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COVID-19: Coronavirus FAQs for Graduate Students

Campus Updates

(Updated March 23)

Please also read the March 21 email to graduate students from Dean of the Graduate School Sarah-Jane Leslie for more information. 

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 to notify University Health Services of all COVID-19 tests by any health care provider in any jurisdiction. 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

Are classes canceled?

All courses, both graduate and undergraduate, must be taught entirely online by March 23, if not before. The original guidance was that they would continue online until April 5; they are now to remain virtual until the end of the Spring 2020 semester.

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.

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 will move all services online and all locations will cease in-person operations until at least Monday, April 6, in order to allow the Library to reassess operations and support the goal of social distancing across campus to help protect the health and well-being of all members of the University community. The Library provided time on March 18 and 19 for students and faculty to retrieve their materials from carrels, study rooms, or lockers. 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? 

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.

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.  

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).

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.

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.

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.

I was in contact with a person who is a potential or confirmed COVID-19 case. Will UHS test me? 

UHS will not test people who do not have symptoms. If you have any symptoms and you believe you have had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, please contact the McCosh Health Center (609-258-3141) and ask to be evaluated.
 
Close contact is defined by the CDC as a) being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) 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).
 
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 in all public places including the library, dining halls, Frist, Prospect House, etc.
  • 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.

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.

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.
  • 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 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 the dorms/annexes will be advised to remain in place if necessary. If graduate students living in the dorms/annexes need to self-quarantine because they have been assessed to have a risk of COVID-19 exposure, but have no COVID-19 symptoms, they will be placed in one of the facilities identified for self-quarantine.
  • Any graduate students needing to be self-isolated because they are sick and waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 will be placed in one of the University facilities identified for self-isolation whether they live in the apartments or dorms/annexes.

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.

Travel guidance

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 for community members who are currently studying or working remotely. 

As of 5 p.m. EDT March 14, the University asked all students studying abroad to return to their permanent residence by March 23, 2020. This is an expansion of the University’s previous suspension of study abroad programs in Europe, China and other countries following travel restrictions issued by the federal government and the declaration of a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. The University continues to work with students on arrangements to return to their permanent residences and to help defray travel costs, as well as to discuss future academic options and accommodations. 

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.

 

Events and meetings

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. 

Housing Room Draw

Princeton’s Housing Office has revised the schedule for the annual spring room draw for campus housing for the next academic year 2020-21. The FAQs below detail information regarding the revised schedule and how undergraduate students who missed the deadline can apply. For any further inquiries please email askhousing@princeton.edu.

When are the Graduate Room Draw applications due?

Graduate Room Draw applications have been extended to Tuesday, March 31.

When will the Successful Room List be posted?

Successful Room Lists will be posted on Monday, April 13 in the MyHousing portal.

When will apartment contracts be sent?

Apartment contracts will be sent starting Friday, April 17 on a rolling basis.

When will the Grad College/Annex Room selection begin?

The Grad College/Annex Room selection will still begin on Wednesday, April 22.

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.

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.