November 25, 2020

No Longer in Infancy, Coronavirus Creates Increasing Challenges

By Donald Gilpin

Princeton COVID-19 case numbers reached a new high Monday, November 23, with a seven-day total of 36 new cases, the Princeton Health Department reported. The 14-day total of 54 new cases is just slightly less than the highest 14-day count in Princeton since the pandemic began in March.

Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser noted the current resurgence in cases that resembles the situation six or seven months ago, but noted several differences.  “In the first wave, we saw long-term care centers contributing to the majority of cases, not only in Princeton but throughout New Jersey,” he wrote in an email. “Many non-essential businesses were closed, youth and professional sports were canceled or suspended, and schools were primarily remote. And from our vantage point at the health department, there was more concern over the virus because of its infancy.”

He continued, “What we have now is a combination of that infancy maturing and some communities not adhering to strict physical distancing and mask guidance, and of course, essential and non-essential businesses are open. Also youth sports and professional sports are once again operating, and schools are in-person (or at least working through in-person instruction while adhering to NJDOH COVID criteria).”

The load on contact tracers has been intense, according to health department reports, because of the numbers of infections and the multiple contacts of each. As of Monday’s report, there was a total of 337 cases over the past nine months with 280 recovered after completing isolation. More than 1,600 individuals have been contact traced by the Princeton Health Department.

Princeton Press and Media Communications Director Fred Williams sounded a warning note with the arrival of the holidays and the urge to travel and celebrate. “Unfortunately, cases are expected to continue to rise, and travel numbers remain higher than expected,” he said. “The same is true of our case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths.”

He went on, “We are urging folks to think small in terms of gathering sizes and to quarantine whenever possible leading up to holiday gatherings. Yes,
vaccinations are coming, but we should all resist the tendency to relax in anticipation of their arrival, which for most of us is likely to be late spring.”

Grosser sympathized with residents’ pandemic fatigue and the need to return to a sense of normalcy, and he expressed hope of relief in the arrival of a vaccine sooner rather than later. “The anticipation of the COVID vaccine should come as a light at the end of the tunnel that provides some comfort, particularly in the fact that we just have a little ways to go in this pandemic before we begin seeing positive change that comes from a reliable vaccine,” he said.

Princeton Public Schools (PPS) reported on Sunday, November 22, that a Littlebrook student had tested positive for COVID-19. The student was last in school on November 17 and was not symptomatic until Friday, November 20. The student has not been in school this week and will continue to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. The Princeton Health Department reviewed the case, finding no close contacts in the school and requiring no other students to quarantine.

PPS announced last week that it will undergo an extra week of fully remote learning the week after Thanksgiving, urging students and staff to stay at home, avoid any unnecessary travel, and to be alert for any symptoms.

The Montgomery Township Health Department reported on Monday, November 23, that an outbreak at Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead had spiked over the weekend with 37 new cases and a total of 89 cases of COVID-19 at the clinic.

There were also 18 new cases in Montgomery/Rocky Hill over the weekend and a situation described by Montgomery Township Health Officer Stephanie D. Carey as “exponential, community spread, with most cases not having a clear exposure,” as quoted on the Montgomery Township website.

Williams issued a reminder to local residents to continue to support those in the community who are helping to feed and clothe families, and others in need who are dealing with unemployment and other hardships. 

“Please support your favorite local charities and volunteer groups who are addressing this issue,” he wrote, noting the list of charities that can be found under “Food Resources” at