With COVID-19 cases rising, Princeton University is delaying students’ return to campus and imposing new rules requiring undergraduates to stay close to the school once they start classes
Students at the Ivy League university, who are currently on a holiday break, can begin returning to campus on Jan. 14 — one week later than originally planned, according to a campus announcement issued Monday
“Because the pandemic continues and the highly transmissible omicron variant presents yet another challenge to public health, the university has decided to organize a gradual return for undergraduate students,” Jill Dolan, the dean of the college, and W. Rochelle Calhoun, vice president for campus life, wrote in a memo.
The delay at Princeton University comes as several colleges across the country have announced they will return to remote learning or change the dates of their Spring semesters due to rising COVID cases.
Yale, Columbia, Duke, Syracuse, George Washington University and the University of California at Los Angeles are among the schools that have either delayed their spring semesters or announced they will begin the semester remotely due to COVID. Some schools have also announced they are shortening Spring Break to cut down on student travel and make up the time missed for delayed classes.
In New Jersey, Kean University and Felician University are among the schools planning to start the semester with remote classes before re-starting in-person classes in February.
At Princeton, undergraduates’ return dates will be staggered between Jan. 14 and Jan. 23 to help “flatten the curve of the campus positivity rate,” the memo said. Students must register to get a return date, then get a negative test as soon as they arrive.
The university is also imposing travel restrictions to keep undergraduates from traveling far from Princeton’s campus in Mercer County or its satellite locations in Plainsboro in Middlesex County.
“Beginning January 8 through mid-February, all undergraduate students who have returned to campus will not be permitted to travel outside of Mercer County or Plainsboro Township for personal reasons, except in extraordinary circumstances,” the announcement said.
The new rules are expected to keep students from visiting friends or family or going to events for the first few weeks of the spring semester, limiting possible exposure to the virus.
Student groups with events planned outside the county were told to contact the university. Princeton officials plan to decide later whether to extend the travel restrictions beyond Feb. 15.
Princeton University is also requiring all undergraduates to prove they have gotten a vaccine and a booster, if eligible, by Jan. 31. Restrictions on gatherings in dorms and off-campus housing imposed earlier this month, limiting parties or other events to 20 people, will also continue until at least mid-February.
Earlier this month, Princeton University announced all final exams would be virtual so students didn’t get stuck on campus for the holidays if they tested positive.
“Although all of us are exhausted and frustrated by the ongoing COVID pandemic, we must continue to do everything we can to protect the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. Thanks for doing your part,” Dolan and Calhoun wrote in their letter to students.