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University announces isolation for COVID-19 no longer necessary, warns of illnesses on the rise

A three-story brick building with the last of the sunset on the side.
McCosh Health Center.
Louisa Gheorghita / The Daily Princetonian

On the Friday of spring break, just days before classes resumed, University Health Services (UHS) sent an email message to all undergraduate students saying that the University would no longer expect students to isolate for five days following a positive COVID-19 test. In addition, UHS warned of an anticipated increase in sickness from other illnesses following the travel associated with students returning to campus.

The change follows a recent shift in recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Previously, the University required individuals who tested positive to isolate for at least five days and wear a KN95 mask for five more.


Before Friday’s policy change, sick students were encouraged to test for COVID-19 using free rapid tests provided by McCosh Health Center and residential colleges and to self-report positive test results. However, the University no longer expects students to report positive COVID-19 tests. The new guidance encourages students to “stay away from others until their symptoms have improved” and they have not had a fever for over 24 hours.

When students first returned to campus in the Fall of 2020 after the onset of COVID-19 — which had sent students home for the rest of the previous Spring semester — safety precautions were high. That Fall, testing and masking were mandatory. Upon testing positive, students were mandated to isolate themselves for 14 days, which was reduced to five days in January 2022. In Fall 2021, the University announced that the year would be “fully in-person” with “no option for remote learning.” The vast majority of students were vaccinated, but quarantine protocols  and a mask requirement remained in place.

Since then, restrictions around testing, isolation, and masking have diminished. This recent policy change, sparked by the CDC’s shift, marks the least exhaustive COVID-19 protocols since the advent of the pandemic four years ago.

As the University has relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, some students have expressed confusion with the new guidance, claiming that the new policies made accommodations like Zoom options for class and acquiring meals while in isolation less accessible.

The increasingly relaxed COVID-19 policy comes as the health issue posed by COVID-19 is increasingly diminishing. According to the New York Times, there are just four current COVID-19 hospitalizations in Mercer County.

The message also warned of increased incidences of measles, Norovirus, and Mpox. While the University stated that the student population has “99% presumptive immunity to measles,” it urged students to watch for symptoms and avoid contact with others until a measles diagnosis is ruled out. As of March 14, 2024, just 58 cases of measles were reported across 17 jurisdictions, one of which is New Jersey.


“After spring break travel, there is an increased risk one or more cases of measles will emerge on campus and we are writing to encourage increased awareness,” the email wrote.

As for norovirus, most outbreaks occur in fall, winter, and early spring, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The nationwide three-week norovirus average has been falling in comparison to the data taken in February 2024. 

Norovirus, which spreads through contaminated food, water or surfaces, causes gastroenteritis. To protect against the spread of gastrointestinal disease, students are encouraged to wash their hands before meals and avoid sharing cups. 

Students were asked to contact UHS if exposed, showing symptoms, or diagnosed with a communicable disease.

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University Spokesperson Jennifer Morrill deferred comment on anticipated illness to the original communication.

Isabel Yip is a senior writer and News editor emeritus for the ‘Prince.’

Hallie Graham is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’

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