Masking, testing, reopening: A guide to the fall 2021 semester

Learn about NYU’s plan to return to near-normal operations and all the guidelines and requirements you should know about this fall.


Jake Capriotti

A parent stands outside Palladium Hall during move-in. NYU administration has introduced new procedures to allow for in-person operations during COVID-19. (Staff Photo by Jake Capriotti)

Rachel Cohen, Deputy News Editor

Editor’s note: This article was published in August 2021. Guidelines and requirements from NYU may have since changed.

The fall 2021 semester will be the first time many students return to campus since pandemic restrictions tightened in March 2020, when classroom instruction turned to remote learning. For other students, the upcoming semester will be their first exposure to New York City.

WSN compiled a guide to the university’s plan to return to regular operations, including the reopening of university buildings and the return of athletics.

Table of contents

  1. Classroom instruction and building access
  2. In-person events
  3. COVID-19 testing
  4. Face coverings
  5. Vaccinations
  6. Residence halls
  7. Dining
  8. Athletics and sporting facilities
  9. Libraries
  10. NYU Box Office
  11. The Wasserman Center
  12. Student Health Center
  13. Campus transportation

Classroom instruction and building access

Members of the community must show a green pass on the Daily Screener to enter any non-residential campus building.

Mask-wearing and a 7-10 foot space between the lecturer and the class participants will be required in classrooms this fall. Students must occupy the same seat for the entire semester.

The university has also equipped each classroom with heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to improve air quality as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Classrooms will also be cleaned regularly. 

In-person events

Indoor in-person events — which can only be two hours or less with a maximum capacity of 250 individuals — are permitted if they follow the guidelines under NYU’s event requirements. Outside affiliates, vendors and visitors cannot participate in gatherings and meetings until further notice.

To enter an event, students and faculty must show the Daily Screener, but hosts are not allowed to ask participants about their vaccination status. Event organizers are responsible for maintaining an attendee list for contract tracing purposes, including an individual’s first and last name, phone number, and NetID or external email address. During events, unvaccinated individuals are expected to social distance. 

Outdoor in-person events can hold up to 500 people, and individuals who are not fully vaccinated have to wear masks if they cannot maintain at least six feet of distance from other people.

“We would ask community members to use common sense and consider whether planned or anticipated in-person events can be readily replaced with online alternatives or postponed until after we get the current year well underway and, we hope, the current surge starts to abate,” NYU said in an email to the university community.

COVID-19 testing

Students, faculty and employees who are not fully vaccinated will be tested weekly starting Aug. 16 through a Binx self-administered, at-home saliva test kit available at locations across campus, and a BioReference nasal swab test. NYU BioReference is located at 18 Cooper Square. Appointments are available Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Unvaccinated students, faculty or employees must receive a negative COVID-19 test no more than seven days prior to entering a university building. NYU will also continue to contact trace and provide campus access through the Daily Screener, regardless of vaccination status. For vaccinated individuals, there is no symptom questionnaire.

“We will continually monitor testing results, as well as city data, for any uptick that necessitates a change in campus protocol, or a need to further increase the level of testing,” NYU said.

Unlike its peer institutions, NYU will not make testing mandatory for vaccinated students. Columbia University and Cornell University plan on selecting a random sample of vaccinated individuals each week to participate in a surveillance testing program.

NYU, however, encourages vaccinated students and faculty to get tested regularly and for any reason. They are required to get tested if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or deemed a close contact of someone who tested positive. Discretionary testing will also be available once a week for students and employees who were in a high transmission situation, such as out-of-state travel, large social gatherings or crowded indoor settings. Any symptoms should be reported to the COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team on this form.

Update: After this story was published, NYU announced that a randomized sample of members of the community — including those who are fully vaccinated — will be asked to get tested for COVID-19 each week. If you are chosen, you will receive an email from the university and must take a Binx or BioReference test through the university. NYU has not yet announced how large the weekly sample will be or whether there are any criteria that can increase the chance of selection.

Face coverings

NYU will continue to require masks indoors in all university buildings for the fall 2021 semester, according to an email sent by senior leadership to the university community on Aug. 19.

“We will again have Public Health Ambassadors to distribute masks and to reinforce the masking rules and a culture of conscientiously observing health rules,” NYU said.

The announcement comes after the CDC recommended in July that those in areas with “substantial” and “high” COVID-19 transmission rates should once again wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. New York and Kings counties — where NYU’s Washington Square and Brooklyn campuses are located — both fall under the “high” transmission category.

Exceptions to the policy will be made if a student or employee is alone in a private office or eating in a designated area. If an individual fails to comply, they will be asked to leave the location and a report will be sent to the school’s dean, the Office of Student Conduct or a supervisor.


NYU is requiring all students and employees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to enter campus buildings unless granted a medical or religious exemption. The requirement can be satisfied by any vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization.

According to an Aug. 26 email, over 95% of U.S.-based students, 94% full-time employees and nearly 90% of adjunct faculty are fully vaccinated. However, only 75% of international students have received the vaccine, in part due to conflicting guidance and local vaccine shortages, as WSN previously reported.

Unvaccinated community members may receive the vaccine at their closest vaccination site or at the on-campus vaccination center at Bobst Library.

“We will, of course, continue to monitor guidance from public health authorities on matters such as vaccine boosters, and provide direction to the University in turn,” the email stated.

The NYU Vax Pass was also introduced for the fall semester. It will be used for events that are limited to fully vaccinated individuals due to public health risks. However, it is unclear when the pass will be utilized, and whether it will be used in conjunction with the Daily Screener.

Residence halls 

Student residence halls are fully reopened and students will have to wear masks in public areas, including lounges, hallways and lobbies outside of their suite or apartment. Rooms have been set aside for quarantine and isolation.

Students in university housing are now permitted in rooms of other students in residence halls and are expected to wear masks and social distance.

Students living off campus will no longer be permitted to enter NYU housing at the start of the fall, in addition to outside visitors under the 2020 visitor policy. The university anticipates that the visitation policy will return to pre-pandemic standing with all guests allowed at the start of the 2022-23 academic year.  


Dining halls now offer both to-go and indoor dining. For now, NYU encourages students to eat outside.

Students are required to wear masks on line and before and after eating, and the university asks those who do choose to eat indoors to stay less than 15 minutes. 

Some tables will have physically-distanced seating, where those who are not fully vaccinated are required to sit and fully vaccinated students are given the option.

Athletics and sporting facilities

Intercollegiate competition, intramural athletics and club sports will resume this semester after a yearlong hiatus.

Sporting facilities officially reopened on Aug. 27 and are following a phased opening for vaccinated individuals — first beginning with students — according to city guidelines. The Palladium Athletic Facility and Brooklyn Athletic Facility are currently open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, and activity areas will close 30 minutes prior to closing times. New hours of operation for the fall semester will begin on Sept. 2, but have yet to be released.


Bobst Library and Dibner Library are open to NYU students, faculty and staff, including the stacks, lounges, and event and exhibit spaces. Remote options are also still available. 

At Bobst, most individual study rooms will be closed, but a limited number of graduate study rooms are available. Dibner Library’s individual study rooms, however, are open for students to make a reservation online. Both libraries have group study rooms available.

The Institute of Fine Arts, the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and the Jack Brause Library are open only to their students.

NYU Box Office

The NYU Box Office, the university’s ticketing service for events, is in the process of reopening. Online purchases will be made available for NYU Skirball and ScholasTix over the coming weeks. In-person box office hours have yet to be scheduled.

The Wasserman Center

The Wasserman Center, which administers NYU’s career services, will reopen its physical locations at Union Square and in Brooklyn on Sep. 1.

Career coaches will be conducting in-person and virtual sessions through appointments on NYU Home or NYU’s Handshake. Appointments will be 20 minutes in length until Oct. 4 when regular 30-minute sessions will resume.

Student Health Center

The Student Health Center’s medical services and wellness counseling are offered both in person and virtually. Appointments can be scheduled beforehand with a medical or mental health provider, in addition to urgent care, which provides same-day services for students without an appointment.

For same-day services, students can call 24/7 for medical care at 212-443-1000 or the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 for urgent counseling.

The SHC is also available for routine care and annual checkups. Free flu shots are offered to students, as well as other vaccines and Allergy, Immunology & Travel Medicine services.

Campus transportation

The NYU Shuttle will resume on Aug. 28 and run between 7 a.m. through midnight on seven routes. Safe Ride and Brooklyn Overnight Shuttle will start operating on Aug. 31 at 12:01 a.m.

This story was updated Sept. 16 2021 to reflect new information NYU released on its COVID-19 testing policy. 

A version of this article appears in the Monday, August 30, 2021, e-print edition. Contact Rachel Cohen at [email protected].