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COVID-19 testing extended to off-campus students before Thanksgiving air travel

covid testing site
A COVID-19 testing site during the University’s first week of asymptomatic testing in August 2020.
Courtesy of Denise Applewhite / Princeton University Office of Communications

The University has extended COVID-19 testing to students living both on and off campus in anticipation of Thanksgiving air travel.

The guidelines arrive as students living in Princeton for the fall semester confront difficult choices about how they will spend the family holiday, at a time when experts predict that traveling and convening family gatherings will exacerbate the spread of COVID-19.


University Health Services (UHS) advised students living on campus already enrolled in the asymptomatic testing program to submit COVID-19 saliva tests about 72 hours prior to their flights. With enough time to receive results before flying, students may relay their test results, which will be sent via email, to airlines.

Students living off campus in the Princeton area must arrange an appointment at UHS to receive a COVID-19 test. UHS further requires that students come knowing their airline’s COVID-19 testing requirements, as well as the date of their flight.

In addition, students who have set up appointments to receive a COVID-19 test must wear a face mask, come unaccompanied, and refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking for at least 30 minutes prior to their visit.

UHS COVID-19 testing will conform to an irregular schedule this week, as testing specimen pickup will not be available on Nov. 25 and 26. The University has instructed students to drop specimens off before Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss noted that students should be mindful of the time needed to return COVID-19 test results.

“The test takes 48–72 hours from arrival in the lab to result, so our recommendations vary. We have providers following the lab results closely,” Hotchkiss wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian.


Because airlines have adopted different testing requirements, the University also urged students who plan to board planes within the next week to check whether their latest UHS test results will comply. Although UHS will  consider students’ scheduled flights, providers cannot guarantee that results will be returned in time.

Hotchkiss encouraged students to carefully weigh the necessity of traveling.

“The University’s travel guidelines continue to strongly discourage any personal travel that is not absolutely essential, including travel abroad,” he wrote. “Students should thus make informed decisions about travel based on the best available information, their health status, their risk tolerance, and the reason for their travel.”

Hotchkiss also advised students to rely on trusted sources of guidance for more information.

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“Trustworthy resources on the risks and challenges of traveling during the pandemic include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website on travel during the COVID-19 pandemic and Celebrating Thanksgiving, the U.S. State Department’s COVID-19 Traveler Information and the Travel Toolkit on the International Princeton website,“ he wrote.

Individuals returning to New Jersey — irrespective of their mode of travel — from any of the 46 states included on New Jersey’s travel advisory list are required to quarantine for 14 days.