in-hand with our commitment to safety — a commitment that must be shared individually and collectively. Fall 2020 will be an unprecedented semester marked by an unusual degree of uncertainty; for that reason, we will remain flexible in our planning, keenly attentive to changing conditions and the guidance of public health authorities, careful to provide accommodations to those with particular needs, and ready to respond with necessary steps.
Throughout the summer, we will continue to send updates on our public health strategy and on other aspects of academic and campus life; we appreciate your patience. You should consult the University's COVID-related web hub frequently; updates will be posted there as well. We look forward to recovening with the NYU community in fall 2020. In the meantime, we hope you and yours stay healthy and safe.