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COVID-19: Coronavirus FAQs for Staff

Campus updates


AUG. 7 UPDATE: New information about the University’s plans for the fall, and how they may affect students, faculty, staff and campus visitors, is available on the Fall 2020 website. Employees should also consult Human Resources' Fall 2020 Campus Workplace and Operations website. The Fall 2020 and HR websites have the most up-to-date information as of Aug. 7, 2020. 

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 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.

Staff work policies

Where can I find a “one stop shop” overview of Human Resources 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. Please check these pages frequently.

What is the status of staff work on campus? 

As of June 3, the University continues to follow the guidance in Governor Phil Murphy's Executive Orders for New Jersey as it relates to essential and non-essential services and work operations. 

The Executive Order requires us to conduct as much of our work as possible from home. Fortunately, many of you have already begun to work remotely, and the University has adopted minimum staffing models for critical services that must be performed on campus

The Executive Order does not require the cessation of work that can only be done in person at institutions such as universities, nor does it restrict the ability of those who must perform these duties to travel to their workplaces. Princeton, therefore, remains operational, and essential staff continue to support operations on campus.

The Executive Order exempts from staying at home “employees who need to be present at their work site in order to perform their job duties,” including, but not limited to, “law enforcement officers, fire fighters, other first responders, cashiers or store clerks, construction workers, utility workers, repair workers, warehouse workers, lab researchers, IT maintenance workers, janitorial and custodial staff, and certain administrative staff.” In the context of our University community, this permits staff whose work cannot be done remotely to come to campus as required to support operations, remote teaching and learning, and to otherwise care for students. When on campus, it is essential to practice social distancing by maintaining at least six feet of distance between you and others whenever possible, as well as to take preventive measures, such as thorough handwashing.

Managers, please contact your senior human resources manager if you still have questions about how the Executive Order applies to your specific operations and staff members. 

Were any changes made to the flexible and remote work arrangements policy procedures during this time?

As of March 21, the University explicitly directed that all work that can be done from home must be done from home. Employees whose duties can be performed remotely should be in contact with their managers to discuss arrangements for moving their work off campus immediately, including coming to campus to collect whatever materials they may need to facilitate working from home.

Agreements do not need to be reviewed by HR. Written agreements are not necessary and at the manager’s discretion. HR recognizes there may be school-aged children at home during work hours due to school closures.

My child’s school has closed due to coronavirus but the University is open, and I need childcare because I work on campus. What do I do?

The University offers care through Bright Horizons Back-up Care Program, which provides faculty, staff, and graduate students with 100 hours of childcare assistance at a reasonable rate. In-home care is the best option currently. Most New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania daycare centers are closed; therefore, center-based care may not be an option. To schedule care, visit the Bright Horizons website or call 877-242-2737.

Additionally, effective March 16, 2020, benefits-eligible staff have access to Covid-19 Days that are separate and distinct from other time off options provided by Princeton. COVID-19 Days are intended to assist employees who are unable to work, either on campus or remotely, because of hardships related to the coronavirus. Refer to the new policy 3.1.2 COVID-19 Days for more details or contact your senior HR manager.

How will my pay be affected if I am required to stay on the premises past my shift due to a shortage of employees?

Current pay practices and overtime rules are in effect for all employees. Unionized employees may refer to your union contracts.

What are the HR sick leave policies if I need to be out of work related to coronavirus?

HR policy 3.1.5 Sick Days applies to benefits-eligible and temporary staff, and you may use it to cover your own personal illness or for when you need to stay at home to care for other individuals as specified by the NJ Sick Earned Leave Law and University policy. Contact your senior HR manager or the Benefits Team with questions. 

•        Unionized employees should refer to your collective bargaining agreements. 

•        Faculty and academic professionals should consult with the Office of the Dean of the Faculty for more information. 

•        If you do not have sick, vacation, or bundled time available to use, you should also stay at home and self-quarantine until you are cleared to return to work. 

  • Additionally, effective immediately, we are providing new Covid-19 Days, effective March 16, that are separate and distinct from those on which staff may be working from home and for which no leave time is needed. COVID-19 Days are intended to assist employees who are unable to work, either on campus or remotely, because of hardships related to the coronavirus. These could range from the health effects of COVID-19 itself to indirect consequences, such as childcare issues caused by school closings. The University is updating its policies to allow individuals to charge coronavirus-related absences to COVID-19 Days effective March 16, rather than first exhausting their sick, personal, and vacation days. Regular paid time off policies will only apply if and when all 14 COVID-19 Days are exhausted. Codes will be available shortly in Absence Management.
  • 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

Will I be paid if I’m directed by medical professionals to self-quarantine due to exposure to someone who is symptomatic or tested positive for coronavirus?

Employees will be paid their normal pay during the self-quarantine. If employees have jobs that can be performed at home, they are expected to do so. They should talk to their managers to make arrangements and clarify work assignments.

Do I apply for short term disability if my healthcare provider advises I stay home because I have COVID 19?

There is a streamlined process in place to report your absence that qualifies under the policy 3.1.9 Short Term Disability due to COVID-19 where you can download the application to report your absence. 

In the unlikely event that the University closes because of COVID-19, what happens?   

If Princeton must close, HR policies would apply the same as for any other University closure, such as weather related closure. 

Essential services staff and others designated to come to work during the closure will be paid according to union contracts and/or University policy. Proper precautions and protections will continue to be communicated as appropriate, depending on your department and role. 

Employees who have positions that are operationally appropriate to be able to work from home, will be expected to do so. You should talk with your manager to clarify your manager’s expectations.

A co-worker tells me they have been exposed to COVID-19 or has COVID-19. What should I do?        

You should remind your coworker that they must notify University Health Services by email at

You should also inform your manager. You should not ask the employee health-related questions due to confidentiality and privacy laws. 

Employees with symptoms such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath should stay home and contact their healthcare provider.

For Supervisors: An employee in my department was at work on Monday, began feeling ill later that day, and was tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday morning. As a supervisor, in addition to telling the employee to stay home, what is my responsibility?

When an employee has been tested for COVID-19, whether due to possible exposure at work or outside of work, advise the employee to email immediately. This is a critical reporting responsibility the University is asking of each employee to help implement proper assessment for the health and welfare of those in close contact with the individual. You may not ask the employee health-related questions due to confidentiality and privacy laws nor may you disclose any medical information about the ill employee with co-workers.

As such, UHS clinicians will then contact and screen the employee to determine if any students or staff on campus are considered close contacts. As the supervisor, you should not identify or notify people you consider to be close contacts with the employee who has been tested. UHS will make those notifications after speaking with the ill employee. If you are unsure that the employee has or will report as instructed, you as supervisor then should make the reportto

For Supervisors: One of my employees informed me of positive test results for COVID-19 and is staying home to self-isolate and recover. What is my responsibility?

You must advise the employee to email to inform the University of the positive test result. Upon receipt of the email, UHS clinicians will interview the employee to obtain a list of employees or students who are considered close contacts, if not already done, as every employee is expected to have communicated with Community Health when tested and while awaiting results. Close contacts are limited to people who were within 6 feet of the ill employee for at least 10 minutes. UHS emails each close contact a set of instructions to quarantine for 14 days from the most recent contact with the ill employee.

You may not ask the employee health-related questions due to confidentiality and privacy laws nor may you disclose any medical information about the ill employee with co-workers. You may inform the employee about applying for short term disability benefits by completing the newly created form that simplifies and expedites the review and approval process.

Is documentation required for an employee who has been sick to return to work?

If diagnosed with COVID-19, employees will have to be cleared medically to return to work. If the employee has questions about time off and/or leave policies, you and/or your manager should refer to the individual to HR policy 3.1.5 Sick Days, consult with the senior HR manager, or refer the employee to HR.

If the employee has not traveled to a CDC Level 3 Travel Advisory country and that individual’s illness is not related to COVID-19, refer to the sick leave policy and department procedures. For normal sick time, documentation is not normally required. Individuals who are on short-term disability are required to provide documentation and clearance to return to work through the normal procedures of the Office of Occupational Health Services. 

If an employee has recently traveled to a CDC Level 3 Travel Advisory country, your employee must provide medical clearance to the Office of Occupational Health Services to be cleared to return to work.

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

 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 should be directed to those departments for information about access, hours and operations. The University Art Museum is currently closed to visitors.

The Princeton University Library (PUL)  website has up-to-date information about its services.




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 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. 


Health guidance

I am not sick but have been in close contact to someone who has been diagnosed with coronavirus. What should I do?

Consult your health care provider. Additionally, Princeton’s Occupational Health Services instructs that you are advised to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the last exposure, and be monitored by a health care professional. 

Report your self-quarantine to Occupational Health via email at

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 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 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

What if I am sick and have symptoms related to coronavirus or have been diagnosed with coronavirus or am caring for someone with coronavirus?

Stay at home if you are not feeling well with symptoms for any illness. If you begin to feel ill at work, inform your supervisor and leave as soon as possible. We are asking all employees to pay attention to and follow this instruction, as it can limit the spread of illness to colleagues in the workplace. Call ahead to your healthcare provider or Teladoc and be seen as appropriate. If diagnosed with coronavirus, or if caring for someone with Coronavirus, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions, including if you are not sick but instructed to self-quarantine, and inform University Occupational Health Services via email at

I think that I or someone in my family may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. What should I do?         

Call ahead to your health care provider or Teladoc. Explain that you have been in contact with a person known to have COVID-19. 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, you must immediately inform Occupational Health via email at

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 University announced on April 7 a new testing benefit for employees through the service Vital Check-Doctors in Your Office. Read the FAQs below on Employee Testing for more 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

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.

Can I receive an early refill through my Princeton prescription plan?

OptumRx members may obtain an early refill of prescriptions, if they have refills remaining on file through mail order or at a participating retail pharmacy. The refill obtained will stay consistent with the standard days’ supply previously filled by the member, i.e., 90 days at mail, 30 days at retail. This refill-too-soon waiver will be continuously evaluated to determine the appropriate duration based on CDC guidance and federal and state declarations.

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, 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 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 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 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.

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.

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.


Travel guidelines

What do I do if I am returning from a state that is on the state of New Jersey’s travel advisory list?

COVID-19 has spread throughout the United States and we do not have systematic advice from government authorities about the safety of domestic travel. Therefore, the University advises against personal domestic travel.  New Jersey has issued an incoming travel advisory that all individuals entering New Jersey from states with a significant spread of COVID-19 are expected to quarantine for 14 days after leaving that state and upon arrival in New Jersey. Before returning to campus, staff should complete this assessment form for submission to University Occupational Health and inform their managers. Staff may consult the HR website for how to apply paid time off for this quarantine period.

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

If you have questions about incoming travelers, please contact

Other University contacts for international travel questions:

  • 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.

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 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 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. 


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.