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COVID-19: Coronavirus FAQs for Undergraduates

Campus updates

AN IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT PRINCETON’S PLANS FOR FALL 2020

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 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

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.

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, please 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 COVID19 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 COVID19 case; or b) having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID19 case (e.g., being coughed on).

Is University Health Services prepared to test or treat a student with coronavirus who is on campus?

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. 

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)

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 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.

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.
  • 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 COVID19 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 COVID19 case; or b) having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID19 case (e.g., being coughed on).

If an undergraduate student requires self-quarantine or self-isolation, where will they be housed?

Undergraduate students on campus will be advised to go home if they can travel safely. Otherwise, we will move them to a safe place for quarantine or isolation on or near campus and provide support.

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. 

On June 1, the Office of International Programs announced the suspension of undergraduate participation in all OIP programs abroad this fall given the global health and safety risks and continuing uncertainty around travel posed by the ongoing spread of COVID-19. This includes the cancellation of the 2020-21 Novogratz Bridge Year Program and the suspension of fall 2020 study abroad. For more information, visit the Office of International Programs website

On March 14, the University had asked all students studying abroad during the spring 2020 semester 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 is essential and non-essential travel? Who makes the decision?

 

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.

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.  In addition, undergraduate students participating in essential domestic travel should review and comply with the guidance in the Undergraduate Domestic Travel Checklist.

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 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.