COVID-19: What You Should Know

Learn about the outbreak of a respiratory illness called COVID-19.

The health and safety of our patients and staff is our top priority. We are closely monitoring this situation and have plans in place. Our staff is highly trained at screening for and managing infectious diseases.

People with cancer often have weakened immune systems. Having a weak immune system makes it harder for the body to fight off diseases, so it’s important for people with cancer and their family members to closely follow steps to protect themselves, especially when it comes to frequent handwashing. We recommend you speak with your doctor if you have concerns about your risk for COVID-19 being higher as a result of current or past cancer treatment.

Our visitor policy has been updated due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Learn more.

What is MSK doing to protect patients and staff?
  • We are screening all MSK patients for signs of illness and exposure to COVID-19.
  • We have put a policy in place at all of our clinical locations that requires all patients and staff wear a mask.
    • We are giving masks to every patient when they enter our facilities and requiring the masks be worn at all times.
  • We have taken steps to implement social distancing across the institution, like removing furniture, to ensure that staff and patients can maintain safe distances of at least 6 feet apart.
  • We have instituted guidelines for staff on both business and personal travel that are in effect until further notice.
What do I need to know if I am going to an appointment or visiting MSK?

If you have cold or flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing, body aches, or chills), you must call your MSK doctor’s office before coming to MSK, even if you have an appointment. Tell them about your symptoms.

Effective Friday, March 20, 2020, at 12:01 am, we will no longer allow patients to have visitors, with very limited exceptions. This change is consistent with a recent health advisory issued by the New York State Department of Health. The new visitor policy applies to all Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) inpatient and outpatient locations. Learn more about the changes to our visitor policy.

To help minimize the spread of COVID-19, we have also closed some of our entrances and facilities during this time. If you are coming to Memorial Hospital, we kindly ask that patients be dropped off at our main entrance at 1275 York Ave. (between 67th and 68th streets). In addition, we have temporarily closed the Sillerman Center for Rehabilitation and the Bendheim Integrative Medicine Center.

As of April 3, the MSK Ralph Lauren Center in Harlem will be closed until May 1. Additionally, the Brooklyn Infusion Center will suspend its Saturday hours in April.

Will MSK offer telemedicine (televisits) for patients as an alternative to in-person visits?

MSK offers televisits now and we are planning to offer more. A televisit is when your healthcare provider uses technology to care for you without you having to travel to their office. During your televisit, you and your healthcare provider will see and talk with each other using a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Talk with your healthcare provider about whether a televisit is an option for you. Learn more about televisits by visiting www.mskcc.org/pe/televisits_msk.

In addition, MSK has shifted some of its education and support groups to an online format through Virtual Programs. This includes all Resources for Life After Cancer programs as well as other support groups, including our caregiver and bereavement groups.

What should I do if I was potentially exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19?

If you were notified by your local health department of a potential exposure to someone with COVID-19 and have no symptoms, call your MSK doctor’s office to tell them about the exposure. They will give you instructions on what you should do. If you have cold or flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing, body aches, or chills), you must call your MSK doctor’s office before coming to MSK. Your doctor’s office will give you instructions so we can deliver care to you safely.

How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?

You can protect yourself from COVID-19 the same way you would from other respiratory infections, such as the common cold or flu.

  • Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay at home when you are sick.
How do I stay up to date on the latest developments about COVID-19?

Continue checking this web page for MSK updates as well as the patient portal, MyMSK. In addition, MSK is in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to share updates and receive the latest information. You can also keep up to date and learn more by visiting the COVID-19 pages of the CDC (www.cdc.gov) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (www1.nyc.gov) websites.

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