Princeton University to require COVID booster shots, limit gatherings, and shift to remote exams

Princeton University officials have decided to shift all final exams to a remote format effective Dec. 16 and limit indoor gatherings due to the increase in undergraduate COVID cases. All students and employees of the school will also be required to get a COVID booster shot by the end of January.

All indoor gatherings with food, and those where face coverings can’t be worn, must be canceled or postponed. The policy takes effect Dec. 16 and runs through Jan. 7. Officials at the university will revisit the policy before Jan. 7 and update it then, officials wrote in an email to faculty members and students.

Undergraduate students are currently being tested for COVID twice per week regardless of vaccination status. On Dec. 13, 24 university community members tested positive for COVID, according to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard. Fifteen undergraduate students, four graduate students, and five faculty and staff members tested positive for COVID. Positive cases included suspected cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant. For the week of Dec. 4 to 10, 34 members of the university community tested positive for COVID.

School officials decided to shift exams to a remote format to decrease the potential spread of the coronavirus and to allow students the flexibility to leave the campus for the semester at their earliest convenience. After the announcement about the shift was made, a petition to extend the end of finals circulated among students via email. The petition calls on school officials to extend the deadline for exams a couple of days because the remote exam deadline of Dec. 20 compresses the final exam period.

Some university staff members have questioned why they still must work in person given the rise in COVID cases. University officials said in the email to faculty members that the shift to remote exams and limited gatherings is due to the rise in undergraduate COVID cases. “We’ve seen no corresponding rise in COVID cases among faculty, staff, or graduate students, and no indication of COVID transmission in campus labs or between students and faculty in classrooms to date,” wrote Jill Dolan, dean of the college, and Gene Jarrett, dean of the faculty, in an email to faculty members on Tuesday. 

School officials will distribute more information about vaccine booster requirements later this week.