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COVID-19: Coronavirus FAQs for Graduate Students

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

Are classes 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.

What about academic adjustments for graduate work, including FPOs, General Exams, Standing and Virtual Office Hours? 

Deputy Dean of the Graduate School Cole Crittenden sent an email to graduate students on March 17 with information about academic adjustments to graduate programs and virtual office hours.

Graduate Students On and Off Campus

Do graduate students have to leave campus?

Graduate students are, of course, in very different circumstances than undergraduates. Many of you call your residence on this campus home, many of you are international students, and many of you need to be on campus to conduct research. You are therefore not required to leave campus.

However, any graduate students who have another residence available to them and who will be able to continue to make academic progress remotely are encouraged to consider doing so. Graduate students who elect to leave campus and complete the spring semester remotely will be allowed to cancel their housing contracts immediately. Provided you continue to make reasonable academic progress, your funding will not be impacted.

What happens if I choose to leave campus?

Under normal circumstances, graduate students are expected to give 30 days' notice before leaving University housing or else they are assessed a fee of $300. The $300 fee will be waived for any graduate students wishing to vacate at this time due to the COVID-19 situation. Further, housing refunds will be calculated on a per-day basis from the student’s specified day of departure. Graduate students who have meal plans, and who have paid for meals that they have not used, will be refunded the cost of those unused meals if they depart at this time. Graduate students for whom relocation costs are a significant impediment to leaving may apply for hardship funds by completing the Graduate School hardship request formPlease note that, in order to cancel your contract and receive your refund, you will need to vacate your unit. Amongst other things, this will enable us to repurpose your unit as needed, e.g., for self-isolating students. Students who have retained their housing for the 20-21 academic year but who vacate at this time will still be able to keep their 20-21 academic year housing contract.

Boxes and tape are available at the New Graduate College multipurpose room, 200 Lakeside, and 1 Lawrence mailroom from today until March 30. Two moving/storage vendors, Campus Storage and Storage Squad, are also available for contracting at Dillon Gym, 9am-5pm, until March 20, and online at any time.

We would greatly appreciate it if graduate students who are planning to leave could let University Housing know by March 23 or sooner. This can be done by emailing askhousing@princeton.edu or by submitting an Intent to Vacate form through the Housing for Graduates Portal.

We encourage all students who are expecting refunds of any type to enroll in direct deposit. Students with direct deposit will receive any credited funds more quickly. Students not enrolled in direct deposit can enroll online through TigerHub.

Please note that per the University's guidelines to limit in-person contact, the Financial Service Center staff will be working remotely, and checks will not be available for pick up on campus. If students are not enrolled in direct deposit, checks will be mailed to the home address on record. If this poses a problem, please contact the Financial Service Center at finance@princeton.edu with any questions and to discuss other options that may be available.

What if I choose to stay on campus?

While it is recommended that all graduate students who are able to leave campus do so, if you must stay, social distancing is the key to mitigating the transmission of COVID-19. Specifically:

  • Please, continue to work together in your study groups. But, work together electronically, not in person. In-person meetings are unnecessary and irresponsible.
  • Stay away from campus as much as possible. If you have computer or connection issues, contact the OIT Support and Operations Center at (609) 258-4357 (258-HELP) to speak with a consultant. Consultants are available around the clock, seven days a week. For now, the computer clusters in Robertson will remain open, but we can’t be certain that they will stay open in the days and weeks to come. Also they are rarely cleaned and disinfected, so not the best place to be if you can help it.

How can students access Library resources? 

The Princeton University Library website has up-to-date information about how graduate students can access Library resources. Throughout this period, the Library will continue to support remote research, teaching, and learning via the Library’s extensive digital resources and expertise.

Is on-campus dining still available?

For those graduate students who are remaining on campus and who have purchased a meal plan, Whitman dining hall is currently open. As of March 23, Procter Hall will again be open for meals for graduate students who have purchased a meal plan. To promote social distancing, meals will be available to take out only.

Graduate students who have not purchased a meal plan can purchase individual meals through PAW points or student charge.  It also still possible at this time to purchase a meal plan. For additional details, please visit https://dining.princeton.edu.

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.

Health guidance

What should I do if I have symptoms consistent with coronavirus?

For students who remain on campus: If you are exhibiting symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, call McCosh Health Center (609-258-3141). They will provide advice on what to do next.

For students who are no longer on campus: Contact your personal health care provider. If you are tested for coronavirus, you must immediately notify University Health Services by emailing communityhealth@princeton.edu. 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.  

Students enrolled in the University's Student Health Plan (SHP) can find more information on coverage for COVID-19 testing and COVID-19 related services on the University Health Services website.

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).

Is University Health Services prepared to test or treat a person with coronavirus?

Yes. University Health Services is equipped and prepared to see patients with coronavirus at McCosh Health Center and is in constant communication with the NJ Department of Health on how to best deal with such cases. The UHS Global Health Physician is a board-certified infectious disease specialist who coordinates the medical response to public health emergencies.

Students enrolled in the University's Student Health Plan (SHP) can find more information on coverage for COVID-19 testing and COVID-19 related services on the University Health Services website.

I don’t have any symptoms, but I want to be tested for COVID-19. Will UHS test me?

No. UHS will not test people who do not have symptoms (i.e., asymptomatic people). This applies regardless of whether the person has traveled or not, and also regardless of whether the person has been exposed or not to a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Only those who meet specific criteria will be tested for COVID-19. Unnecessary testing does not make the patient or the community safer and requires test kits and other medical resources that are in limited supply. 

I am currently on self-quarantine. Can I be tested for COVID-19 so I do not have to continue self-quarantining?

UHS will not test people who do not have symptoms. However, if you do develop symptoms during your quarantine and are tested for COVID-19, you would have to go on isolation. The day of the discontinuation of isolation would depend on the test results and the duration of your symptoms.  A negative test result does not allow the person tested to discontinue self-quarantining early. Only those who meet specific criteria will be tested for COVID-19. Unnecessary testing does not make the patient or the community safer and requires test kits and other medical resources that are in limited supply.

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.

How to reduce risk

How can I practice social distancing?

  • Keep at least six feet between yourself and another person inside all buildings and public places.
  • Avoid close contact, including handshakes and hugging.
  • Limit in-person meetings.
  • UHS Fact Sheet on Social Distancing

What can students 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 covering 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. 

Should I be concerned about sharing a bathroom?

The novel coronavirus is a respiratory virus, most easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing. Follow good sanitary practice — washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and not coughing or sneezing on your hands.

Use disinfectant wipes to wipe down sink handles, toilet handles and bathroom door fixtures after use and before you wash your hands. 

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. The term isolation is sometimes used by others to indicate the separation of those who test positive for Covid whether they have symptoms or not from others.

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 graduate student requires self-quarantine or self-isolation, where will they be housed?

  • Graduate students living in apartments, dorms, annexes and RGS residences will be advised to self-quarantine in place when they have been assessed to have a risk of COVID-19 exposure, but have no COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Graduate students living in apartments needing to be self-isolated because they are sick and waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test or have tested positive for COVID-19 will be advised to self-isolate in their apartment providing that they have received verbal consent from roommates to self-isolate in the apartment, otherwise, the student who is required to self-isolate can do so in one of the University facilities identified for self-isolation. Graduate students living in dorms, annexes and RGS residences needing to self-isolate will be required to self-isolate in one of the University facilities identified for self-isolation.

Travel guidance

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.

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 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?

Events and meetings

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. 

Seeking Support

Where can I find support dealing with stress and anxiety?

The health and well-being of all members of our University community remains our highest priority. Please remember the many campus resources available to support you.

The Graduate School staff are always available to answer your questions and assist you in whatever ways we can. Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) can be reached at (609) 258-3141, and virtual CPS counseling sessions are being offered as well. 

CPS has also prepared very helpful guidance on how to take care of your mental health during this pandemic. The guidance is also attached here for convenience of reference; please do take a moment to to review it.

Building Virtual Community

How can students stay connected with each other virtually? 

A new Virtual Activities calendar has been created for undergraduates and graduate students. Students can sign up for activities like meditation sessions, virtual group movie nights, worship services, professional development workshops, fitness classes, games and more. Check back each week to see what else has been added to the schedule.

The Student Life team at the Graduate School continues to offer community building programming and support for 70+ graduate student organizations in their virtual programming initiatives. Virtual events are posted on the Graduate School events calendar.

While the goal of the Virtual Community Building website is to integrate all co-curricular and community-building events, we want to make you aware of the new virtual programs and resources offered by the Graduate School’s Access, Diversity & Inclusion and GradFUTURES Professional Development teams. The Kaleidoscope Newsletter provides details of Access, Diversity & Inclusion events and support resources. You can find the latest issue here.

For personal and professional development, the GradFUTURES website now includes an easily accessible listing of dozens of online programs and resources. We also invite you to join the GradFUTURES LinkedIn group, an exclusive online community to help build connections and facilitate conversations among and between graduate students and graduate alumni. For a full listing of professional development programs and resources, and to register for online events, please check out the weekly GradFUTURES newsletter or visit https://gradfutures.princeton.edu for more information.