FAQs for COVID-19 Health and Safety

Updated May 10, 2022

CLEANING AND DISINFECTION

What cleaning protocols are in place for offices, classrooms, and other campus spaces?

Building Services custodians, on a daily basis, clean and disinfect classrooms, lobbies, atriums and high-contact public surfaces such as light switches, handrails, elevator buttons and doorknobs.

How often are bathrooms cleaned?

Building Services custodians clean all bathrooms across campus at least once per day.

What do Building Services custodians clean and what is my department or I expected to clean?

Building Services custodians clean and disinfect restrooms and high-contact surfaces in public spaces. Individuals should clean and disinfect frequently touched items in their own work area on a daily basis, including computer and peripherals, doorknobs and handles, light switches, phones, desks, tools and other shared equipment.

In the case of shared departmental spaces such as break rooms, users must take responsibility for wiping down surfaces and equipment, including tabletops, refrigerator and microwave door handles, coffee makers, and photo copier touch panels.

Where do I get cleaning supplies?

If you need disinfectant wipes or other cleaning supplies for your work area, request a supply from your supervisor. Supervisors may contact ehs@princeton.edu if assistance is needed to obtain supplies.

What products are effective for disinfection of the COVID-19 virus?

A number of chemical products are anticipated to be effective at inactivating the COVID-19 virus, based upon previous testing of the disinfectant against similar viruses.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains the criteria used to assess the effectiveness of disinfectants and maintains a list of products and conditions of use (such as contact time) that are anticipated to be effective against the COVID-19 virus.  These products are found under the EPA List N: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19

Due to interest in this subject, the EPA has recently launched an interactive version of List N to make it easier to search. https://cfpub.epa.gov/giwiz/disinfectants/index.cfm

A number of manufacturers are actively testing their products the verify their product’s effectiveness by directly testing against the COVID-19 virus.  More information will be provided once additional information is available on disinfectants verified against COVID-19.

Is it okay to use disinfectant wipes intended for surfaces  to clean my hands?

Unless clearly indicated in the instructions provided by the manufacturer, most cleaning products (including disinfecting wipes) designed for use on hard surfaces should not be used to sanitize your hands.  These products are often formulated with harsher chemicals than similar sanitizing wipe products intended for use on a person and may result in harm, such skin injury or irritation and serious injury to the eye if remaining residue is accidentally wiped into the eyes.

 

FACE COVERINGS

Do I have to wear a face covering when on campus? 

Starting March 14, 2022, face coverings will be optional in most University spaces, with some exceptions. 

  • Where required by state or local agencies, currently on TigerTransit and in the McCosh Health Center
  • As instructed by Global and Community Health following a recent positive test for COVID-19 or when identified as a close contact
  • When faculty or staff conveners of a class, lab, gathering, or meeting require participants to wear a mask

Continue to carry a mask with you at all times in the event you are in one of the above situations.

Additional information is available in the March 2 Covid Newsletter and memo to the University community.

May I choose to wear a face covering, even where it is not required?

Yes, please feel free to wear a face covering if that is your preference. The University encourages a culture of non-judgment and no assumptions regarding mask-wearing.

My prescription glasses fog up when I wear a face covering. What can I do?

If your glasses are fogging up when you wear a face covering, it is likely that there is too much of a gap around the nose. Here are a few ways to manage this:

  • Wear a face covering that has an adjustable wire at the bridge of the nose. Ensure that the material fits snugly around the nose.
  • Rest your glasses over your face covering to help block the air from escaping, thus preventing fogging. 
  • Use an anti-fogging eye glass/safety glass cleaning wipe.  In addition to helping to remove smudges on your glasses, these wipes deposit a thin film that helps to prevent fogging.  If you do not have anti-fogging wipes, try baby shampoo*, glycerine soap*, dishwashing detergent*, or a small amount of toothpaste* on a soft cloth to clean your glasses. Shake off the excess and let them air dry. This technique leaves a thin film that reduces surface tension that builds up from your breath, causing fogging.

* If one of the alternatives to anti-fogging wipes are used, avoid the use of fragranced materials and materials claiming superlative cleaning properties (grease cutting, whitening, etc) as these may contain additives that can be irritating or harmful to your eyes and skin. 

I need to wear safety glasses and they fog up when I wear a face covering. What can I do?

By forming a tight seal across the nose and under your eyes, Safety goggles are far less likely to fog up than safety glasses. Consider wearing goggles instead. Alternatively, follow the guidance above for prescription glasses. 

Is a disposable mask safer than a cloth face covering?

Not necessarily. When it comes to masks, fit is the most important factor. The CDC recommends selecting a mask that completely covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly against the sides of your face. Cloth masks should have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric and should be laundered regularly. Disposable medical masks fitted around your nose may also be used. KN95 or KF94 masks are readily available commercially and may be used, but are not required.

We do not recommend that departments provide N95 respirators for voluntary use for several reasons. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has very specific requirements, such as fit-testing and medical clearance, for when employers require employees to wear N95s, and our experience has shown that achieving proper fit for an N95 can be difficult and may not achieve the desired level of protection.

How and how often should I clean my face cloth face covering?

Wash your face covering after each day or when it becomes soiled. 

  • Use a washing machine and regular detergent, warm or hot water. You can wash face coverings with your other laundry. Air dry or place in the dryer. Some elastic can be damaged over time in the dryer, so check the elastic after drying.
  • Wash by hand with dish detergent or castile soap and warm or hot water. Air dry.

Do face coverings really work in reducing the spread of disease?

There are numerous peer-reviewed studies that confirm that masks, even cloth masks, are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Tight-fitting face coverings, whether reusable cloth masks or disposable, protect others from potentially infectious droplets that might be generated by the person wearing the mask, and protect the person wearing the mask. This is particularly important because people can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 without showing any symptoms.

The following CDC resources provide guidance and scientific background:

This article provides links to several peer-reviewed studies: Do face masks work? Here are 49 scientific studies that explain why they do

 

GATHERINGS, EVENTS, AND MEETINGS

What is the status of the Policy on Gatherings, Events, and Meetings?

As of July 4, 2021, the Policy on Gatherings, Events, and Meetings is no longer in effect. In its place is Guidance on Gatherings, Events, and Conferences

Is there a review and approval process for indoor or outdoor gatherings of any size?

No. As of July 4, 2021, neither indoor or outdoor meetings of any size require review and approval by the Gatherings Review Team.

What do I have to do if I want to host meeting attended only by University faculty, staff, and/or students?

See the Guidance on Gatherings, Events, and Conferences. Organizers are responsible for ensuring that all attendees follow public health guidance. Schedule the space using the EMS system. Keep a record of attendance for at least two weeks.

May I resume staff or group meetings indoors?

Yes. Be sure to follow the latest University public health guidance.

May University-hosted events be open to the public?

Religious services, varsity and recreational athletic events, arts performances, and lectures are permitted to be open to the general public. See the Guidance on Gatherings, Events, and Conferences for more information. 

May I host a conference that includes attendees that are not members of the Princeton University community (faculty, staff, students)?

University-hosted conferences and meetings may include visitors. Pre-registration is requiredSee the Guidance on Gatherings, Events, and Conferences for more information. 

Do I need to approve each visitor attending a conference or public event?

No. The Visitor Policy considers individuals attending a University-hosted conference or public event to be pre-approved. The host department must require self-attestation of vaccination.

Are masks or social distancing required for indoor events?

As of August 11, 2021, masks are required indoors for all individuals. The University will not monitor this, and the host is responsible for explaining this to the attendees. Social distancing is not required.

Do I need to take attendance at the meetings or events? If so, how long do I need to maintain the list?

Yes. You need to maintain a list of attendees for at least two weeks after the event to be able to assist in contact tracing if someone at the event is diagnosed with COVID-19. A printable PDF for listing attendees is availabele on the EHS website. 

Is food allowed at gatherings? If so, is there a need for social distancing during meals? May I use an outside caterer?

Yes, food is allowed and social distancing is not required. You may use any outside vendor, but if there will be servers, please use Campus Dining catering services. See Guidance for Eating and Drinking Indoors for more information on how to plan and organize food service during events. 

Can I bring my children to an indoor musical performance on Princeton’s campus?

The University is currently not allowing children under the age of 12 to enter campus buildings. Please check the Visitor Policy on a regular basis as we are continually reviewing our COVID-19 public health guidance.

 

HAND WASHING AND HAND SANITIZERS

What is the effective way to wash my hands?

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use a paper towel to dry.

  1. Have a paper towel ready.
  2. Turn on the tap. Use warm or tepid water.
  3. Wet your hands.
  4. Apply soap.
  5. Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, washing all surfaces of your hands.
  6. Rinse well.
  7. Use a paper towel to turn off the tap.
  8. Dry your hands. 
  9. Use a paper towel to open the door and turn off the lights.

What is the effective way to use hand sanitizer?

The manufacturer will provide instructions on the container describing the recommended use of the hand sanitizer in order to achieve effects matching those demonstrated when the product was originally tested. Most hand sanitizers require thoroughly wetting the surface of your hands with the hand sanitizer as well as distributing the sanitizer by rubbing/kneading hands together. Some products will indicate the need to allow the hand sanitizer to dry, whereas others will indicate that is it acceptable to wipe off excess after waiting an indicated period of time.

Most hand sanitizers are intended only for external use and limited for use on the hands. Use of hand sanitizers on other areas of skin may result in irritation or injury. Many hand sanitizers contain components that will be toxic or cause injury if taken internally.

Which is better - hand sanitizer or washing with soap and water?

The best way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick is by washing your hands with plain soap and water, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is essential, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose. If soap and water are not available, CDC recommends consumers use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethanol.

Is it okay to use an electronic hand dryer?

Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) continue to include the use of warm air dryers as a means for drying hands after washing them. There have been recent studies that suggest the potential for aerosols and fine droplets to be generated during hand drying using an electronic/warm air dryer; however, the risk of this process contributing to the spread of COVID-19 virus is minimal when this process follows an effective hand cleaning. 

Are all hand sanitizers the same? If not, which are effective against the virus that causes COVID-19?

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol are most effective aganst COVID-19. Hand sanitizers with the active ingredient of benzalkonium chloride are not as effective. Those with any other material listed as the active ingredient are not recommended by the CDC or the FDA for COVID-19.

Is it okay to clean my hands with disinfectant wipes intended for surfaces?

Unless clearly indicated in the instructions provided by the manufacturer, most cleaning products (including disinfecting wipes) designed for use on hard surfaces should not be used to sanitize your hands.  These products are often formulated with harsher chemicals than similar sanitizing wipe products intended for use on a person and may result in harm, such skin injury or irritation and serious injury to the eye if remaining residue is accidentally wiped into the eyes.

 

VEHICLE USE

Is it safe to share a vehicle?

There are no longer restrictions on sharing University vehicles. Face coverings are not required in University vehicles after March 14, 2022, but individuals should wear a face covering if requested by one of the occupants. For added protection, keep windows open if possible. Whether alone or with another passenger, always clean the vehicle with an approved disinfectant before other people use the vehicle and at the end of the shift.

Do I need to wear a face covering and/or practice social distancing on TigerTransit buses?

Per NJ Department of Health and CDC guidance, you do need to wear a mask, but do not have to maintain social distance on buses.

 

VENTILATION

What has the University done to improve building ventilation systems in light of the risk of exposure to COVID-19?

The University has taken a number of steps, including:. 

  • Servicing HVAC systems in buildings that have not been occupied to ensure that they are working properly and efficiently.
  • As possible, increasing the amount of outside air and decreasing the amount of recirculating air in buildings. 
  • Where possible, replacing air filters with highly efficient filters, such as MERV-13 filters.
  • Reducing or disabling occupancy controls that decrease ventilation rates when the space is unoccupied.

I'd like to have the ventilation in my building/office assessed. What should I do?

At this time, Facilities and EHS are not conducting additional ventilation assessments in campus buildings.

What can I do to improve ventilation in my building?

  • If your space has operable windows and opening them will not disrupt air conditioning or heating, open windows while occupying the space. Do not leave windows open and unlocked when the building is unoccupied. 
  • Leave on exhaust fans in restrooms if they are operated by a switch.
  • Do not bring your own air filtration units. If you believe you need to bring in such a unit, please contact EHS for consultation. EHS will work with Facilities and the University Fire Marshal, as needed.

How much outside air is provided to our campus buildings?

*Wherever possible, the University meets or exceeds the outside air parameters recommended by ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2019 on Indoor Air Quality.  

Ventilation systems in our older buildings may not provide the amount of outside air specified by this standard. However, all of our air handler units have been set to provide the maximum amount of outside air while maintaining reasonably comfortable temperature and relative humidity levels. 

Is air in my office recirculated from other parts of the building?  

With the exception of laboratories and machine shops, the ventilation system in most buildings on campus provide a mix of outdoor and recirculated air.  Even the most stringent indoor air quality standards for classrooms, offices and assembly areas allow for a mix of outside and recirculated air.

Recirculated air is filtered before it is delivered back to occupied spaces. The quality of a filter is based upon its ability to capture small particles. The MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values) rating is a measurement of a filter's ability to capture particles of a certain size and range from 1 to 16. The higher the MERV rating the better the filter is at trapping certain size particles. When possible, our ventilation systems are equipped with MERV-13 filters, as recommended by CDC. All air filters are periodically cleaned and replaced by trained Facilities staff to ensure proper function

Some of the air in my building is recirculated. If a co-worker is diagnosed with COVID-19, will I need to quarantine due to the recirculated air?

No. Decisions about the need to quarantine a staff member or student are made by UHS physicians and nurses and are based primarily upon your physical distance from the ill person. You may be told to quarantine only if you were within six feet of the ill person for more than 15 minutes over the course of 24 hours. 
 
I work in a small office and I am concerned because there is no mechanical ventilation system.

Some older buildings are equipped with heating and cooling devices but do not receive fresh air via a mechanical ventilation system. If windows are available, open them unless opening the windows affects your seasonal allergies. If the unventilated space is used for assemblies of staff or students, EHS may make recommendations on how to safely use the space.

Should I purchase or bring in an air purifier for extra protection in the office?

No. Do not bring your own air filtration units. If you believe you need to bring in such a unit, please contact EHS for consultation. EHS will work with Facilities and the University Fire Marshal, as needed.

What about filtration units in classrooms?

For those few classrooms with no mechanical ventilation, portable filters have been placed by Facilities (if assigned by the Registrar) or may be purchased by departments (if managed at the department level). These units must comply with guidance outlined on the EHS website
 

VISITORS

The following FAQs refer to the Visitor Policy effective May 16, 2022.


What are the expectations for all visitors? 

Visitors must cancel their planned visit if they test positive for COVID-19 within ten (10) days of the planned start of their visit, if they are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or if they were identified as a close contact of an individual who tested positive within the last ten (10) days and have not had a negative COVID-19 test since the exposure. Visitors must notify the sponsoring host if they test positive for COVID-19 within five days after their visit. 
 
Regardless of vaccination status, all visitors must comply with the requirements of face coverings in effect at the time of their visit to campus 
 
What are the categories of visitors? 

Broadly, the University divides visitors into two classes. 
 
    1.    The following categories of visitors must be up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccination without exception and must attest to vaccination in the manner described in the Supplemental Guidance for Visitors and must be prepared to show proof of vaccination. All of these visitors must be sponsored by a member of the University community (faculty, staff, graduate student, or undergraduate student) or a University department or unit. 


  • Visitors staying overnight in University dormitories. This does not include graduate student apartment complexes, such as Lakeside or Lawrence Apartments. 

  • Individuals participating in summer residential programs, such as sports camps, summer research, etc. 

  • Individuals participating in multi-day programs sponsored by the University, such as Princeton University Prep, summer day camps, Princeton Writing Program, Teachers as Scholars, Teacher Prep, regular tutoring, etc. Does not include conferences and events. 

  • TigerCard holders (e.g., faculty spouses, graduate student dependents, etc.) with access to the libraries or Dillon Gym facilities. 

  • Visiting Student Research Collaborators.  

  • Individuals participating in University-sponsored programs where removal of a mask indoors is necessary. 

  • Long-term visits of more than five days, consecutively or non-consecutively 


 
    2.    The categories of visitors listed below must  


  • Attest to being up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccination, be prepared to show proof of vaccination, and follow the policy for masks in effect at the time of their visit OR  

  • Do not attest to vaccination and attest to having a negative test for COVID-19 via PCR within 72 hours before the start of the scheduled visit or via rapid antigen test within 8 hours before the start of the scheduled visit and be prepared to show proof of the negative test OR 

  • Do not attest to vaccination and agree to wear a mask at all times when indoors. These individuals cannot remove their masks inside of University buildings, including to eat or drink.  


Attestation or agreement to wear a mask must be completed in the manner described in the Supplemental Guidance for Visitors.  

  • Individuals invited or approved by faculty, staff, or students or by a department or unit for short-term visits (5 days or fewer, consecutively or non-consecutively, no overnight stay on campus) and who will not have independent access to buildings.  

  • Attendees at University-sponsored meetings, conferences, and events. 

  • Individuals invited to participate in sponsored human subjects research. 

  • Individuals participating in or attending events in University buildings where the sponsor is a third-party entity that has permission to use the facilities 


 
How can attestation of vaccination (and testing) status be collected for events or conferences? 

There are several options available to collect this information: 

  1. NEW: TigerPass offers an online form that hosts can share with visitors prior to the event. The form asks potential visitors a series of questions to determine whether they are permitted, not permitted, or are permitted but should wear a mask. The TigerPass will be available via the TigerSafe app or via a direct web link. TigerPass has an option to email the host or sponsor of an event the visitor’s permission status or the visitor completing the form can show their phone with their status onsite.  

  2. Paper forms (or sign-in sheet) at the  door. 

  3. Any pre-event registration process that departments have used to collect attendee information. 

  4. Existing attestation process that  departments have already used, with updates made to reflect changes to the Visitor Policy  (some language may need to change).


 
What does it mean to be “up-to-date” on COVID-19 vaccines? 

The CDC recommends that everyone ages 5 years and older get their primary series of COVID-19 vaccine, and everyone ages 12 years and older also receive a booster. The University has adopted this standard. At this time, the University is not requiring a second booster for those who are eligible. 
 
What does it mean to “be prepared to show proof” of COVID-19 vaccination status? 

Proof of Vaccination may include an official CDC COVID-19 vaccination card, a vaccine certificate from an official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or authorized vaccine provider), a mobile phone app, or a digital or physical photo of a vaccination card or record. It is at the discretion of individual event organizers or University hosts if they wish to examine this proof. 
 
What does it mean to “be prepared to show proof” of a negative COVID-19 test? 

Acceptable tests are a PCR test conducted within 72 hours of the visit or a rapid antigen test completed within 8 hours of the visit. Proof of a negative test can include a photo of the negative test result (for home antigen tests), an email or other screenshot from a pharmacy or other provider, or a printout of the negative test result. It is at the discretion of individual event organizers or University hosts if they wish to examine this proof. 
 
What is the logic for this length of time to constitute an acceptable test? 

The CDC and NJ Department of Health both indicate that a PCR test within 72 hours is acceptable for travel. For rapid antigen tests, the chances of a false negative diminish the closer in time to the visit that the test is conducted. 
 
Can individual departments or events be stricter than University guidance (i.e. continuing to require all visitors to be up-to-date on COVID vaccines?) 

Yes, individual departments or events can be stricter than University guidance and can require their visitors to all be up-to-date on vaccines, show proof of a negative test, etc. However, these departments should not expect support from supporting departments at the University (i.e. University Services, DPS, etc.) in facilitating stricter compliance measures. 
 
Do I need approval from Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) for a visitor to enter a campus building? 

No, EHS approval is not required. Most visitors can be approved by the immediate supervisor of the faculty or staff member sponsoring the visit. Use the  Sponsored Visitor Request Form  to document approval.  If you are hosting an event open to the public, attestation of vaccination status must be completed by each attendee, but the hosting department is considered the sponsor and the Sponsored Visitor Request Form is not required. 
 
Who is NOT a visitor? 

Visitors means any individual who does not have an appointment as University student, faculty, or staff, including those who are NOT a(n) 

  • Enrolled degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate student  

  • Current employee of the University, including:  

    • Faculty and staff who currently have access to campus buildings. 

    • Casual employees.  

    • Visiting researchers and visiting faculty with formal appointments. 

    • Long-term temporary staff agency personnel. 

  • University affiliates who regularly spend time on campus interacting with faculty, staff, and students are covered by the University Vaccination Policy.1 


Secondary occupants residing with graduate or undergraduate students in University dormitory housing, as approved by Housing and Real Estate Services, are not considered visitors to their residences and residential complex, but are considered visitors to other University buildings.

 
I am hosting an indoor event where food will be served and would like to allow individuals to attend who are not up-to-date on COVID vaccines. What are the options? 

Since eating and drinking requires removal of masks, individuals who are not up-to-date on COVID vaccines will need to attest to a negative test and be prepared to show proof. 
 
Who is considered a pre-approved visitor that does not need to go through the approval process? 

The following visitors do not require sponsors or approval and are not required to attest to their vaccination status. If not up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccination, they must wear a mask indoors around other people. 

  • Contractors and vendors retained to provide essential services on campus, including repair, technical assistance, renovation, construction, maintenance, moving, food delivery, waste removal, etc. and who comply with the Requirements for Vendors and Contractors. 

  • Guests in non-dormitory University residences. Visitors who are not up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccination must wear a mask in common spaces, such as lobbies, common rooms, hallways, etc. 

  • Regulatory inspectors, including federal, state, and local agency inspectors on campus for planned or unplanned visits

See the  Visitor Policy  for additional information about each of these groups. 
 
When do I need to use the Sponsored Visitor Form? 

The Sponsored Visitor Form is intended for departments or individuals that may be hosting a small number of guests for one or more meetings. It is not required or intended for events or conferences. 
 
Who can sponsor a visitor? 

Faculty, staff or graduate students may sponsor a visitor. Approval comes from the immediate supervisor. Undergraduate students should use the Student Overnight Guest Form
 
If I am hosting an event that is open to the public, do I need approval for each attendee? 

No. You do not need to sponsor or provide approval for each attendee, but you do need to maintain a roster of attendees for at least two weeks after the event. 
 
If I am hosting a conference or event that will include guests, do I need approval for each attendee that is not Princeton faculty, staff, or student? 

No. You do not need to sponsor or provide approval for each attendee, but you do need to maintain a roster of attendees for at least two weeks after the event. 
 
Are emeritus faculty considered visitors? 

If emeritus faculty currently have access to campus buildings, they are not considered visitors. 
 
Are caterers considered visitors? 

No. Caterers are subject to the Requirements for Contractors and Vendors  and may provide service on campus if they comply with applicable food safety/health and insurance requirements.  
 
My department works with volunteers. Are they considered visitors? 

Yes. Faculty or staff who sponsor volunteers on campus must initiate the  Sponsored Visitor Request Form.  
 
Are alumni considered visitors? 

Yes. At this time, alumni are considered visitors. 
 
Are retirees considered visitors? 

Yes. At this time, retirees are considered visitors. 
 
May hiring managers invite prospective candidates on campus for interviews? 

Yes. The hiring manager will act as the sponsor for prospective candidates.
 
I work from home. May I enter campus buildings to pick up materials? I am I considered a visitor? 

Employees are not considered visitors but should avoid coming to campus if they’ve tested positive for COVID in the last 10 days, if they are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or if they were identified as a close contact of an individual who tested positive within the last ten (10) days and have not had a negative COVID-19 test since the exposure.
 
 

OTHER QUESTIONS

If your question is not listed on this document, please contact EHS at ehs@princeton.edu or 609-258-5294.