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One COVID-19 disciplinary case adjudicated on campus, amid “very limited transmission”

<h5>Frist Campus Center</h5>
<h6>Abby de Riel / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Frist Campus Center
Abby de Riel / The Daily Princetonian

Four weeks after the start of fall classes, the University has adjudicated a total of one disciplinary case related to COVID-19 safety protocols, Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss told The Daily Princetonian.

Aside from saying that it was dealt with through the “student discipline process,” Hotchkiss did not provide further details on the outcome of the case.

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In August, the University announced a universal indoor mask mandate with exceptions for students in their dorm rooms, while actively eating or drinking, and when alone in a room or cubicle.

The announcement marked a shift from a policy announced in July that said vaccinated students would not be required to wear face coverings. At the time, the University said that decisions on masking would be reviewed weekly.

The last update regarding face coverings came on Sept. 10, when Dean of the College Jill Dolan confirmed that classroom mandatory masking policy would continue.

When asked if a date has been set for the next update from the University regarding masking requirements, Hotchkiss said in an email that “the current masking policy will remain in effect until further notice.”

“The University continues to closely monitor the situation on campus and is prepared to adjust its mitigation strategies as needed,” he wrote.

At the Sept. 20 meeting of the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC), President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 justified the University’s current public health policies by saying that the University is looking toward peer institutions’ approaches, some of which have seen spikes in cases despite testing and mandated vaccination.

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“We don’t want to end up there,” Eisgruber said at the meeting. “Let’s continue this masking that allows us to have a relatively normal term with all the activities that bring us the joy and learning and growth that we want from a college campus.”

According to the University’s COVID-19 dashboard, campus risk level is currently classified as “low to moderate.”

When asked by the ‘Prince’ if the University’s previous statement that there has been no detected on-campus transmission remains accurate, Hotchkiss said on Sept. 22, “Based on contact tracing, there are indications of very limited transmission in a variety of campus settings.”

“We have not seen indication of any clusters of cases on campus,” he added.

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The undergraduate positivity rate for the week ending in Sept. 17, according to the University’s COVID-19 dashboard, was 0.04 percent, and the undergraduate student vaccination rate stands at 99 percent.

The ‘Prince’ spoke to several students about their views on the extended mask mandate.

“I feel safe enough where I think we should be able to take the mask off, specifically because all the data points to us being able to do so,” Grace Houlahan ’25 said, referring to the dashboard statistics.

“I think if we’re not going to take the mask mandate off with those statistics, we’re never going to be able to take them off,” she added.

Other students, however, favor the University’s continued mask mandate, arguing that the advantages of masking outweigh the risk posed by infection.

“I think there is a feeling of security that comes with masking,” said Edward Yang ’23. “Even if COVID rates were low, I’d rather not get put into an isolation dorm.”

Students who voiced support for continuing the current mask mandate also cited the prevalence of the Delta variant of COVID-19 as a cause for their concern.

“I do definitely think masks are essential, especially right now that there are more variants of COVID that are a lot more contagious than the previous ones,” Ivania Asencio ’23 said.

For Asencio, a classroom without masking would make her feel “very uncomfortable,” she said.

“I haven’t gotten COVID thus far, and I think masks are a big reason for that,” she said. “It’s common courtesy for people who may be immunocompromised; you never know what other peoples’ health status is.”

Tess Weinreich is a news and features contributor for the 'Prince.' She can be reached at tw7353@princeton.edu.

Marie-Rose Sheinerman is a senior writer who has reported on COVID-19 policy, faculty controversy, sexual harassment allegations, major donors, campus protests, and more. She can be reached at ms78@princeton.edu or on Twitter at @rosesheinerman. 

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