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This message was sent to the Rockefeller community from the Office of the President on March 15, 2020 at 1:28 p.m.
Subject: Update on University COVID-19 Surveillance Program
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Dear Rockefeller University Colleagues,

We are writing to provide information about the University COVID-19 health surveillance program and to give you a snapshot of where we stand right now in our efforts to protect our community.

On February 1, 2020, the Occupational Health Services (OHS) office initiated a program to delay and contain the potential spread of COVID-19 among members of our campus community. Travelers returning from high-risk countries and their close personal contacts were asked to stay home, isolate and self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days. Eventually 16 travelers self-quarantined, and as of today 12 have been cleared, while four are still being monitored. No traveler has developed COVID-19 or currently has symptoms of COVID-19.

Since COVID-19 is known to be quite contagious, spread by person-to-person transmission is a high concern. Consequently, our surveillance program has also included anyone self-reporting signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19, including fever, sore throat or respiratory symptoms, and contacts of known or suspected cases of COVID-19. Any member of the community who has reported symptoms has been self-quarantined, and contacted each day by a health-care provider from the OHS. Any close contacts of anyone reporting symptoms has also been asked to self-quarantine. All of these individuals have been closely monitored by OHS. We have followed CDC and NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) guidelines and have reported our program to DHMH.

Not surprisingly, at any time the number of people on campus who develop early symptoms of any viral infection that could be COVID-19 is significant. The unavailability of testing for all but people who are likely to have COVID-19 has made it impossible to quickly clear people who do not have COVID-19 infection. Among people who have been on self-quarantine, one member of the community has a family member who has a very high clinical suspicion of having COVID-19. This member of our community has remained on isolation at home and is getting better. A member of the OHS response team went to their residence and obtained samples, which have been sent for testing; the results are pending. We are confident our community member did not acquire infection on campus. We identified 18 of his campus colleagues who were in contact with him in the first hours after he became symptomatic, and they have been self-quarantined since the day he became symptomatic. We ask that you respect the privacy of everyone who has been asked to self-quarantine.

We have taken these extraordinary measures to attempt to contain the virus and prevent its spread among our community. As you know, we have taken other measures to limit the possibility of transmission on campus to keep our community safe. We have cancelled all programs that assemble of large groups of people on campus, instituted graduate student classes by video, eliminated seating in the dining hall and encouraged all individuals who can do their jobs remotely to do so, thereby reducing exposure to those of us who need to work on campus.

While we have not yet seen any community transmission of COVID-19 among our campus community, based on patterns elsewhere, we feel that it is likely to occur without further action. Therefore, we will be taking additional measures to protect our community. OHS also continues to provide active surveillance and guidance to those directly affected, as well as to their contacts.

We will continue to provide updates on University policies, impacts on University operations, guidance on how to prepare for and respond to disruptions to operations, and steps you should take to protect your own health, as well as the health of your family and the University community at Please also direct any medical questions to OHS at, benefits questions to HR at (212)327-8300, and other COVID-19 related inquiries to

Our top priority during this extraordinarily difficult and challenging time remains the health and well-being of every member of our community. So many of you have worked with devotion and dedication over the past three months to keep our community and families informed and safe. There is more work to do and we will need everyone’s ongoing support. Thank you.


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.