Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

March 9, 2020
Leslie Lawrence, M.D., Executive Director for Health and Wellness

Following the confirmation of two cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Capital Region this weekend, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute enacted social distancing protocols to help prevent the spread of the virus within our community. Until further notice: 

  • All public events with 50 or more attendees that include participation of outside individuals are canceled.

  • All internal seminars with external speakers will be considered on a case-by-case basis with input from an occupational physician and/or the Student Health Center.

  • All Rensselaer community members are asked not to attend large external events in the local area.

At this time, there are no confirmed or suspected cases on campus. We continue to follow the guidance of the U.S. Department of State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health, the Rensselaer County Health Department, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

International Travel Suspension

Effective immediately, all Rensselaer-related international travel is suspended for faculty, students, and staff. This includes any business, research, or academic travel, as well as conferences. If you are a student or faculty member and have a compelling and urgent need to travel internationally, please contact Prabhat Hajela, Provost. If you are a staff member with such a need, please contact your immediate supervisor and portfolio Vice President.  


Personal International Travel Not Recommended

We highly recommend that you refrain from personal international travel. Any personal international travel is at your own risk. Travel restrictions are fluid and you could become stranded should additional restrictions be enacted.  

If you insist on traveling to, or through, any country on the CDC’s COVID-19 travel advisories page, you must report the travel to your home County Health Department and to Rensselaer. You will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return. Any student planning to travel internationally, and who has not already checked in, should contact the Student Health Center at (518) 276-6287 or by email; staff or faculty members must contact Louis Padula, Director of Benefits, Retirement, and HRIS, at (518) 276-6164 or by email.  

Domestic Travel

Anyone planning domestic travel should monitor travel restrictions as they are fluid and subject to change.  

Checking In To Keep Everyone Safe 

Any student, staff, or faculty member currently abroad for Rensselaer-related travel who has not already checked in, should contact the Student Health Center at (518) 276-6287 or by email; staff or faculty members must contact Louis Padula, Director of Benefits, Retirement, and HRIS, at (518) 276-6164 or by email.


High-Risk Populations

The CDC has determined certain populations are at higher risk of complications from coronavirus (COVID-19). Anyone who is planning for a group visit involving high-risk populations should cancel the visit. Any member of the Rensselaer community who is included in the CDC’s high-risk description should refrain from travel until the virus is contained.

Reducing Future Exposures

If there is a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) case within the Rensselaer community, a community-spread case proximate to the Rensselaer campus, or a cluster case in Troy or Hartford (regardless of origin), President Jackson will declare an Institute State of Emergency. According to the University Pandemic Planning Protocols, this would activate the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, the Executive Command Center, and the Emergency Operations Group. This would also trigger the cancellation of all in-person classes and the shutdown of the campus, except for critical operations. Portfolio business continuity plans would take effect.  

Prevention Tips  

Everyone should remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the following:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. 

  • Throw all used tissues directly into the trash.  

  • Cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing if you do not have a tissue.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds often throughout the day, especially after you cough or sneeze, and also before preparing food or eating. Alcohol-based hand cleansers are also effective.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.

All Rensselaer community members are encouraged to check the COVID-19 Outbreak Communications website frequently for updates regarding Institute policies, protocols, and travel restrictions. 


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