By Donald Gilpin
“We are not going to be safe against COVID-19 until a vaccine or suitable treatment is available for our population,” warned Princeton Public Health Officer Jeff Grosser earlier this week. With case numbers increasing, Grosser criticized breaches of rules on social gatherings, along with inadequate support for public health systems and failures of many other states to apply lessons learned from the early outbreaks and epidemiological evidence.
Though Grosser noted the progress made locally, he remained less than optimistic. “Princeton has done a tremendous job of moving restaurant dining outside, preparing workplaces for safe business, masking up while outside, preparing our public employees for work amidst a pandemic, etc.,” he said. “The unfortunate certainty of this virus is that it is not just going to go away. All members of our town must act like a cohesive team to root out this virus, which includes holding everyone accountable for the negative and positive effects of our actions.”
The Princeton Health Department on Monday reported four new cases in the past seven days, nine in the past two weeks, with 16 active cases, 207 total positive cases, 160 recovered with isolation completed, 18 COVID-related deaths, and 12 additional probable COVID-related deaths.
Acknowledging that more cases of COVID-19 will appear as state restrictions are lifted, Grosser expressed growing concern with the high percentage of new Princeton infections, which have been attributed, through contact tracing, to social gatherings. “Through spot checks on portions of town, we know that residents are abiding by public health executive directives, but it’s far too common to find out that new infections are the result of a lack of compliance,” he said.
Grosser pointed out that failure to follow social distancing guidelines and lack of facial coverings, particularly at social gatherings, have sparked a number of recent cases. The Health Department continues to emphasize the importance of social distancing and masks.
The Princeton Health Department’s “mask ambassador” was on the job on Nassau Street on Saturday afternoon, August 1, handing out about 200 free face masks. Of the 246 people who passed in front of the Princeton Garden Theatre between 3 and 3:30 p.m., 211 (85.77 percent) were wearing a mask. Between 4:30 and 5 p.m. on Saturday, 229 people passed with 149 (65.07 percent) wearing a mask.
Princeton Press and Media Communications Officer Fred Williams noted that many of the people not wearing masks were in groups of people, family, or friends, and others had taken their masks off while consuming a recently-purchased drink. The next mask distribution date will be August 11, possibly in Palmer Square. more