FROM:  Linda G. Mills, Vice Chancellor and Senior Vice Provost for Global Programs and University Life and Dr. Carlo Ciotoli, Executive Lead, NYU COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team

RE: NYU Returns: Quarantining—What to Do, How to Make It Work

Since last week’s communication on testing and quarantining, many students and parents have raised a number of questions about quarantining at the start of academic year 2020-2021. We hope this letter answers some of those questions, including why quarantine is important and how NYU will support you during this time.


New York State (NYS) is legally mandating a 14-day quarantine period for all those who have spent time in states with high rates of COVID-19 prior to their arrival in New York. The list of “restricted” states, which changes often, can be found here. The CDC has issued similar travel advisories for those coming from abroad.

For those who have spent time in or are coming from restricted states or outside the US, NYU must require a 14-day quarantine before entering any NYU building: classrooms, labs, administrative buildings, dining facilities, etc. We also are recommending it for those coming from currently non-restricted states, as well, since the list changes frequently.

Why Is Quarantining Effective and Important?

According to the public health guidance, the incubation period for COVID-19 is two weeks. Conscientious quarantining for that period is a highly effective way of reducing transmission because it keeps a potentially infected person separated from others and cuts down the likelihood of spreading the disease.

Quarantine may seem like a passive process, but it actively combats the spread of the coronavirus. The State of New York went through a difficult period of COVID-19 spread last spring and has spent months bringing transmission to much lower levels. Everyone at NYU who strictly quarantines contributes to keeping transmission lower. In other words, by quarantining we are keeping each other — and our surrounding community — safe.

What Is Meant by “Quarantine”?

To state it clearly, it means that for two weeks, you stay in your room/apartment/living space. You will only leave your room or apartment to go to any necessary medical appointments (including COVID-19 testing). You will also be able to pick up any meals delivered and retrieve packages delivered to you.

It really does mean that you cannot visit friends, you cannot leave your apartment to do laundry, you cannot go outside for a walk, you cannot go shopping, you cannot have visitors, and you cannot take public transit.

Seeing the Quarantine Period as Opportunity

That’s the hard news. You might be asking yourself, so what am I going to do for those two weeks of quarantining?

Many of us at NYU have had to quarantine ourselves, either because it was required or because we sought to protect someone in our family. We have therefore thought long and hard about quarantining and want to share a few thoughts.

We are guessing that for most of you, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We would like to suggest that approaching this two-week period with hope, possibility, and intellectual curiosity, in keeping with the values NYU imparts, will help.

Write. Read. Create.

You might want to think about a writing project that you have wanted to take on, music you have wanted to learn, or a piece of art you have wanted to create. Use the time to learn everything you can about NYU Professor Bryan Stevenson’s work, which led to his influential and groundbreaking book, Just Mercy, our selection for this year’s NYU Reads. Explore the recent research of NYU faculty related to COVID-19, or delve deeply into another area of study. Review your course list and get a jump on your readings.

You can also use the period to get to know NYU better. Learn more about the new Big Ideas course series being offered this fall. Join a club, reach out to people you want to meet, or discover NYU’s Office of Global Inclusion and Diversity and NYU’s communities of faith. Explore job and career possibilities through The Wasserman Center for Career Services’ platform, Handshake; graduate scholarship opportunities through the NYU Leadership Initiative; entrepreneurial programming through the Berkley Innovation Labs or the Leslie eLab; or support for filmmaking through the Production Lab. And don’t forget to look at the scheduled activities featuring self-care; we hope you can use this time to exercise compassion, particularly towards yourself.

Fitness classes, mindfulness sessions, residence hall meet-ups, themed hangouts with other NYU students…We already have hundreds of online programs planned and are adding more every day. You will be able to peruse these offerings via the NYU Mobile app as of August 10. In addition to these activities, we also want to hear from you about what you would like to see. Want to learn to play the harmonica? Want to write a short story, poems, or a memoir? Please send us your ideas and interests via this online survey, and help shape your experience!

Tips in Anticipation of Quarantining

Plan Ahead—Prepare Strategically

Since you won’t be able to go to the store or do laundry (unless the washing machine is in your apartment), we suggest you have two weeks’ worth of clean clothing, toiletries, your preferred cleaning supplies and any medications you may need on hand, as well as arranging for the delivery of food and snacks. In addition, as we’ve already suggested, have items that offer you comfort and that help you to pass the time — books or e-readers, music, video games, a musical instrument, art supplies or other items to allow you to be creative during the 14 days.

Prepare Yourself to Ask for Help

Sometimes we all need help. If quarantine is one of those moments, don’t hesitate to ask for it. The Wellness Exchange, the Student Health Center, Student Affairs staff — we are all here to support you when you need it. If you want to talk with a professional before your quarantine period, in order to better prepare for it, don’t hesitate to contact our Counseling and Wellness Services, 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

Bottom line: NYU is Here to Help You Get through Quarantine and Feel Ready to Tackle the Next Hurdle

We have already suggested a few ways to think about these 14 days. It will be over sooner than you think. At the end, you will have made a real contribution to public health, and, hopefully, a difference in your own life — if only that you will have made it through and now you have a remarkable story to tell. You may even want to document your story, both for others to read or watch, and for an archive project we could work on together.

We look forward to seeing you on campus in the fall (after the quarantine period!).


Linda G. Mills and Carlo Ciotoli, MD