By Donald Gilpin
With 287 new COVID-19 cases in Princeton in the previous seven days and 568 in the previous 14 days, Princeton Mayor Mark Freda and the Office of Emergency Management declared a state of emergency in Princeton on Monday evening, with face coverings required in public indoor spaces starting on Thursday, January 13.
“Since December 21, case counts have exploded at an exponential rate,” Princeton Deputy Administrator for Health and Community Services Jeff Grosser told Princeton Council members at a January 10 meeting. “The health department continues to see cases increase at a rate we haven’t seen in this pandemic before.”
To provide perspective, Grosser noted that the first case in Princeton was confirmed on March 10, 2020 and it took a year and a half after that, until July 15, 2021, to see as many cases as Princeton has seen in just the past three weeks.
“It’s a super-fast working variant that has exploded,” he said, “and a tremendous struggle for the health department locally. Expect January to be a pretty difficult month.”
Freda and the Office of Emergency Management stated that its Declaration of State of Emergency was made ”in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people of Princeton,” in the face of “the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.”
Under the new mandate masks will be required in restaurants, bars, gymnasiums, dance studios, recreation facilities, retail stores, cafes, supermarkets, convenience stores, places of worship, commercial establishments, salons, barbershops, banks, health care facilities, hotels, and government buildings and facilities. The order will remain in effect until January 31 unless modified or extended by further order.
The Princeton Health Department has recently been focusing its efforts on the most vulnerable population, those over 65 and individuals in congregate living situations. They have also been working with the area schools to assist with protocols, testing, and contact tracing.
“The emergency mask mandate will assist in community prevention,” said Grosser, more