By Len La Rocca
Students who are returning to the College from China must fill out an online form as a precautionary measure against an on-campus outbreak of the coronavirus, according to a college-wide email sent on Feb. 3 from Janice Vermeychuk, the director of Student Health Services.
Steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Mercer County are being taken, with Princeton University having fewer than 20 students in self-quarantine as of Feb. 4, according to NJ.com. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, as well as nausea and digestive issues.
At the College, however, Vermeychuk assured that this is merely a proactive collection of information, and not an indication of danger to the campus.
“Although some students may be concerned about getting 2019-nCoV (Coronavirus), it is much more likely that they will get the flu,” she wrote. “Flu is widespread in New Jersey and each day we diagnose the flu in students.”
The form asks students if they have been to China in the past 14 days and if students were “in close contact with a person CONFIRMED to have 2019 Novel Coronavirus while the person was sick.”
Possible further action will be based on the answers given by respondents. These responses will determine a student’s risk category as low, moderate or high, according to Luke Sacks, the head media relations officer at the College.
“Per NJDOH guidance for colleges, individuals who are high or moderate risk category are expected to quarantine themselves, including restrictions for work/school for the incubation period for coronavirus,” Sacks said. “On-campus students would be sent home during this period.”
Princeton University students in self-quarantine were given university housing, according to a letter to the editor in The Daily Princetonian by an anonymous student in quarantine.
Similar measures would be taken here at the College should a moderate or high-risk student be unable to find housing.
“The student would be offered suitable housing and needs,” Sacks said. “Student Health Services would conduct daily monitoring of individuals in the high and moderate-risk groups to assess for symptoms.”
Ewing locals have mixed reactions to the potential proximity of the global pandemic.
“I was weirded-out today when I went to Whole Foods and saw customers walking around with masks,” said Ewing resident Andrew Auletta. “My shopping trip was pretty short.”
ShopRite on North Olden Avenue in Ewing has sold out of protective face masks used to prevent infection and has them on backorder, according to their pharmacy department. Some health professionals believe that this rush to grab face masks in the U.S. is unnecessary.
“This panic buying in low-risk countries like the U.S. may lead to a lack of masks in settings that really need them,” Vermeychuk wrote.
However, according to the current expectations of the CDC on CDC.gov, more cases will surface in the U.S.
News around the virus’ spread seemingly breaks by the minute. As of the date of publication, there are zero cases of possible or confirmed coronavirus at the College. Students can only hope that this pandemic is entirely contained soon and continue to practice diligent hygiene.
“The advice to help decrease the spread of respiratory viruses is always the same,” Vermeychuk wrote. “Wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, after using the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose.”