Princeton Health Officer Reports COVID-19 Progress on All Fronts
By Donald Gilpin
On Tuesday, May 12, when the Princeton Health Department reported no new COVID-19 cases or deaths in the previous 24 hours and three more COVID-19 patients recovered with isolation complete, Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser expressed cautious optimism about the effects of social distancing. The state is also seeing declines in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
“Social distancing efforts in New Jersey are starting to make tremendous improvements in a few of our epidemiological trends of note,” he wrote in an email. “New Jersey is seeing a decline in new positive cases, hospitalizations, and fewer reported deaths per day. These three metrics began exponential growth in early April and fortunately we are seeing a larger decrease each day since May has started.”
Grosser attributed the improving counts to social distancing and other efforts of residents in Princeton and throughout the state. He pointed out that Princeton has been seeing a decline in new cases, though there was an uptick in numbers last Friday because of new counting criteria that include probable cases, individuals who have not been tested but are COVID-19 symptomatic.
Grosser also noted positive trends in Princeton’s long-term care facilities, where many of the cases and most of the town’s COVID-19-related deaths have occurred. There have been nine COVID-19-related deaths at the Princeton Care Center, with 36 confirmed cases, according to the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), and Acorn Glen assisted living facility has reported five deaths with 18 confirmed cases.
“Everyone is aware Princeton’s long-term care centers have been the epicenter of COVID in our community,” Grosser said. “Both Princeton Care Center and Acorn Glen have been battling outbreaks since early last month. We are happy to report they are slowly seeing cases recover and fewer positive cases, but they are still in need of personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff.”
Princeton has called for help from the county and state for additional equipment and personnel, and the Princeton Police Department has shared equipment with both facilities, Grosser said.
In its ongoing battle with the pandemic, Princeton is also ramping up its contact tracing efforts. Over the past eight weeks the Princeton Health Department, with its core staff of an inspector, part-time nurse, and two school nurse volunteers, has contacted more than 150 positive COVID cases and more than 1,000 contacts of those cases.
“We need to continue to expand our contact tracing efforts,” Grosser said, “especially as the governor’s stay-at-home order is slowly lifted sometime next month.” Princeton Municipal Administrator Marc Dashield and Police Chief Nick Sutter have assigned parking enforcement officers to the health department team. With that addition, Princeton has the recommended number of six contact tracers.
“We have been so fortunate to have residents of Princeton with strong public health, medical backgrounds to provide guidance and support to our department,” Grosser said. “Several local residents have been assisting the department with contact tracing, communications, and PPE allocation in order for us to continue to make our mark locally in flattening the curve.”
Grosser added, “There is a tremendous amount of work left to be done before we get back to any type of normalcy, but we need to remember that in just two short months, Princeton has changed the course of this pandemic through community teamwork to socially distance and protect one another.”
The Princeton Health Department on Tuesday reported 159 total cases, with 66 active positive cases and 71 recovered COVID-19 cases with isolation complete. There have been 15 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths with seven additional probable (not tested but COVID symptomatic) COVID-19 deaths in Princeton.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in his Tuesday press briefing reported 198 new deaths from COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours for a total of 9,508 COVID-19-related deaths in New Jersey, with 898 new positive tests for a total of 140,743 cases.
Murphy pointed out that the number of new cases is down 60 percent and the number of hospitalizations is down 47.6 percent from its peak on April 14, but he emphasized that residents need to continue practicing social distancing to avoid future surges in numbers.
The NJDOH reported on Tuesday, May 12, that 5,426 Mercer County residents had tested positive for COVID-19 and that 349 in the County had died from COVID-19 complications.
There have recently been significant increases in testing in the state, but actual numbers of COVID-19 infections, locally and statewide, probably surpass confirmed case numbers because of testing backlogs and residents who have not been tested.