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COVID-19: Coronavirus FAQs for Faculty

Campus updates

AN IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT PRINCETON’S PLANS FOR FALL 2020

President Christopher L. Eisgruber emailed the University community on July 6 about Princeton’s plans for the 2020-21 academic year. All information about the University’s plans, and how they may affect students, faculty, staff and campus visitors, is available on the new website fall2020.princeton.edu. Please check fall2020.princeton.edu for more details and answers to frequently asked questions about the upcoming academic year. 

Are there cases of COVID-19 at Princeton?

Princeton's University Health Services will provide regular updates on cases that they are aware of on the main page of this website (see Latest Updates section). 

Students, faculty, staff, researchers and postdocs should notify University Health Services of all COVID-19 tests by any health care provider in any jurisdiction. Please notify UHS by emailing communityhealth@princeton.edu if they are tested for coronavirus by any health care provider in any jurisdiction. This notification will allow UHS to conduct additional contact tracing and determine if there was any potential exposure to other members of the campus community so that they can take appropriate next steps to mitigate further spread of the virus.  

Due to limitations in testing and other factors, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 likely understates its prevalence in the University community. For that reason, it is especially important for everyone to practice social distancing and follow other public health guidance.  

For updated information about COVID-19 cases in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Department of Health's website.

Classes and Teaching

Will classes be canceled?

To facilitate social distancing, all lectures, seminars and precepts moved to virtual instruction on March 23 through the end of spring 2020. The spring semester has now concluded and there are no University classes scheduled for the summer.  Information about the undergraduate teaching program and plans for the fall 2020 semester will be announced in early July.

 

Research

What about research on campus? 

Information about academic research, including lab research on campus, is detailed in frequently asked questions on the Princeton Research website

The Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA) has also compiled a list of frequently asked questions related to sponsored research.

 

Travel Guidelines

Will University-sponsored travel be canceled because of coronavirus?

On June 16, the University’s Global Safety and Security Team sent a reminder to all populations affiliated with Princeton University, including undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff, that Associate Provost Aly Kassam-Remtulla’s April 16 guidance regarding University-sponsored travel remains unchanged. We will review our travel guidelines again in early July, after broader announcements are made regarding plans for the undergraduate teaching program.

To summarize the currently applicable guidelines:

  • All University-sponsored international travel continues to be suspended, and no international travel should be planned or scheduled.
  • University-sponsored travel within the United States should continue to be limited to essential trips. We remind travelers and travel sponsors (i.e., the department or other unit funding or otherwise supporting a trip) that they should review each proposed domestic trip to decide if it is essential. In doing so, you must use your best judgment in balancing the benefits of travel with health and safety considerations.

Can I obtain an exception to the current suspension of all University-sponsored international travel?

In general, exceptions are not being considered. If you believe you have a critical need to perform University-sponsored international travel, please contact the Global Safety and Security unit (globalsafety@princeton.edu) for further guidance.

Should I cancel my personal travel plans because of coronavirus?

All personal international travel is strongly discouraged.

What should I do if I’m returning to Princeton after international travel?

All returning travelers must fill out this confidential form before their return. This is both for those on University-sponsored and personal travel.

At this time, there are no federal restrictions on travelers returning from other locations. However, the University may ask that students traveling from other locations self-quarantine based on their confidential risk assessment form.

If you develop any symptoms, you should stay away from work or class and reach out to their health care provider.

Princeton is monitoring the international situation and will update protocols as needed. If you have questions about incoming travelers, please contact response@princeton.edu.

What is essential and non-essential travel? Who makes the decision?

Travelers, departments, and funders must use their best judgment in deciding what travel they deem to be essential. That involves balancing the benefits of travel with health and safety considerations for themselves and those with whom they may have close contact. In making this determination, students and staff should consult their supervisors; faculty should consult their department chairs.

To aid in the determination we recommend travelers considering the following:

  • Is the travel required to fulfill a critical research, teaching, legal, or compliance obligation?
  • Is the travel necessary to meet a graduation requirement?
  • Can the travel be postponed?
  • Is there a substitute to in-person travel such as virtual engagement?
  • Can someone in the destination location perform the activity in lieu of you?

Health Guidelines

If I’m diagnosed with coronavirus or become aware of someone on campus who becomes diagnosed with coronavirus, what should I do?

Tell your health care professional. Your health care professional will work with the health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. If you are tested for coronavirus and/or if you are diagnosed with the coronavirus, you must immediately inform Occupational Health via email at communityhealth@princeton.edu.

For illnesses that qualify for short term disability leave, there is a new electronic short term disability application, specifically for faculty and staff diagnosed with COVID 19 illness. For this particular diagnosis, medical certification is not required to be submitted with the application. Refer to policy 3.1.9 Short Term Disability for additional information.

I've been hearing about people who were in close contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus. Who is defined to be a close contact?

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, a close contact is defined as: a) being within approximately six feet of a COVID‐19 case for a prolonged period of time; close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a health-care waiting area or room with a COVID‐19 case; or b) having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID‐19 case (e.g., being coughed on).

What should secondary contacts do? I am not sick but I have been in the proximity of someone who is under self-quarantine as a precaution (a precaution means the person does not have symptoms and was asked to self quarantine because of their potential exposure to a COVID-19 case). 

Being a secondary contact does not require you to self-quarantine. You would only self-quarantine if you are a close contact of a presumptive or confirmed coronavirus case. You should continue to monitor yourself for symptoms. If you notice that you have symptoms and feel that you need to be medically evaluated, contact your health care provider and stay home.

How do I know if I need to be tested for coronavirus?

The test is to be performed for individuals who meet CDC clinical criteria for COVID-19 testing. Read information from the CDC to learn more including when to be tested. If you have the symptoms, you need testing, contact your healthcare provider for information about whether you meet the criteria for testing. 

If you are tested for coronavirus and/or if you are diagnosed with the coronavirus, you must immediately inform Occupational Health via email at communityhealth@princeton.edu.

How do I get tested for COVID-19?

Contact your healthcare provider for information about testing. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact Health Advocate at (866) 695-8622 to find a provider and book the appointment for you. Be aware that testing for the virus is becoming more available; however, testing kits to collect specimens are not readily available at this time. You may also contact Teladoc or your state health department for information.

If you are instructed to self-quarantine by health officials and/or if you are tested for the coronavirus, you must immediately inform Occupational Health via email at communityhealth@princeton.edu.

Where can I get information on Princeton's health plans, benefits and other employee policies related to COVID-19? 

Human Resources has created two newly updated COVID-19 webpages. The Coronavirus Resources for Employees webpage includes information on a range of resources including medical and well-being, financial, spiritual and religious, and work continuity. A secondary page, Healthcare Plans & Well-Being Resources Updates During COVID-19 includes benefits and healthcare plan changes as a result of coronavirus. Much of this information also applies to faculty.

Are there changes in coverage under Princeton’s medical plans for COVID- 19-related health care?

Yes, the University has arranged for the following interim changes: 

  • Diagnostic testing related to COVID-19 is covered at 100%. 
  • Telemedicine visits through Teladoc for any reason is expanded to be covered at 100% for individuals enrolled in the CDHP and J-1 Visa Plan before deductible. These visits were already covered at 100% for PHP and HMO participants. 
  • Early refill of prescriptions is available if you have refills remaining on file through mail order or at a participating retail pharmacy. 
  • Existing prior authorizations will be automatically extended for certain medications. 
  • Optum Specialty Pharmacy will allow patients a one-time, 90 day supply (versus the traditional 30 day supply) for certain specialty medications. 

Contact Aetna, UHC, or OptumRx with any detail questions regarding your coverage. See FAQ below for phone numbers.

What does my health insurance cover? 

Contact Health Advocate at (866) 695-8622 or your insurance provider with any questions about your insurance coverage: 

  • Aetna (CDHP, PHP, HMO and J-Visa Plan): (800) 535-6689 
  • UnitedHealthcare (PHP):(877) 609-2273 
  • OptumRx: (877)629-3117 
  • Teladoc: (855) 835-2362

Refer to the Human Resources website for information about University medical plans.

What if I am experiencing increased anxiety or stress related to concerns about family abroad?

Students, faculty or staff who are experiencing increased anxiety or stress related to concerns about family in China or other areas where COVID-19 is present may see a counselor; call 609-258-3141 to arrange an appointment, or schedule an initial consultation through myUHS. Students may also reach out to Susan Kim, CPS Outreach Counselor at sk38@princeton.edu, to inquire about her drop-in hours at the Graduate College and E-Quad.

What should I do if one of my staff expresses discomfort interacting with someone who is from China?

In the wake of this outbreak, several universities have experienced the targeting and exclusion of Chinese individuals, individuals perceived to be Chinese, and individuals recently returned from China due to fear and misinformation about the virus. Acts of bias, discrimination, and harassment run counter to our University values and Princeton’s policies, including Respect for Others and our nondiscrimination policies, as well as our Statement on Diversity and Community.

Princeton University is committed to maintaining an educational, working and living environment that is free of all forms of discrimination and where every member can thrive. It is essential that each of us uphold and demonstrate these core values of dignity and respect. We encourage you to communicate these values to your staff and colleagues.

Employee Testing

Should I be tested for COVID-19?

Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19 as described by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home.

However, if you have concerning symptoms or exposures that make you think you have coronavirus, you should contact your health provider or book an appointment online with a service established to evaluate if you need testing and to help provide that testing. To book an appointment visit VitalCheck—Doctors in Your Office website.

If you are being tested for COVID-19, or someone in your household is being tested for COVID-19, please notify UHS by emailing communityhealth@princeton.edu so UHS can begin contact tracing.

How do I get tested for COVID-19?

You may contact your provider or book an appointment to talk with a doctor on the VitalCheck—Doctors in Your Office website. The doctor will screen you, provide guidance regarding symptoms and how to keep yourself and loved ones safe. In addition, if you meet specific criteria, VitalCheck—Doctors in Your Office will send you a coronavirus lab kit. The kit should be delivered in 48 hours. A physician will call to guide you to oversee the collection of the specimen. Results are being returned within 48–72 hours.

If you are being tested for COVID-19, or someone in your household is being tested for COVID-19, please notify UHS by emailing communityhealth@princeton.edu so UHS can begin contact tracing.

If you have any questions, call Vital Check - Doctors in Your Office at (646) 450-7751.

Does this mean every employee can now be tested?

 If the physician at Vital Check-Doctors in Your Office determines testing is appropriate after a screening appointment, then yes, every employee has access to testing.

Who is an eligible dependent?

An eligible dependent is a family member covered by your health insurance. For a detailed definition, visit the HR Benefits website.

I am on a Princeton health plan but my spouse is not. May my spouse use this service?

Yes, your spouse may use this service. This service is covered by most major health insurance providers including Aetna and United Healthcare. If your spouse uses another insurance company, they may contact their insurance company to verify in-network coverage before booking an appointment.

What should I do if my results are positive?  Should I contact my regular primary care doctor?

The doctors at Vital Check-Doctors in Your Office will discuss your results with you and provide advisement regarding your next steps.  Since each individual is different, we encourage you to also notify your primary care physician.  You must notify UHS by emailing communityhealth@princeton.edu so UHS can begin contact tracing.

Can the tele-doctors also provide medical advice or prescriptions related to COVID-19?

Tele-doctors can also provide medical advice and guidance regarding COVID-19. There are no proven prescriptions for the treatment of COVID-19 at this time.

How did Princeton obtain access to testing kits?   

Doctors In Your Office is a service the University introduced this past summer to provide annual physicals for faculty and staff on campus. The medical group which runs the program made arrangements for testing in partnership with BioReference Laboratories. At this point many medical groups in New Jersey do have access to lab tests. Doctors in your Office is fortunate to have been allocated lab tests through its partnership with BioReference. 

Is this test FDA Approved?

Yes. The  test has been made available pursuant to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for diagnostic testing.

The test detects the presence of SARS-CoV-2 and is for use with patients who meet current CDC guidance for evaluation of infection with COVID-19.

BioReference, in partnership with the states of New York and New Jersey, and the cities of Detroit and Miami, is providing testing conducted at drive-through facilities and hospitals. BioReference provides testing across the country.

How to Reduce Risk

How can I practice social distancing?

  • Keep at least six feet between yourself and another person in all public places including the library, dining halls, Frist, Prospect House, etc.
  • Avoid close contact, including handshakes and hugging.
  • Limit in-person meetings.

What can faculty and staff do to reduce the risk of getting coronavirus?

The best things you can do are the same as those for preventing flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue. Then throw the tissue in the trash and disinfect your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you have not already been immunized against the flu, contact University Health Services to schedule your free flu shot.

Should I wear a face mask in public?

On April 2, the CDC updated its guidance to recommend the use of cloth face coverings “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). The guidance also clarifies that this recommendation is to use cloth face coverings, not surgical masks or N95 masks, as those are critical supplies that must be reserved for healthcare workers and medical first responders.

In addition, Governor Phil Murphy issued an Executive Order requiring everyone in New Jersey to wear a face covering when entering any retail establishment or restaurant for take-out orders and when riding public transportation. The Governor’s Executive Orders also apply to Campus Dining facilities. Campus Dining staff are wearing face coverings, and all students entering dining halls to pick up meals must wear face coverings as well. Face coverings include cloth masks, bandanas, scarves, or other items that allow fabric to cover the nose and mouth. 

What type of office cleaning should be done if there is a case of coronavirus?

As with any seasonal respiratory illness, routine cleaning is effective. Routine cleaning products are fine, bleach is not necessary. Because this is flu season, Building Services has increased their cleaning and disinfection of high contact surfaces.

Quarantine Guidelines

I’ve been hearing the terms quarantine and isolation a lot. What is the difference?

While both isolation and quarantine refer to methods of preventing the spread of illness, they do not mean the same thing.

  • Isolation refers to separating people who are sick from those who are not sick.
  • Quarantine refers to separating people who are, or may have been, exposed to a pathogen, but are not showing signs of illness. Quarantine is used to make sure individuals are not contagious by minimizing contact with people who were not exposed during an illness’ incubation period—the time it takes for symptoms to emerge.

You should follow these guidelines for monitoring your health and limiting contact with others during quarantine.

I've been hearing about people who were in close contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus. Who is defined to be a close contact?

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, a close contact is defined as: a) being within approximately six feet of a COVID‐19 case for a prolonged period of time; close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a health-care waiting area or room with a COVID‐19 case; or b) having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID‐19 case (e.g., being coughed on).

If a faculty or staff member requires self-quarantine or self-isolation, where will they be housed?

Faculty or staff will self-quarantine or self-isolate at home.

Events on Campus

Will meetings and events be canceled on campus?

As of March 21, all campus events are canceled until further notice. 

Princeton remains operational with essential staff who perform critical services on campus, while other staff and faculty work remotely. 

On April 16, Dean of the College Jill Dolan and Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun sent an email update about end-of-the-semester and summer programs, including the cancelation of all on-campus summer programs through August 15.

Will University buildings be open to students, faculty and staff? Will buildings be open to visitors?

Starting March 14 at 7 am campus academic and administrative buildings will be following an extended hour weekend building schedule until further notice. This means building exterior doors will be locked and will not be open to the general public. 

Students, faculty and staff will have access to buildings with card access systems using their cards from 7 am to Midnight. Academic buildings with University Libraries access hours will match daily scheduled Library hours. 

 Other university buildings without card systems will be locked and have key access only. Questions about being granted key access should be directed to Departments in these buildings. 

There is no change to residence hall access. All dorms remain locked 24/7 with card access. 

Questions about other public buildings like Frist Campus Center and the Art Museum should be directed to those departments for information about access, hours and operations.