Update on the COVID-19 Virus: March 9, 2020

Dear Cooper Union:

I know that the uncertainty of the evolving situation with the 2019 novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) can feel unsettling and worrisome for some. I am writing this afternoon to assure you that we are closely monitoring the latest developments related to COVID-19 and have the safety and wellbeing of our full community as our top priority. To date, there are no reported cases of COVID-19 among the Cooper community.

As was shared previously, we are following guidelines issued by national and international experts, including the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control, and our New York State and New York City departments of health and education. We are also actively collaborating with our neighboring peer institutions. Our Safety Committee is meeting regularly to monitor the situation and assess any changes that may be needed to our pandemic flu response plan, and will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available, communicating with all of us via a weekly email (and more frequently as necessary). Look for the Committee’s next email with additional information about Cooper’s policies and practices to come later today and every Monday for the foreseeable future.

I want to thank all of the members of the Safety Committee who have been engaged in this important work since the outbreak of COVID-19 was first reported in December. We are grateful for your vigilance, expertise, and commitment on our behalf. Ruben Savizky, Acting Associate Dean of the School of Engineering and Campus-Wide Faculty Safety Coordinator, and Tom Tresselt, Director of Campus Safety and Security, are leading the Safety Committee. The additional members include:

  • Grace Kendall, Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion

  • Mary Ann Nissen, Director of Human Resources

  • Hala Alkasm, Assistant Director of International Advisement

  • Ryan Gambino, Director of Residential Education and Housing

  • Deirdre Kennedy, Facilities Coordinator

Over the weekend, you may have seen that on Saturday, March 7, Governor Cuomo issued a state of emergency in New York. It’s important to understand that this declaration was made to enable more efficient access to state resources, testing capabilities, and additional state aid and other resources to combat the spread of COVID-19. There is nothing in the Governor’s declaration that calls for a change in our protocols at this time, though we remain vigilant and focused on advance preparedness so that, if and when we need to make changes, we can.

This is an evolving situation, and our Safety Committee will continue to keep the community posted as our policies and recommended practices adjust with new facts here at Cooper and in the city, as well as with new guidance coming from outside experts. Our advance preparations include work in the areas of public gatherings, travel, attendance and the potential for remote learning and working.

As we have said previously, one of the best things we can do collectively is remain calm and follow the CDC’s practical tips for preventing the virus and other respiratory illness. 

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your arm or preferably with tissues that you dispose. Don’t use your bare hands.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Stay home if you are feeling sick.

We will continue to build out a list of resources and keep all updates current on The Cooper Union’s website.

Lastly, I want us all to remain mindful of the fact that COVID-19 is not more likely to affect any one race, ethnicity, or nationality. In addition, not all individuals who have traveled recently are carriers of the virus. In times of fear, unfortunately some may act in discriminatory ways or treat people with less than the dignity that everyone deserves. Let us commit to fighting against this and to ensure that, together, we are acting with facts, are informed by science, and will redouble our efforts to ensure the dignity of everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, physical or mental ability, age, or health condition. When anyone in our community is treated without dignity and respect, it hurts us all. When we support each other, we are all strengthened.

We will continue to do all we can to provide for the safety and wellbeing of our community, to minimize to the best of our abilities any contribution to the spread of COVID-19, and to enable us to continue our work as students, faculty, and staff to the greatest extent possible during this time.

With gratitude,


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.