Restrictions Return Along With COVID Spread
By Donald Gilpin
At his first press conference in two weeks, on Monday, August 23, just hours after the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that all school personnel, public and private, from preschool through high school, must be fully vaccinated by October 18 or be subjected to weekly testing. The rule also applies to state employees and faculty and staff at state colleges and universities.
Murphy expressed hope that the FDA approval would encourage people to get vaccinated who had previously been holding off.
The Princeton Health Department reported Monday a total of 14 new COVID-19 cases in the previous seven days and 31 cases in the previous 14 days. Out of Princeton residents age 12 and over, 78 percent have been vaccinated (96 percent of residents 65 and over).
Since July 7 the health department has reported 57 cases of COVID-19 in Princeton, 39 (68.4 percent) of which have been breakthrough cases.
Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser, in a memo last week to the town administrator, urged that the return to in-person local government meetings, originally planned for mid-September, be delayed until further notice due to the spread of the Delta variant and rising infection rates.
In the August 23 Princeton Newsletter, the health department stated, “COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. are highly effective, including against the Delta variant, but they are not 100 percent effective and some fully vaccinated people will become infected (called a breakthrough infection) and experience illness. For such people, the vaccine still provides them strong protection against serious illness and death. Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant. However, fully vaccinated people who become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others.”
The Princeton Health Department has announced that, starting September 20, it will begin to offer booster doses to individuals who have had the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for at least eight months. The Princeton Health Department expects to host regular booster clinics starting in September. More details will be provided soon.
Also, following a CDC recommendation that people with a weakened immune system receive three doses of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine rather than the two doses recommended for others, the Princeton Health Department is seeking moderate to severe immunocompromised homebound Princeton residents who have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Those individuals are eligible for a third dose 28 days after their second COVID-19 vaccine. The health department will accommodate these individuals by providing the vaccine in their home. To inquire about eligibility, email health department COVID-19 generalist Julie Venema at email@example.com.
The Princeton Health Department will be holding a vaccine clinic on Friday, August 27, from 5 to 9 p.m. at Hinds Plaza. Mercer County pop-up clinics will take place on Thursday, August 26 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Mercer County Park Skating Center in West Windsor and on Friday, August 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Trenton Farmers Market.
Princeton University vaccine clinics will be taking place in Jadwin Gym from 1 to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays in September, starting September 1.
Princeton University announced on Monday an update on classroom face-covering policies, with students required to wear masks in the classroom. Fully vaccinated instructors, however, are permitted to remove their masks for all or part of the class “at their own discretion.” The policy will be in effect from the first day of classes on September 1 through September 9 and will be updated by September 10.
Princeton University’s employee vaccination rate is approximately 97 percent, and its student vaccination rate is at about 96 percent, expected to rise to between 98 and 99 percent as students, including those arriving from international locations, complete the vaccination process, according to Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss as reported in the Daily Princetonian.
Princeton Public Schools, in a letter to families and staff last week, announced that, regardless of vaccination status, students and staff would be required to wear masks at school and while riding a school bus. The public schools open on September 9, in person for all, with a remote option available only for students who are required to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
The letter also urged everyone eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine and announced a number of additional health and safety procedures and policies that would be in effect as COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise in the region.