Princeton president issues letter about university’s coronavirus preparations

Princeton University President Christophe Eisgruber sent a letter to students, faculty, and staff today about the school’s efforts to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus.

“Our team is working tirelessly seven days a week to support the health and safety of our community in response to rapidly evolving circumstances and incomplete information. We are fortunate to have such outstanding and dedicated people working on our behalf,” Eisgruber wrote. “Despite their hard work, expertise, and commitment to this community, we are bound to face significant inconveniences and disruptions in the days and weeks ahead. Public health situations like the one presented by Covid-19 are, by their very nature, unpredictable and constantly changing. We will continue to work with our local, state, and federal partners to prepare for and deal with new challenges as they arise.”

Eisgruber said that given the risks posed by the virus and how little is known about it, school officials will likely have to make some difficult choices as certain situations arise.

“Our top priority must be to support the health and wellbeing of our community as we continue to advance our teaching and research mission. Though we will try our best to minimize resulting burdens, I do not expect that we can eliminate them,” Eisgruber wrote. “Indeed, the virus has already disrupted study abroad programs and required changes to international travel plans at Princeton and on campuses across the nation and around the globe. I want to express my appreciation to those who have accommodated these changes or helped to support the people affected by them; we will all need to be ready to adapt our behavior and make some sacrifices in the months ahead.”

In his letter, Eisgruber encouraged everyone to cooperate to mitigate the impact of the virus and to practice good hygiene to decrease the spread of the coronavirus, including washing hands often and thoroughly. He said students and staff should take care of themselves if they aren’t feeling well. Employees should stay home from work if they are sick. Students should contact the McCosh Health Center if they are not feeling well.

“Plan ahead. We don’t know if, when or how the potential spread of Covid-19 will impact the university’s day-to-day operations, but we do know there are things we can do to be prepared,” he wrote. “We are asking faculty to work with the dean of faculty’s office to identify strategies for continuing coursework under various scenarios, and administrative staff are refreshing and reviewing contingency plans. We ask all students to continue to follow guidance about classes, travel and other activities.”

On Feb. 29, the university issued an update to Faculty, staff, and students about travel restrictions. The university is aligning its guidelines with the coronavirus-related travel health notices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and coronavirus-related travel advisories of the U.S. Department of State.  

Any university community member who has been in close contact with a patient diagnosed with COVID-19 is expected to complete a form and self-quarantine for 14 days.

The CDC currently requires anyone coming from mainland China to self-quarantine for 14 days. Princeton University-sponsored travel to China and South Korea is prohibited for undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff until further notice.  Princeton University community members returning from China and South Korea are supposed to complete a survey and self-quarantine for 14 days.  

University officials strongly recommend canceling or rescheduling university-sponsored travel for undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff to Italy, Iran, Japan and Mongolia due to the elevated risk of contracting COVID-19, possible travel interruptions, and potential restrictions on those returning. Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for severe disease and should consider postponing travel. All students who want to engage in university-sponsored international travel to these locations are required to register with the university. Faculty and staff must also submit information to the university. People returning from the four countries must complete a form and monitor their health following CDC guidelines.

School officials are also recommending that people do not plan university-sponsored travel to China, Italy, Iran or South Korea for the fall semester of 2020 or the winter session. School officials plan to provide updated guidance related to summer travel by April 1.