Princeton University has launched an asymptomatic COVID-19 testing program for on-campus students and employees in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Testing began at the university’s football stadium on Monday.
Asymptomatic testing for people not currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms now is required for members of the Princeton University community who are on campus for at least eight hours per week. The cost of testing is being paid for by the university.
The new program will monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 among the on-campus population to enable the prompt isolation of anyone who is positive and the quarantine of their close contacts. The goal is to protect the health of people who live and work on-campus and reduce the risk of transmission within the larger community. School officials stressed that asymptomatic testing is a supplement to other public health interventions required by the university, including social distancing and face coverings.
“This pandemic has taken our work and our responsibility to a new level of complexity,” said Melissa Marks, director of medical services at Princeton University Health Services. “We recognize that the rigor of this program and the commitment of our students, faculty and staff to comply with its requirements, as well as with other public health directives, will be crucial to our ability to protect the health of the University community.”
Students and employees on and off campus who are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 should still contact a health care provider to be tested.
Officials expect that students, faculty, researchers and staff members who are on campus eight hours or more per week will be tested at least once a week throughout the semester, with an increased frequency based on other factors such as increased community infection rates in Mercer County, if a cluster of cases is detected, or if a cluster of cases spans two or more dormitories. Staff members with frontline exposure to students such as health care and public safety workers will be tested twice a week for the first two weeks, and will be tested regularly for the remainder of the semester.
Princeton University Health Services is administering saliva tests, which require people to spit into a tube. Students and employees will receive results within a few days. The saliva test being used in the fall asymptomatic testing program was used in a June pilot program. Princeton University is able to obtain the results of the tests within 48 to 72 hours.
Tents were set up at the Princeton University Stadium Concourse on Monday morning. Some residents who use the university’s stadium for their daily workouts during the pandemic were upset on Monday when they were kicked out of the stadium because of the testing program. An estimated 100 to 200 residents climb the steps at the stadium each day. Some of them questioned why the entire stadium needs to be closed to the public when the testing is only taking place on the concourse.
Deputy Princeton University Spokesman Michael Hotchkiss said university officials determined that the stadium was the best location for the asymptomatic testing program for on-campus students, faculty, researchers and staff after reviewing a number of options and considering factors including size, ventilation and ease of directing the flow of people.
“As we noted in fliers posted at the stadium last week, the stadium will be closed through Sept. 4 as we roll out the testing program,” Hotchkiss said. “At that time, we will re-evaluate space needs with the goal of reopening the Princeton Stadium for recreational use as soon as possible.”
Hotchkiss said the Weaver Track and the seating alongside it are not affected by the closure and remain open for public use.