Social Distancing

Social distancing is recommended by public health authorities as the most effective single method to help prevent the spread and contraction of COVID-19. Therefore, the organizing principle of many of the policies and guidelines surrounding campus health and safety will be to ensure the maintenance of social distancing in classrooms, offices, and residence halls.

Per CDC guidance, employees and students should not leave their residence to travel to a class or campus office if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, have tested positive, or have been in close contact with someone who has symptoms or is sick.

At Columbia, social distancing will mean first and foremost limiting the number of people on campus at any given time. We will achieve this by delivering courses through a hybrid of in-person and remote instruction and by allowing some employees to continue to work from home. (As Governor Pritzker’s order now stands, gatherings of more than 50 people will not be permitted for the foreseeable future.) The other critical element will be to provide for six-foot distancing wherever possible when people are occupying the same space.

Occupancy Limits 

On campus, there are fewer people than usual.

  • Some classes remain online and some faculty and staff work from home.
  • Employee work schedules have been staggered to reduce density and traffic stalls in buildings.
  • Occupancy limits for classrooms, elevators, meeting rooms, bathrooms, and other communal spaces are indicated for most rooms.

Campus Spaces

Eating Spaces

What Columbia is doing:

  • In some locations, eating spaces are situated away from high-traffic thoroughfares.
  • If such isolation is impossible, an eating area may be sectioned-off to separate it from the regular flow of building traffic.
  • Seating in identified eating spaces are organized with attention to directionality.
    • Ideally, all individuals in a shared eating space will face the same direction.
    • Individuals are not encouraged to sit facing each other.
    • If the space requires individuals to face each other, seats are staggered to allow for appropriate distancing.
  • Cleaning supplies are available, and cleaning protocols are posted to encourage individuals to clean their space both before and after eating.

What you should do:

  • Whenever possible, eat with backs to each other facing in opposite direction.
  • Maintain 6 feet distance from the person(s) seated in the same dining area.
  • Refrain from sharing food, drinking from a shared coffee pot, and eating in classrooms, hallways, or other non-designated spaces.
  • Eat alone in your office with the door is closed.
  • Clean the table or desk before and after eating.
  • Sanitize your hands immediately before and after using shared appliances such as microwaves and refrigerators.
  • Avoid contact between your water bottles and shared water dispensers.
  • Strictly maintain six-feet distance while masks are removed.
  • Maintain 6 feet distance between individuals and other groups.
  • Please refrain from talking when unmasked, as speaking increases the number of droplets and aerosols released.

Here are designated eating spaces on campus:

Building Room Capacity
33 306 4
33 2C 3
72 3L 6
72 305 9
72 B005 9
600 811D (The L) 10
618 512 2
623 108 (HAUS) 10
1312 1L 4
1600 Stairs 23
1014 334 2

If you are physically able to do so, please take the stairs. 

When you arrive at an elevator on campus, observe the signs and:

  • Note the elevator’s reduced capacity.
  • Stand on the elevator corner floor markings.
  • Avoid using your hands to press the button.
  • If you touch a surface in the elevator, wash or sanitize your hands. If you used a tissue or other disposable item to push a button, throw it out.
  • Face covering should be worn in the elevator.
When entering a classroom on campus:
  • Face coverings are required in all classrooms, except in exceptional circumstances driven by pedagogy where other precautions are in effect. In these situations, there will be limitations on the duration of such interactions and on the number of participants involved. Any exception made for wearing face coverings in the classroom must be approved by the Provost’s Office.
  • Classrooms are marked as to where to sit so that six-foot distancing is respected. Please sit in marked seats only.
  • Sharing of food is prohibited in communal spaces.

Before entering a bathroom on campus, please observe the sign and note the capacity limit. 

When using a bathroom:
  • Avoid touching the door handle if possible.
  • Use a paper towel or your shoulder to open the door.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.


What Columbia is doing:

  • Librarians will retrieve items for patrons.
  • Materials will be isolated for 72 hours after their use before being returned to circulation. 

What you should do:

  • Maintain 6 feet distance from the person in front of you whenever possible.
  • Wipe keyboard before using computers.
  • Check out books using the self-scan station located next to the circulation desk on the 1st floor.
  • Return your book to the Book Drop located outside of the Library.
  • Reserve your computer in advance on the Library’s website.
  • Request a book in advance and it will be waiting for you on a self-serve hold shelf on the 1st floor.
  • Use the ‘Ask a Librarian’ chat or email on the library homepage, for assistance with reservations.


What Columbia is doing:

While some campus employees may work from home, others may work on campus.

  • Some employees may continue to work remotely all or some of the time.
  • Employees who are designated to come to work by their supervisors are doing so in alternating and staggered shifts, working no less than six feet apart from each other wherever possible, supplemented by face coverings when a six-foot distance cannot be maintained.
  • Supervisors/Facilities Department continue to address schedules and/or work areas to provide six-foot distancing.
  • Meetings that cannot take place with six-foot distancing are being held via audio or video conference.

What you should do:

  • Staff should avoid gathering in break areas and other common spaces, 
if six-foot distancing is not possible.
  • Avoid sharing food in common spaces.

Residence Halls
To learn more about social distancing in the residence halls, visit the Residence Halls page.

New traffic flow in buildings

What Columbia is doing:

Campus signage on the floors and walls will guide you through each building:

  • Directional signage on the floors and walls dictate the flow of traffic.
  • Some lobby doors are labeled entrance only; others as exit only.
  • Some stairwells are designated for walking up and others are 
used for walking down—except in the event of building emergencies.
  • Directional and spacing markers have been placed on floors in high-traffic 
areas and protective shields are in place for high-traffic-area desks.
  • Protective shields for high-traffic area desks have been installed.

In the event of a campus emergency, such as a fire, all stairwells and 
doors are available for use.

What you should do:

  • Maintain 6 feet distance from people around you whenever possible.
  • Keep traffic moving on the stairs so that people may continue to walk up or 
down while maintaining the appropriate distance.
  • Look for, and follow, directional signs governing the traffic flow 
throughout buildings.