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This message was sent to the Rockefeller community from the Office of the President on February 4, 2020 at 4:07 p.m.
Subject: Important Information on Novel Coronavirus
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Dear members of the Rockefeller community,

We are writing with information about the 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and to provide University guidelines that aim to protect the health of our community and prevent the spread of infection.

As you likely know, a new and serious respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus called 2019-nCoV was recently identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The disease has reached epidemic proportions in China, where more than 20,600 cases have been documented. While the vast majority of cases are in China, nearly 200 cases have also been documented in 26 other countries, including the U.S. While most of these latter infections were acquired in China, some were acquired by people who had not visited China but were in contact with a person who returned from China with the infection.

Symptoms and testing
People with 2019-nCoV infection can display a range of symptoms, such as fever, chills and muscle aches, as well as respiratory symptoms like runny nose, congestion, shortness of breath and cough. The severity of the illness can vary. Some people recover in a few days, and others, especially people with underlying medical conditions, can have life-threatening illness. The symptoms of 2019-nCoV can be very similar to influenza symptoms, and flu is currently widespread in New York. There are specific tests that can determine whether an infection is caused by 2019-nCoV, influenza or another virus. There is no vaccine available and no specific therapy to treat an infection. Consequently, it is imperative to prevent the spread of the virus.

Transmission, incubation period, and prevention
The 2019-nCoV illness can be transmitted from a person who has the infection through respiratory particles, saliva or fecal contamination. In rare cases, the virus may be transmitted by people who are infected with 2019-nCoV, but are not yet themselves ill. The incubation period – the time between exposure to the virus and when illness begins – is thought to typically be about 6 days, but can be as long as 14 days. The virus is considered to be moderately contagious, similar to the influenza virus. The best way to avoid acquiring infection is frequent hand-washing with soap and water and avoiding close interaction with people who have been diagnosed with 2019-nCoV or who have an undiagnosed respiratory illness.

Governmental oversight and travel restrictions
International health agencies, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local agencies are closely monitoring the situation (for more information, refer to the links below). The goal of the ongoing U.S. public health response is to contain the 2019-nCoV outbreak and prevent its spread in the U.S. Accordingly:

  • The U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4 travel advisory – Do Not Travel to China.
  • Travelers should be prepared for travel interruptions or restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice by the U.S. Government and other countries.
  • Local health departments and agencies are empowered to issue guidelines and take actions to protect the public health.

Instructions for the Rockefeller Community
We provide the following specific instructions for The Rockefeller University community:

  • If you have been in China during the past two weeks OR if you have had contact with someone with confirmed 2019-nCoV AND you develop a fever or respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath): Seek medical evaluation right away at the closest Emergency Room. Call ahead and tell them about your travel and symptoms before seeking medical care. The telephone number for New York-Presbyterian / Weill Cornell Medical Center is: (212) 746-5454. Do not come to work.
  • If you, or someone you have been in contact with, has been in China during the past two weeks, please immediately call Rockefeller’s Occupational Health Services (OHS) at (212) 327-8414. You will be asked several screening questions, and if you meet criteria, you may be instructed not to come to work and advised to remain home and self-monitor your temperature and symptoms for up to 14 days. These precautions are important to minimize the risk of spreading infection with 2019-nCoV.

Other resources
More information, including up-to-date data about 2019-nCoV is available from WHO, CDC, NYS DOH 2019 Novel (New) Coronavirus, and NYC Department of Health.

We recognize that events like these can cause anxiety and emotional strain. If you would like to speak with a counselor or a mental health professional, or have any questions, please contact OHS at (212) 327-8414.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep the campus community informed about any changes in policy or conditions locally. Thank you for your cooperation in promoting the health of our community.


Ashley Foo, M.S., ANP-BC
Director, Occupational Health Services

Thomas P. Sakmar, M.D.
Richard M. & Isabel P. Furlaud Professor
Physician Consultant, Occupational Health Services

Virginia Huffman
Vice President, Human Resources

Timothy P. O’Connor, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President

Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D.