COVID-19 public health reminder for the holiday season

Dec. 21, 2020

As we approach the holidays and the end of an unusual and challenging year, we once again find ourselves changing routines and finding ways to connect and celebrate with family and friends. Supporting the wellbeing of community members while safely advancing the University’s mission requires each of us maintain vigilance in taking steps to protect ourselves and others. In this spirit, we offer the following guidance on travel, celebrating safely, and a brief update on future vaccine availability. 

Travel

New Jersey travel restrictions continue to apply to any travel outside of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. If you travel to any other state, territory, or country, you are expected to self-quarantine for 10 days prior to returning to campus. If you live in campus housing, you must quarantine in your residence before accessing other campus buildings.

If you will be traveling anywhere outside of New Jersey for longer than 24 hours during winter break, you must complete the COVID Risk Assessment Form within the 3 to 7 business days prior to your return to campus. Your responses to this form will allow UHS to let you know whether you will need to quarantine when you get back to campus based either on your travel destination or whether you were exposed to someone with COVID during your travels. 

Celebrating the Season 

Gatherings with family and friends outside of your household increase the risk of spreading or acquiring COVID-19. The CDC website provides excellent advice and ideas for celebrating safely.

Testing

Asymptomatic Screening

If you participate in the asymptomatic screening program, please be advised that the test schedule has changed during the winter holidays, as follows:

  • Monday, December 21 and Tuesday, December 22:
    Place samples in drop boxes by 10 am.  Clinic will be open 9 am to 1 pm.

  • Wednesday, December 23 through Friday, December 25:
    No clinics or pickup from drop boxes. Samples placed in drop boxes on these days will not be processed and there will be no results to share.

  • Monday, December 28 and Tuesday, December 29:
    Place samples in drop boxes by 10 am.  Clinic will be open 9 am to 1 pm.

  • Wednesday, December 30 through Friday, January 1:

No clinics or pickup from drop boxes

During these two weeks, students and UHS medical staff who normally submit two tests per week only need to submit one test per week.

As a reminder, please do not come to campus just to be tested. If you are away from campus, you do not need to submit test samples. Do not submit a test sample if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Please do not submit another person’s saliva sample in a kit that is registered to you.. Your adherence to this guidance helps us support community health.

Travel Testing

We strongly recommend avoiding non-essential travel. However, some airlines require testing for COVID-19 prior to travel. 

Faculty and staff may utilize the Vital Check mail-in testing resource or other testing sites. Employees and students who participate in the asymptomatic screening program may be able to use their latest test result for airline requirements. However, we cannot guarantee test result turnaround times for the purposes of travel.

Symptomatic Testing

If you experience symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, shortness of breath, fever, body aches, chills, loss of taste and smell, etc., please consult with your healthcare provider. 

Students should call University Health Services at 609-258-3141 for advice and testing, as needed. Faculty and staff experiencing symptoms can use the resources described above and should not come to campus to drop off a sample to the asymptomatic testing program.

Vaccines

We are thrilled that vaccines are beginning to be distributed in New Jersey. When the vaccine is more readily available, the University will hold clinics for our faculty, staff, students, and their households as part of the State of New Jersey’s vaccine distribution plan. Early next month, we will send you a survey about your household and your intention to receive the vaccine so that we may request the appropriate number of doses. Ours will be one of many clinics that the NJ Department of Health is implementing across the state to ensure that the vaccine is available to everyone who wants it.

The country is in the early stage of vaccine distribution and the information and estimations of dates and times and details are limited. We will provide additional information over the next several weeks. Please look for updates on the Princeton COVID Resources page.

For More Information

The Princeton COVID Resources page provides more information on COVID-related topics. Please use the following email addresses for your unanswered questions:

Testing (symptomatic or asymptomatic: covidtests@princeton.edu

Travel risk assessment: communityhealth@princeton.edu

Health and safety: ehs@princeton.edu

All other questions: covidconnector@princeton.edu

Or call the COVID Connector hotline at 609-258-7000 during University business hours.

Enjoy the Holidays

It is hard to count blessings in 2020. The pandemic has imposed some new restrictions on our holiday rituals, but it cannot take away what’s meaningful about the season: the experience of gratitude and connection. Moreover, it’s important for you to take care of yourself so you can take care of others. For example, give yourself permission to feel whatever emotion you’re feeling: Disappointment, sadness, worry, anger, or even grief -- any of those emotions may be natural or normal this year. Try not to be overly self-critical, especially if you are not feeling in high spirits all or much of the time. It’s a perfect moment to practice self-compassion. And try to adjust your expectations. The holidays might not look like what we’re used to, but that can be “good enough.” With a little flexibility and creativity, you can still find ways to show love and spread joy. Begin by asking yourself, “What is most meaningful and fulfilling to me?” and do give yourself permission to envision a new kind of holiday season.

There is no question this has been an extraordinary year, full of challenges, commitments, and renewed hope as a COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out. We are grateful to everyone for the many contributions, individual and community, that have been made to keep our campus safe and ready to thrive in the new year. For now, we hope that everyone is able enjoy this holiday season and look forward to days ahead. 

Sincerely,

John Kolligian, Executive Director, University Health Services (UHS)

Irini Daskalaki, Global and Community Health Physician, UHS

Robin Izzo, Executive Director, Environmental Health and Safety