March 12, 2020

Princeton University Tells Students to Stay Home, Communiversity Postponed, Exposure Investigation Initiated

By Anne Levin

In an ever-changing situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Princeton University announced Wednesday that all undergraduate classes will be held online for the rest of the semester, and that students should not return to campus following spring break. And Communiversity, originally scheduled for April 26, has now been postponed until Sunday, October 11.

“All students who are able to must return home and stay home for the rest of the semester,” reads a message to the University community from Jill Dolan, dean of the University, and W. Rochelle Calhoun, vice president for Campus Life. “University settings like Princeton present unique challenges during a pandemic, because of the density of students living and studying in close quarters. Large, highly concentrated numbers of students living on campus will increase the chance of rapid transmission of the coronavirus. Furthermore, our capacity to quarantine those who are sick and those who have been exposed is extremely limited.”

Exceptions are being made for seniors who must conduct lab or other Princeton-based research on campus, students who face housing or financial insecurity, students previously certified “independent for the purposes of financial aid,” athletes still in competition and required to be on campus, and those currently residing in “family housing.”

Students are asked to leave campus without requiring assistance from family members. “Our goal remains to limit the number of people on campus,” the message reads.

The decision to move Communiversity was made following discussions with local officials and a public health expert. According to Jim Levine, the Arts Councils interim executive director, public health considerations were most important.

“While it is impossible to know exactly what the situation will be in six weeks, the public health official stressed that if the coronavirus spreads as it has in other countries and locations, it is not likely that concerns about having a large public gathering with so many people on the streets of Princeton will have passed at that time,” he said. “As this is the 50th year of Communiversity, we want to have the best chance for a fantastic day.”

The latest report from the Princeton Health Department on local exposure to the coronavirus was issued yesterday, March 11. Three residents of Pennsylvania who attended a private party in Princeton on February 29 have presumptively tested positive in Pennsylvania for the virus (SARS-CoV-2). Also attending the gathering were two people from the Boston area who subsequently tested positive after returning home, the report says.

The results are considered “presumptive” until confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). There is no estimate for how long that will take.

The Princeton Health Department confirmed there were 47 people at the party, 14 of whom are from Princeton. Of those 14, all have been contacted. Nine have one or more symptoms and are being evaluated. All have been advised to self-quarantine at the present time and the immediate future. All are being followed for the development of signs and symptoms.

“We are committed to continually inform the Princeton community of our ongoing investigation,” reads a release from the Health Department.

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