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COVID-19: Coronavirus FAQs for Faculty

Campus updates

(Updated March 29)

Please also read the Coronavirus Resources for Employees page on the Human Resources website. Many of the policies on the HR page also apply to faculty. 

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 and staff – both on and off campus – must immediately 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.  Faculty, staff and students are expected to notify University Health Services if they are being tested by emailing communityhealth@princeton.edu, and UHS will get in touch directly with that person’s close contacts.

What about people who were in close contact of the cases? 

The University works with local health authorities to identify and contact those who may have been in direct close contact. These individuals will go under self-quarantine as a precaution. These individuals will be notified by Occupational Health about the duration of the self-quarantine they need to observe. If these individuals develop symptoms they need to seek care and testing through their primary care providers and notify the University that they are being tested by emailing communityhealth@princeton.edu . 

What is the status of cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey? 

For updated state information, 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 will move to virtual instruction beginning Monday, March 23 and remain virtual through the end of Spring 2020, including exams.   Academic classes and mid-term exams will continue the week of March 9 as planned, following social distancing protocols.

Faculty have received guidance and recommendations on online delivery methods for their courses. The McGraw Center will provide support to faculty, as detailed on its website, including instructional strategies, available tools and recommended best practices. Dean of the College Jill Dolan sent an email to faculty on March 19 with more information about teaching continuity during virtual instruction for the remainder of spring 2020 semester. Faculty also received an email from Dean Dolan on March 29 with updated information about refinements to the grading policy for spring 2020 semester. 

How does the governor’s state-wide “stay at home” Executive Order affect my work?

All individuals and academic departments must conduct their work from home if at all possible.  Administrative staff in academic departments also must work from home.  The staff should be available to assist you with teaching and research needs, but they will provide that assistance remotely. If there is a need to return to campus to gather any items that you will require to work from home, please do so as soon as possible. 

The Executive Order did make exceptions for jobs and functions that cannot be performed remotely, and the University is working to identify those positions across campus. 

The McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning website has detailed information and FAQs for faculty regarding teaching continuity and teaching remotely. 

 

Research

What about research on campus? 

In light of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy enacting a statewide stay-at-home order, read Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti’s memo on the halting of on-campus research activities

Further 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.

Can graduate students do their research and other work remotely?

 While graduate students and post-docs are expected to continue to make reasonable academic progress, we ask faculty to be as flexible and accommodating as you can be in this rapidly evolving situation. We are facing an unprecedented challenge; COVID-19 has disrupted our campus operations in ways that would have been inconceivable just a short time ago. We therefore ask that faculty make every reasonable effort to allow graduate students and post-docs to work remotely whenever possible. This will allow some graduate students and post-docs to leave campus and will enable others to work from their residences, thereby mitigating the spread of the virus.

What if a lab’s essential operations require graduate students and others to be present in person?

For guidance about essential research operations, including lab research on campus, please refer to the frequently asked questions on the Princeton Research website

It is important to remember that graduate students and postdoctoral researchers should only participate in on-campus essential activities (including critical maintenance or research that is allowed to continue because it is deemed essential) if they choose to do so. Under no circumstances should a graduate student or a post-doctoral researcher be compelled to perform essential on-campus activities if they do not choose to do so.

More generally, we ask all faculty to be sensitive to the individual circumstances that graduate students and post-docs may be facing. Some of them may, for example, have medical conditions that increase their susceptibility to the virus. If a graduate student needs to work remotely but there is no way for them to make reasonable academic progress under those circumstances, please be in touch with Dean Christine Murphy (Natural Sciences and Engineering) or Dean Geoffrey Hill (Humanities and Social Sciences). The Graduate School staff will work with the PI and the student to find a way forward. 

Where possible, continue to interact virtually and hold meetings online — both to carry out scholarly activity and to promote the academic and emotional well-being of your lab members. 

Under no circumstances should a graduate student or post-doc who is experiencing symptoms come to a lab or any other common area.

Travel Guidelines

Will University-sponsored travel be canceled because of coronavirus?

All University-sponsored international travel is prohibited. Non-essential University-sponsored domestic travel should be postponed or canceled. These restrictions will not apply to University-sponsored travel required to return to campus by community members who are currently studying or working remotely. 

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 travelers returning from impacted countries (CDC Warning Level 3 and Warning Level 2 countries as well as USDOS Level 4 and Level 3 countries) must fill out this confidential form before their return. This is both for those on University-sponsored and personal travel.

The CDC currently requires anyone coming from CDC Warning Level 3 countries to self-quarantine for 14 days.

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.

If my department has someone stranded in another country as a result of travel restrictions, whom should I consult for ongoing assistance?

The University’s administration is working with affected departments on this issue. If those departments have questions, contact:

  • Kara Amoratis, associate director, international travel safety and security, for advice about travel
  • Karen Haskin, associate dean of the faculty, for academic professional, including postdocs
  • Oliver Avens, associate dean of the faculty, for appointment, pay or leave questions for faculty.

Events on Campus

Will meetings and events be canceled on campus?

All campus events are canceled following Governor Murphy’s state-wide “stay at home” order issued on March 21.

In-person meetings are strongly discouraged. Meeting organizers should use remote technology whenever possible, including substituting conference calls and phone conversations for in person meetings. Meetings that must take place should use social distancing best practices.

Princeton remains operational with remote classes starting March 23, and essential staff who perform critical services continue to support undergraduate and graduate students who have been approved to remain on campus. 

Will athletic events be canceled?

The Ivy League announced March 11 that it will cancel all spring athletics practice and competition through the remainder of the academic year. Individual institutions will decide whether or not winter teams and student-athletes who have qualified for postseason play will participate.

The Ivy League had decided March 10 to cancel the upcoming Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments. The decision has been made in accordance with the guidance of public health and medical professionals to discourage and limit large gatherings on campuses. 

For more information on athletic events, visit the Princeton Athletics website or the Ivy League website. 

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. 

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.

Is a surgical mask/facemask helpful in preventing transmission of coronavirus?

From the CDC: “CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.” University Health Services will not provide masks except for patient treatment at McCosh Health Center.

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).

What will happen if we need to assist someone with self-quarantine?

In the event an undergraduate or graduate student needs to self-quarantine, the University will provide support and professors are encouraged to accommodate virtual attendance using Zoom remote conferencing. A list of classrooms outfitted for remote conferencing is available from Rich Bakken, Director of Instructional Support Services: rbakken@princeton.edu.

Employees required to self-quarantine would work with their supervisors to determine if work can be performed during this time. Either way, employees at home during the specified period of self-quarantine would be paid as if they were at work until the conclusion of their isolation, up to 14 days.

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.

I have visitors to my lab or office from countries where COVID-19 is present. Are there any restrictions? Do they need to check in with anyone?

Campus visitors are expected to share their plans with the COVID-19 response team by emailing response@princeton.edu. Visitors who have been in CDC Warning Level 3 countries within the last 14 days should not come to campus.

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).

I recently returned from an area where COVID-19 is present and have symptoms consistent with coronavirus. What should I do?

If you are exhibiting symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, contact your health care provider. Tell your health care professional about your recent travel or contact. 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 instructed to self-quarantine by health officials and/or if you are tested for the coronavirus, 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 have not traveled recently to an area where COVID-19 is present, but I have symptoms of respiratory illness. Can I come to work or class?

Students, faculty and staff who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work or class until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).

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.

Dining and catering on campus during "stay at home" directive

Q. What campus dining options are available for individuals to take-out/pick-up during the “stay at home” directive?

A. Witherspoon's Café at Frist Campus Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is located on the 100 level of Frist Campus Center. For more information about Campus Dining, visit online.

Q. What campus catering options are available for a departmental lunch during the “stay at home” directive?

A. Please reach out to David Dembek at ddembek@princeton.edu for any departmental lunches. NOTE: This is for departments providing essential services who may be on campus. For more information about Campus Dining, visit online.