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This message was sent to the Rockefeller community from the Office of the Executive Vice President on December 17, 2021 at 2:45 p.m.
Subject: December 17 update on COVID-19 cases and policies

Dear members of the Rockefeller community,

Since Monday we have had 43 new COVID cases diagnosed in our community. These include 24 in just the last 24 hours, meaning that there were more positive cases identified in the past day than had been detected in any other week this year. The RU Strong testing program, led by Bob Darnell, sequenced 8 of the positive cases and identified 7 of them to be the Omicron variant, which is much more infectious than prior variants.

In light of the trends earlier this week, the University, following consultation with the Chairs of the Research Restart and Extended Emergency Preparedness and Response Committees (RRC and EPRC), most recently provided guidance and updates on policies on Wednesday. We are not further modifying any policies at this time, but in light of the continuing and dramatic rise in case numbers, it is worth reiterating key points of current practices and policies:

  • Until further notice, people should only be coming to campus for work that cannot be conducted remotely.
  • Meetings should all be virtual unless in-person meetings are essential. Essential in-person business meetings and presentations involving fully vaccinated people require masks and participants must maintain social distancing.
  • Please be particularly mindful about groups of people eating indoors together. Regardless of the indoor eating venue, it is strongly encouraged to keep group sizes modest in order to enable and maintain social distancing.
  • Anyone on campus next week is expected to submit a testing sample by Tuesday, December 21st at 9:30 am. The RU Strong Lab will be closed for all testing during the University Holiday week (Friday, December 24th, through Sunday, January 3rd, inclusive). Testing will recommence on Tuesday, January 4th, in addition to the usual Thursday, January 6th, testing.
  • The university is offering N95 respirators to employees who commute to the university using public transportation. We strongly encourage enrollment in this program. Enrollment does require compliance with the university respiratory protection program and must be requested by the Head of Laboratory or Department. Requests for enrollment and questions about the program should be sent to

Although the sweep of cases in our community this week remains disheartening, the good news is that there are no reports of serious illness to date. Obviously, we hope that continues here and everywhere as we all wait for more robust data on the clinical outcomes following infection with the Omicron variant.

If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to send an email to

Please take care of yourselves and each other. Be well,



Timothy P. O’Connor, PhD

Executive Vice President

The Rockefeller University