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This message was sent to the Rockefeller community from the Office of the President on March 18, 2020 at 5:30 p.m.
Subject: Rockefeller COVID-19 Surveillance Program Update
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Dear Rockefeller University Colleagues,

As we communicated in an email over the past weekend, on February 1, 2020, the university’s Occupational Health Services (OHS) office initiated a surveillance program to prevent the occurrence and spread of COVID-19 among members of our campus community.

We reported then that one person in the surveillance program had become symptomatic and had a family member at home, who is not a Rockefeller employee, who was also ill. The Rockefeller person was not symptomatic while on campus and remained home on the day of becoming ill. OHS traced all close contacts at Rockefeller, resulting in 18 contacts going into mandatory isolation. Last Thursday, OHS went to the residence of the symptomatic pair, obtained samples from both individuals, and sent samples for testing. Test results reported back to us today indicate that both of these individuals tested positive for COVID-19. Both people remain in isolation at home and we are grateful to report that they are recovering.

The University also took measure to clean and disinfect all areas on campus and in housing that were used by the person who is ill. We have also taken enhanced measures to conduct frequent disinfection of all public areas and commonly touched surfaces throughout campus. We want to emphasize that the University, with everyone’s cooperation, is taking appropriate measures to minimize the risk of person-to-person transmission and to ensure the continued health and safety of our community. This includes the announcement on March 15 of the orderly wind-down of all non-essential operations on campus.

OHS continues to provide active surveillance and guidance to those directly affected, as well as to their contacts based on the latest guidance from the DOH and CDC. This guidance includes clear and stringent directions for self-isolation and conditions that must be met before anyone can return to work after being in isolation. We also ask that you respect the privacy of all individuals who have been asked to self-isolate, whether or not they are ill. Be assured that we will not be able to provide health care information about any member of the community unless it is mandated to protect the health and well-being of others.

We thank you for your continued cooperation and extraordinary efforts during this difficult time. We will continue to provide updates on University policies, impacts on University operations, guidance on how to prepare for and respond to any additional changes in operations, and steps you should take to protect your own health, as well as the health of your family and the University community.

Please continue to direct any medical questions to OHS at, benefits questions to HR at (212)327-8300, and other COVID-19 related inquiries to We will continue to update the University website with the latest information and guidance.

Our top priority remains the health and well-being of every member of our community as we continue to sustain essential activities on campus.


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.