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This message was sent to the Rockefeller community from the Office of the President on March 2, 2020 at 9:44 a.m.
Subject: Important Update on COVID-19

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Dear members of the Rockefeller community,

The University continues to closely monitor the public health situation regarding the outbreak of COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by a novel strain of coronavirus.  There have been more than 89,000 cases confirmed worldwide as the outbreak has spread from China to over 65 other countries.  WHO has increased its global risk level from “high” to “very high.”

There are currently at least 88 confirmed cases in the U.S., including cases with no travel history or documented contact with a confirmed case.  Two fatalities have been reported.  The first confirmed case in New York was reported yesterday in a traveler returning from Iran.  More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, but the CDC deems that the immediate health risk from COVID-19 for the American public is still low.

Travel to areas of outbreak still poses the greatest risk.  The CDC has issued the following updated travel advisories:

  • Warning Level 3: CDC recommends that travelers Avoid All Nonessential Travel.
    • China
    • South Korea
    • Iran
    • Italy
  • Alert Level 2: CDC recommends that travelers Practice Enhanced Precautions.  Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel.
    • Japan

In response to the current situation, we provide the following updated instructions for the University community:

  • If you have been in China, South Korea, Iran, Italy or Japan during the past two weeks OR if you have had contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19 AND you develop a fever or sore throat or respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath):
    • Do not come to work.
    • Stay at home and call your primary care provider for specific advice. If you do not have a primary care provider, call Rockefeller University Occupational Health Services at (212) 327-8414.

If your symptoms are severe, or you cannot connect with a health care provider, you should seek medical evaluation at the closest Emergency Room. Try to call ahead and tell them about your travel and symptoms in advance. The telephone number for New York-Presbyterian / Weill Cornell Medical Center is: (212) 746-5454.

  • If you, or someone you have been in contact with, has been in China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, or Japan during the past two weeks:
  • Call Occupational Health Services at (212) 327-8414.
  • You will be asked several screening questions. If you meet criteria, you may be instructed not to come to work and advised to self-monitor your temperature and symptoms at home for up to 14 days.

The outbreak of COVID-19 is evolving rapidly. We expect that additional countries may be added to the CDC travel advisory list.

The symptoms of COVID-19 can be very similar to influenza symptoms, and flu continues to be widespread in New York.  People with COVID-19 infection can display a range of symptoms, such as fever, chills and muscle aches, as well as respiratory symptoms like sore throat, runny nose, congestion, shortness of breath and cough. The severity of the illness can vary.

More information, including up-to-date data about COVID-19 is available from CDCNYC Department of Health, and the University’s pandemic preparedness website.

We recognize that this ongoing novel outbreak can cause anxiety and emotional strain. Help is available through University sponsored programs. Please contact OHS at (212)327-8414 if you would like to speak with a counselor or a mental health professional.

The safety and health of the University employees and students remains a top priority. Thank you once again 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.