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On-campus safety measures remain unchanged despite new CDC guidelines

<h5>A sign promoting social distancing in front of Blair Arch.</h5>
<h6>Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
A sign promoting social distancing in front of Blair Arch.
Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals on March 8, the University will keep its Social Contract expectations in place for vaccinated students.

According to new guidelines from the CDC, fully vaccinated individuals may now gather indoors without a mask. The guidelines further note that fully vaccinated individuals may gather without a mask indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household, and they need not get tested or engage in social distancing after coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19 unless they exhibit symptoms. 

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An individual is considered fully vaccinated if it has been at least two weeks after they have received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Currently, under the University’s Social Contract, students residing on campus must follow physical distancing guidelines and are not allowed to congregate in groups of more than five when indoors. They must also participate in the University’s testing protocol by submitting a COVID-19 test twice a week. 

The University’s “COVID Testing Update” emails on March 15 and 22 maintained that these regulations were still held in place for those who received the vaccine, elaborating in the Vaccinations section of Princeton COVID Resources that vaccinated individuals “must continue to follow University protocols on mask wearing, physical distancing, and regular participation in the asymptomatic testing protocol.” 

One notable change in policy is an exemption from the quarantine requirement even after exposure to a positive case or recent travel, but individuals must “complete the risk assessment 3-7 business days prior to returning to campus so UHS can determine their status,” Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian. 

Hotchkiss further expressed safety concerns as the primary reason for maintaining the same policy for all students regardless of vaccination status.

“Currently [the University does] not think it safe or practical to apply different rules to individual students based on their vaccination status,” Hotchkiss wrote.

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“Relaxed public health practices that might be safe in some limited circumstances are not appropriate on campus, where students cannot be certain of the vaccination or risk status of those around them,” he continued. 

The statement comes amid an update from the University regarding Fall 2021, in which the University hopes to resume a fully in-person residential program

According to Hotchkiss, students “should continue to adhere to the social contract and public health best practices — including masking, social distancing, and participating in the asymptomatic testing program — regardless of their individual vaccination status.”

“We stand ready to vaccinate members of the University community when the state allocates vaccines to the University,” he added. In the meantime, the University “continue[s] to encourage all members of the University community to take any opportunity they may have to be vaccinated against COVID as they become eligible according to the state’s criteria.”

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As of March 26, New Jersey has expanded vaccine eligibility to 10 new groups starting April 5, including higher education instructors and staff, librarians and library staff, and utility workers. Governor Phil Murphy also set May 1 as the target date for anyone 16 years or older to be eligible for the vaccine.

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