Students at Princeton in self-isolation amid coronavirus outbreak

Annie McCormick Image
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Princeton University students in self-isolation amid coronavirus fears
Students from Princeton University who traveled to China within the last two weeks are being asked to self-isolate amid growing concerns of coronavirus.

PRINCETON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Students from Princeton University who traveled to China within the last two weeks are being asked to self-isolate amid growing concerns of coronavirus.

On Monday night, about 20 students were being assessed for potential exposure, Action News has learned.

Earlier in the day, a spokesperson with the university said as many as 108 students were in self-isolation. So far, no one in quarantine has shown symptoms of the coronavirus.

The school said students, faculty and staff who traveled to mainland China within the last 14 days must self-isolate until 14 days have passed since they were last in China.

The school is requiring that anyone who returned from mainland China since Jan. 16 to fill out a registration form so the university can provide them with assistance.

"That doesn't mean they're symptomatic or sick, just means they meet that criteria, and that's why under the new New Jersey Department of Health guidelines we've been able to assess their risk in more detail," said Princeton University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss.

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Officials are assessing the exposure risk of each person who has been in self-quarantine and placing them into risk categories: high, medium or low.

"Individuals who are determined to be at low risk are not required to self-quarantine. We expect most of our students to fall into this category. The University will continue to support individuals who choose to self-quarantine. However, those at low risk may resume all activities, including attending classes and events," said a spokesperson.

There are no confirmed cases in New Jersey, but on Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced a task force for the deadly respiratory illness.

Princeton also announced that until further notice, no students, faculty or staff will be approved to travel to mainland China as part of a university-sponsored program.

"We recognize that self-isolation is a very challenging situation for our students and are working to fully support them while following guidance from government and health officials. These students are valued members of the University community, and we are committed to ensuring they are treated as such through this difficult time," the spokesperson said.

On campus Monday night, students say they've been following updates closely.

"The alerts have been fast and quick and I feel like the response has been speedy on behalf of the university," said Angie Sheehan.

A deadly outbreak of the newly identified virus in central China prompted the airline screenings, creating fears of a new international outbreak.

The virus has sickened more than 14,550 globally, killed more than 300, and infected at least eleven people in the U.S. as of Sunday.