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June 25: Community COVID-19 Newsletter

To the Princeton University community,

As the University aims to release plans in early July regarding undergraduate instruction for fall 2020, more than 40 teams of faculty and staff have spent the past few months evaluating a range of options for next semester. In this week’s newsletter, you can read about the COVID-19 working groups who have been tackling myriad health, safety, academic, and operational questions and concerns in light of the ongoing pandemic.

We also share stories at the intersection of COVID-19, service and racial justice. From University initiatives to address critical issues of injustice raised by the pandemic, to a new summer food and nutrition program to fight pandemic-related food insecurity, and to faculty research focused on ways to mitigate COVID-19 and future pandemics.

Finally, you can listen to the latest episode of the University’s “We Roar” podcast with Dr. Marina Di Bartolo ’10. Di Bartolo is one of the estimated 27,000 DACA recipients who are also health care workers providing essential services during the pandemic. Princeton, along with co-plaintiffs Microsoft and Class of 2018 graduate Maria Perales Sanchez, had filed suit  challenging the government decision to end DACA. The University welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision last week to restore the DACA program

And as always, please continue to consult the coronavirus website and University homepage for updates.

Please be safe and be well,

The Office of Communications 

Over 40 Working Groups Prepare for a Range of Possibilities for Princeton’s Fall Semester

Since the spring, more than 40 working groups have been planning for Princeton’s fall 2020 semester. The teams of staff and faculty from departments across the University have tackled myriad health, safety, academic, and operational questions and concerns in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The University aims to release plans in early July regarding undergraduate instruction for fall 2020.

“Our ability to restart our in-person teaching and research will depend upon whether we can do so in a way that respects public health and safety protocols,” President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in his May 4 message to the University community.  As Eisgruber underscored in his message, a decision about plans for the fall semester will come in early July, noting “that this uncertainty can itself add to the distress of this pandemic, but I am convinced that it is the most responsible way for Princeton to proceed.”

The COVID-19 planning teams were charged with evaluating scenarios for online and on-campus operations for the fall. Student input from undergraduate and graduate student groups helped inform many teams’ work.

The teams were organized around topics such as public health, campus safety, University services, innovative teaching, lab research, virtual community, the student experience and much more. Their work will inform the decision of the Academic Year 2021 Coordinating Committee,which has been evaluating options for the undergraduate teaching program this fall.

Read more about the COVID-19 planning teams on the University homepage.

University Establishes Summer Food and Nutrition Program for Pandemic-Related Food Insecurity in Mercer County

To address food insecurity in local communities this summer due to the pandemic, Campus Dining, the Office of Community and Regional Affairs and John H. Pace, Jr. ’39 Center for Civic Engagement have established the Summer Food and Nutrition Program. The initiative will include collaborations with the Princeton Public Schools and three area nonprofits to provide meals for at-risk families, children and individuals.

The Summer Food and Nutrition Program will run for six weeks from July 7 through Aug. 16. The program will offer continuity of employment, including health benefits, to Campus Dining employees who normally work for nine months a year. This team will procure, prepare and package approximately 9,500 meals a week to be distributed to an estimated 1,800-2,000 people in surrounding communities.

Princeton University Relief Fund Supports Ongoing Community Needs During COVID-19

In addition to the Summer Food and Nutrition Program and the Princeton University Relief Fund, the University has been providing relief efforts to the local community in numerous ways since the beginning of the pandemic. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Donation of personal protective equipment. Over the past three months, the University has been identifying and delivering personal protection equipment (PPE) — including gloves, masks, respirators, surgical gowns and other items — from labs and other sources on campus to support emergency services in Mercer County, the Municipality of Princeton, and West Windsor Township.
  • Volunteering in the community. Faculty and staff are offering their time as volunteers through the University’s Special Activities and Resources Group (SARG), which matches appropriate volunteers with relevant projects.
  • Blood drives. In partnership with the American Red Cross, the University held a series of community blood drives in April and May. More than 200 people made donations over five days. The total collected was 219 productive units, which will provide for up to 657 hospital patients. Appropriate safety and social distancing guidelines were followed. A summer blood drive will be held on July 7. For more information visit the American Red Cross website.
  • Addressing food insecurity. In addition to the University’s $25,000 contribution to Send Hunger Packing Princeton (SHUPP) to support the nonprofit group’s collaboration with the Princeton Public Schools, the University also donated 15 mini-fridges to the Princeton Public Schools and SHUPP to provide to families in Princeton in need of additional refrigeration for the family meals that are being distributed. Campus Dining has donated a range of perishable and nonperishable food items — from liquid eggs to basmati rice and granola — to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen and Arm in Arm.

‘We Roar’ Podcast: Marina Di Bartolo ’10, Doctor and DACA recipient, Celebrates Supreme Court Decision

Marina Di Bartolo, M.D., works as a primary care practitioner in Camden, New Jersey, where she treats patients in the crosshairs of the coronavirus. On the latest episode of the “We Roar” podcast, she shares her journey from Venezuela to Princeton University to last week’s ruling that protected the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — at least for now.

Di Bartolo shared her story with “We Roar” on June 18, the day that the Supreme Court struck down the Trump administration’s efforts to end DACA protections.

“I am not alone as a DACA physician,” says Di Bartolo, a Class of 2010 graduate who came to the United States as a child. “There are over 27,000 DACA recipients who are health care workers providing essential services, including physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and others.”

She adds: “COVID is affecting populations of color, populations who are immigrants, populations from the inner city, [those] who are underserved and socioeconomically disadvantaged, more than others. And DACA recipients have been known to disproportionately serve those communities, so we are on the front lines, and on the front lines of the front lines.”

Funding for Teaching, Research, Service Initiatives to Address COVID-19 Challenges, Racial Injustice

In response to the current crises, and underlying societal challenges, facing our country and the world, the University has announced an initial series of new funding initiatives. These opportunities represent the first, immediate steps in an ongoing effort to bring to bear the research, teaching, and service-focused mission of the University on the critical issues raised by the global pandemic and racial injustice. Additional steps will be announced in the coming weeks and months. 

The funding will support:

  • The development of innovative teaching methods;
  • New courses focused on racial injustice and COVID-related community problems;
  • Service projects to address inequalities and injustices; and
  • Digital research to examine issues related to cities, COVID-19 and race.

Faculty COVID-19 Research Receive Grants from Digital Transformation Institute

The Digital Transformation Institute has awarded $5.4 million to 26 projects to accelerate artificial intelligence research to mitigate COVID-19 and future pandemics. Princeton faculty members Matthew Desmond, Simon Levin, Stefana Parascho, H. Vincent Poor, Corina Tarnita and Mengdi Wang are among researchers to receive funding for their projects.

The University is a member of the Digital Transformation Institute, a $367M research consortium dedicated to accelerating the benefits of artificial intelligence for business, government and society, founded by chair and CEO Tom Siebel. 

The Princeton faculty projects will study the following topics:

  • Housing Precarity, Eviction and Inequality in the Wake of COVID-19
  • Reinforcement Learning to Safeguard Schools and Universities Against the COVID-19 Outbreak
  • Bringing Social Distancing to Light: Crowd Management Using AI and Interactive Floor Projection
  • Modeling and Control of COVID-19 Propagation for Assessing and Optimizing Intervention Policies

Tigers Helping: Princeton Rowing Gives Back to Special Olympics

The Princeton Rowing program has been training Special Olympics athletes during the pandemic. The student-athletes are helping prepare members of the Special Olympics of New Jersey Rowing Program for the Special Olympics Virtual Games this summer. Princeton Rowing and the Special Olympics have had a partnership since 2013.

Emerson Solms '20, Hannah Diaz '23, Madeleine Polubinski '22, Sarah Fry '23, Lauren Sanchez '21, Nathan Phelps '22, and Jack Woll '22 started zoom meetings with the Special Olympics athletes in April.

"I think we've all felt alone during COVID, and we recognized that this isolation is a lot more severe for persons with disabilities, so we wanted to create opportunities to interact with our athletes virtually," said Sanchez. "We've held a zoom meeting every Sunday since April, and plan to continue them as long as we have athletes who want to come."

Read more on the Tigers Helping website and share this story on Twitter.

Public Health Update

All students, faculty, staff, postdocs and researchers should contact University Health Services if they are tested for coronavirus, in any jurisdiction. Please email as soon as you are tested; do not wait for results to notify UHS.

The University will continue to provide regular updates on the number of tests and cases involving community members which UHS is aware of. These numbers, especially those involving students who no longer reside on campus, are based on self-reporting. The most recent update can be found at

University Health Services continues to support the University community through its on-campus and virtual services. Information on UHS hours, medical and psychological services, and virtual consultations is available on the UHS website.




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