Coronavirus Information Update for Staff, March 17

March 17, 2020

On March 17, Vice President for Human Resources and Dean of the Faculty Sanjeev R. Kulkarni emailed all employees with the following update about coronavirus:

The coronavirus continues to test our fortitude, and we are grateful to everyone who is taking steps to “flatten the curve” of this pandemic. In the last memo, dated March 15, we discussed several new policies and practices that we have temporarily implemented to address the challenges before us. These measures have prompted many questions, especially in light of yesterday’s executive order by Governor Phil Murphy mandating extensive social distancing throughout New Jersey. We write now to provide as much clarity as these unsettled times allow.

First and foremost, the steps the University took last week to move to remote instruction comply with the governor’s executive order. We have clarified and confirmed with Governor Murphy’s office that New Jersey universities have not been closed—they have been required to cease all in-person instruction, which Princeton has already done. We will continue to monitor this situation closely, but for now we are operating under the policies and practices we have already announced with the goal of safeguarding the health of our University community while supporting those students still on campus and fulfilling our educational mission and operational needs.

Most of the questions raised yesterday pertain to employees who are required to come to campus in order to keep their units operating smoothly. Guided by Princeton’s senior leadership, managers are putting in place provisions for employees in this situation to help them carry out their responsibilities in a way that observes social distancing and conforms to healthcare guidelines. Certain roles will require an employee presence every day. Other positions will allow employees to rotate on and off campus. We are relying on those who know the needs and obligations of their units best to determine how to staff them, and we are asking all to be flexible and work together as these arrangements are established. Senior HR managers are available to help.

Other questions we would like to clarify include:

  1. Traveling to work between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.—While New Jersey is strongly discouraging nonessential and nonemergency travel between these hours, it has not imposed a curfew. State officials have specifically noted that driving to and from work during this time is appropriate. Therefore, individuals whose work requires them to travel between 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. are expected to report to work on time.
  2. Flexible and work-from-home arrangements—While the University continues to operate during the coronavirus pandemic, managers and employees should work together to assess and agree to the employee’s flexible and remote work arrangement. The policy descriptions offer guidance but, during this pandemic, the specified rules are relaxed. Agreements do not need to be approved by HR, though we are happy to help craft and review them. Written agreements are not necessary and can be made at the manager’s discretion. We also recognize that there may be school-aged children at home during working hours due to school closures. Performance standards continue to apply to any work performed at home.
  3. Covid-19 daysCOVID-19 days are intended to assist benefits-eligible employees who are unable to work, either on campus or remotely, because of hardships related to the coronavirus. These could range from the health effects of COVID-19 itself to indirect consequences, such as childcare issues caused by school closings. The University is updating its policies to allow individuals to charge coronavirus-related absences to COVID-19 days immediately, rather than first exhausting their sick, personal, and vacation days. Regular paid time off policies will apply if and when all 14 COVID-19 days are exhausted, as appropriate. Use of COVID-19 days must still be approved by managers. Please note that the COVID-19 code in Time and Absence Management (TAM) will be available the week of March 23 and can then be used to record COVID-19 absences retroactively.
  4. Short-term disability—For illnesses that qualify for short-term disability leave, there is a new electronic short-term disability application specifically for employees diagnosed with COVID-19. For this particular diagnosis, medical certification is not required to be submitted with the application. Please refer to policy 3.1.9 Short-Term Disability for additional information.
  5. Getting tested for COVID-19—Contact your healthcare provider for information about testing. If you do not have one, please contact Health Advocate at (866) 695-8622 to find a provider and book the appointment for you. Be aware that testing for the coronavirus is becoming more accessible; however, testing kits to collect specimens are not readily available at this time. You may also contact Teladoc or your state health department for information. It is important for faculty, staff, and students to notify University Health Services if they are being tested by emailing occhealth@princeton.edu or communityhealth@princeton.edu, and UHS will get in touch directly with these individuals’ close contacts.
  6. Medical coverage—The University has implemented the following interim changes to our healthcare and prescription drug coverage for employees enrolled in a Princeton medical plan. 
    • Diagnostic testing related to COVID-19 will be covered at 100%.
    • Telemedicine visits through Teladoc for any reason have been expanded to be covered at 100% for the next 90 days for individuals enrolled in the CDHP and J-1 Visa Plan. Visits for PHP and HMO participants were already covered at 100%.
    • OptumRx members may obtain an early refill of prescriptions if they have refills remaining on file through mail order or at a participating retail pharmacy. The refill obtained must remain consistent with the standard days’ supply previously filled by the member, i.e., 90 days at mail, 30 days at retail. 
  7. Contacting HR: To maintain as much social distancing as possible, we urge employees to call or email HR for assistance at (609) 258-3300 or hr@princeton.edu. If you believe you need a face-to-face meeting, contact us first, and we will find a virtual way, using Zoom or another technology, to accommodate this. HR staff are here for you, though many of us, too, are working remotely. We are reachable as always!
  8. Coping with stress—To help you during this particularly stressful time, do not hesitate to make use of the following resources

For other online resources, including webinars, videos, and websites, please refer to this webpage.

Thank you again for all you are doing to respond to the coronavirus. We will continue to reassess our policies and practices based on developments and will advise you of any changes. We encourage all of you to follow the University’s COVID-19 website for updates and to reach out to your managers with any questions that may arise. We understand that this is a time of uncertainty and stress, and we appreciate your patience in the face of unprecedented challenges. Working together, we will get through this!


For helpful benefits, well-being, work-related, and other information, refer to the HR Coronavirus Resources for Employees webpage.
For interim benefits updates, refer to Benefits Updates During COVID-19.
For current learning opportunities, refer to Learning & Development Updates During COVID-19.
For various time off benefits available, refer to Time Off Options for Staff Due to COVID-19.