Date:  September 2, 2021
To:  NYU Faculty
From: Katherine Fleming, Provost
Dr. Carlo Ciotoli, Exec. Lead, NYU COVID Prevention & Response Team

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

Over the last couple of weeks, NYU has written to you, offered webinars for faculty (for full-time faculty here and adjuncts here), and shared information with you about plans and protocols in response to COVID-19.

We are writing to you now to update you on new developments and to try to address concerns that faculty have raised.

Vaccinations Update

Vaccination Rates

NYU has achieved very high levels of vaccination, and we continue to work at getting that remaining small percentage of community members to come into compliance with our requirements.

  • 100% of students who moved into student housing
  • 98% tenure and tenure-track faculty, full time contract faculty, as well as administrators
  • 98% of US students
  • 92% of adjunct faculty
  • 93% of unionized employees
  • 95% of international students
  • Less than 1% of campus community members have received exemptions.

Academic advisors continue to reach out to the remaining non-compliant students. No non-compliant student is allowed into any NYU building, including classrooms. Supervisors and managers continue to reach out to the few remaining non-compliant employees.

Altogether, particularly in conjunction with our other layers of safety, this is a very good baseline for the start of academic year 2021-22.

Testing Update

Expanding Our Testing

Our testing program currently includes:

  • Indicated testing of all students, faculty, and employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19
  • Required, ongoing testing of those who are not fully vaccinated (eg, someone with a medical exemption)
  • Discretionary testing, available to all NYU community members at their own accord up to once per week, but especially intended for those who may have been in a higher-risk situation (eg: was in a crowd where mask wearing was spotty, following travel, etc.)

In addition, we will start the semester with random testing of asymptomatic fully vaccinated students, faculty and employees. Those who receive notice to be tested are required to participate.

Testing Data

Between Monday, August 23 and Sunday, August 29, 70 positive cases were reported, which includes findings from NYU-administered testing and reports from tests that were obtained at community locations. Of the 1,560 tests administered by NYU, 15 were positive — 0.96%.

In the next week to two weeks, we will be establishing a dashboard with this academic year’s testing data on the NYU Returns web hub.


Here are answers to some faculty questions that recur most frequently.

Q. What happens if a student in a class I’m teaching is positive for COVID-19? Will I be notified? Can I ask about students’ vaccination status or COVID-19 status?

A. If a student tests positive, they are required to isolate, they are prohibited from going to class, and their ID cards are disabled. The contact tracing team will question the student to determine who are close contacts. If a faculty member or any other member of a class is determined to be a close contact, the contact tracing team will reach out to them to arrange testing. If there were evidence of spread in a classroom, then the faculty member and all the other students in the class would be notified, and NYU's COVID-19 Prevention and Response Team (CPRT) would direct that appropriate steps be taken, including temporarily changing the faculty member’s teaching modality to remote. However, changing a class from in-person to remote is a decision that a faculty member should only make in consultation with their dean and the COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team.

Due to privacy concerns, a faculty member would not automatically be notified solely on the basis of having a student in class who had tested positive. In keeping with guidance from the City’s Dept. of Health, faculty members may not share information about an individual’s COVID-19 status if they become aware of it, and faculty members are not permitted to ask students about their COVID-19 status or their vaccination status.

Q. What happens if a faculty member tests positive for COVID-19?

A. If faculty members receive a positive COVID-19 test result, they should stay home and not come to campus, and they should report the findings to the CPRT, which will provide directions about isolation and return to campus. Likewise, if faculty members feel unwell with symptoms, they should follow the directions given to them by the CPRT about isolating and returning to work.

Our priority is faculty members' well-being. As to their classes: if they feel well enough to carry on leading the class remotely, they should. If not, they should contact their chair or dean's office and follow the usual practices for covering an absence from the classroom.

Q. What do I do if there’s a student in my class who refuses to wear a mask?

A. Remind students that mask-wearing is required in all indoor spaces and seek to persuade them to don a mask; if they refuse, you may tell them to leave the class. In the event of someone being obstreperous about complying, call 212.995.3388, and someone from the Office of Student Affairs will be sent to intervene. In addition, students who don’t comply may be reported to the office of the Dean of Student Affairs in their school or to the Office of Student Conduct.

Q. May a faculty member choose to teach without a mask? Can a faculty member modify the mask-wearing rules within the classroom?

A. No. Everyone in a classroom, students and faculty, is required to wear a mask at all times (except for the occasional sip of water).

Q. Are non-compliant students allowed to attend in-person classes or participate in University-sponsored off-campus events or field trips?

A. No.

Q. Do I need an N-95 or KN-95 mask in the classroom? Is the University going to supply those?

A. N-95 masks are prioritized for settings where the risk of transmission is high, such as in clinical settings when performing an aerosolizing producing procedure on a COVID-19 patient. Accordingly, they are not needed in a classroom setting.

NYU offers free multi-layered surgical-type masks to anyone who needs one. However, faculty members are permitted to wear any mask that they prefer, as long as it meets the minimal guidelines detailed on the NYU Returns hub.

The Public Health Ambassadors will be deployed again this year to reinforce our mask-wearing rules and to hand out masks. We are also making masks available at a number of facilities.

Some Concluding Thoughts

The heart of the University is its faculty; your well-being matters enormously to us. We understand the hesitancy some may feel about resuming in-person classes after a year-and-a-half hiatus and amidst reports from other universities of outbreaks even among the vaccinated.

There are some common themes to these reports: a lack of a mask requirement or unconscientious mask-wearing; informal gatherings that involve socializing; eating and drinking. The classroom, by contrast, has not emerged as a source of spread.

There are lessons to be drawn. We know the vaccines are safe and highly effective; though not a panacea, in combination with strict mask-wearing, they are a potent safeguard against the spread of the coronavirus.

And we will be monitoring the health of the NYU community carefully and continuously, guided by your well-being (and the well-being of students, staff, and administrators), and ready to make any decisions that need to be made to keep each other safe.

Keep each other Safe