In response to the global 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, the University is assessing five students who have traveled to mainland China within the last two weeks. The University has also banned all students, faculty, and staff from traveling to mainland China on University business or as part of University-sponsored programs.
On Friday, Jan. 31, the University sent a TigerAlert via email to the University community, asking all students, faculty, and staff who are currently in China or have returned from mainland China since Jan. 16 to complete a registration form.
As of Sunday, Feb. 2, 108 students — 94 graduate students and 14 undergraduates — submitted the form and underwent self-isolation, according to Michael Hotchkiss, deputy University spokesperson, in a statement to The Daily Princetonian. A “smaller number” of faculty, postdocs, and staff are self-isolating as well, though most have not requested assistance. A TigerAlert sent on Feb. 3 excused low-risk individuals from the mandatory self-isolation. As of Feb. 4, all of the individuals assessed by the University were low risk. No members of the University community have been sick or shown symptoms.
“Princeton is committed to ensuring the health and safety of all members of the University community,” said Hotchkiss. “Guided by that principle, we are responding to the novel coronavirus based on the latest information and recommendations from government and health officials.”
University Health Services (UHS) said they are currently working with municipal and county public health authorities, including the New Jersey Department of Health, to monitor the situation and coordinate efforts. Additionally, UHS is following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Irini Daskalaki, Global and Community Health Physician at UHS, said that she is “available to coordinate the medical response to this type of situation” as a board-certified pediatric infectious disease specialist.
“[UHS] is equipped and prepared to see patients with coronavirus at McCosh Health Center,” Daskalaki said. “McCosh Health Center has implemented its established protocols for infectious disease threats, which cover patient screening and treatment, precautions for health care workers, and communication with public health authorities.”
In the original TigerAlert, UHS issued several recommendations for students and employees, including washing hands often with soap and water; avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; staying home when sick; covering coughs or sneezes; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Furthermore, UHS has requested that all students returning from travel to mainland China who are exhibiting symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing to call ahead to McCosh at 609-258-3141.
Alex Luo ’23, a first-year self-isolating at home until Feb. 12, visited family members in Shanghai for Chinese New Year over intersession, but cut his visit short as the city went under partial lockdown.
Luo expressed concerns over the unenforceable nature of self-isolation. “It is completely up to the visitor to report, and I know many people returning from China could easily circumvent [the procedures],” he said.
Although he believes quarantine is the safest option for people who have been to China, Luo added that “there is no way to make all returning students isolate, or ensure wider campus health just in case.”
Undergraduates are receiving support from the Office of the Dean of the College or their respective Residential Colleges. Graduate students are receiving similar assistance from the Graduate School staff. A team across the University is working to ensure academic, housing, and dining support to students who are self-isolating.
“We recognize that self-isolation is a very challenging situation for our students and are working to fully support them while following guidance from government and health officials,” Hotchkiss told the ‘Prince.’ “These students are valued members of the University community, and we are committed to ensuring they are treated as such through this difficult time.”
“Each student’s needs are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis to ensure they receive appropriate assistance,” Hotchkiss explained.
Luo told the ‘Prince’ that he has been in contact with his professors and his director of studies and has also quit his on-campus job.
“[My professors and director of studies] seem incredibly helpful in providing alternatives to attending classes and are accommodating with extensions,” he said. Even so, he is unsure whether the assistance will be sufficient, adding, “I'm still scared self-isolation will cause me to fall behind.”
“If there had been a systematic method to helping isolated students attend classes virtually, it would have been much more helpful,” he said. “Instead, I have to contact each professor individually.”
The self-isolation mandate follows the U.S. Department of State’s elevation of its travel advisory to Level 4, which cautions against all travel to China. Furthermore, Secretary Alex Azar of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services temporarily banned entry into the United States for foreign nationals — other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents — who have been to mainland China in the last 14 days.
The Office of International Programs (OIP) is currently in close contact with students currently in East Asia or considering programs there, offering support and updated information, according to Hotchkiss.
“Should students decide to leave their programs, we are prepared to assist them,” Hotchkiss said. “Our emergency assistance provider, International SOS, can also be a resource if that level of support is needed.”
The Novagratz Bridge Year group based in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in China, were relocated to Taiwan over the weekend “out of an abundance of caution.” Students are expected to be able to continue their studies and further explore Chinese and Taiwanese culture and society.
“A decision on how long Bridge Year students and staff might stay in Taiwan will be made in the days ahead, as we continue to closely monitor the situation,” Hotchkiss said.
In addition, some students planning to study abroad in East Asia this spring have changed their plans and decided to remain on campus. OIP, Housing, and academic advisers are working with students to ensure housing and course enrollment.
Regarding International Internship Program (IIP) placements in China over the summer, the University has said that it will continue to assess the situation as it evolves.
The 2019-nCoV was first detected in Wuhan in Hubei Province, China on Dec. 31, 2019. According to WHO data, as of Feb. 2, there are 17,205 cases globally, 150 of which are confirmed in 23 other countries across Asian, Europe, North America, and Oceania. The death toll has purportedly exceeded 360, representing a mortality rate of just over two percent. The number of new cases in China exceeded 2,000 in the past 24 hours alone. As of the evening of Sunday, Feb. 2, there are 11 confirmed cases across the United States.
On Jan. 23, New Jersey received a coronavirus scare. The patient — a woman in her 20s — was evaluated at Hackensack University Medical Center in Bergen County and declared to be 2019-nCoV-free by the New Jersey Department of Health.
As of Sunday, Feb. 2, there are no confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in New Jersey.
On Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 EST, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) convened an Emergency Committee meeting for the second time since the outbreak’s onset. Members and advisors acknowledged the leading role of the WHO, as well as the strong measures taken by the highest levels of the Chinese government.
At the end of the meeting, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the epidemic a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which the Committee said was done “in the spirit of support and appreciation for China, its people, and the actions China has taken on the frontlines of this outbreak.” No travel or trade restrictions, however, were recommended.
The most recent Jan. 31 email follows a TigerAlert sent out a day earlier, in which the University did not prohibit individuals from attending classes, teaching or working in offices or laboratories, per CDC guidelines at the time. Instead, students, faculty and staff who visited “restricted areas of China,” including Wuhan, or who were in close contact with individuals diagnosed with the coronavirus were only asked to contact UHS.
In light of global reports of discrimination and xenophobia, the Jan. 30 letter, which was co-signed by Aly Kassam-Remtulla, Vice Provost for International Affairs & Operations, Daskalaki, and Robin Izzo, Executive Director of Environmental Health and Safety noted, “We’re fortunate to be part of a diverse University community that attracts and supports students, faculty and staff from around the world.”
The letter continued, “In that spirit, it’s especially important that we be supportive and inclusive of those members of our community who have been affected by this crisis and that we create and maintain a living environment that is free from discrimination and harassment.”
Although the flu shot does not protect individuals against the coronavirus, UHS recommends that students and employees to receive a flu shot, which is available for free at McCosh.
The CDC estimates the influenza virus has affected 19 million individuals nationally this season, resulting in 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths.