March 19, 2020

Coronavirus Spread Continues to Accelerate

By Donald Gilpin

With increased testing and the accelerating spread of the coronavirus, New Jersey officials announced 318 new positive tests for COVID-19 today, March 19, bringing the state total to 742. Four new deaths were announced for a total of nine deaths in New Jersey.

The Princeton Health Department (PHD) today announced a fifth confirmed COVID-19 case in Princeton, with the individual identified as “a close contact of an attendee of the February 29th house party. The infected individual has been advised of the exposure and was self-isolating in advance of developing symptoms.”

In addition, the PHD and the Princeton Public Schools announced today that a Riverside Elementary School teacher has tested positive for COVID-19.  PPS reported that the teacher is currently in the hospital and beginning to feel better. PPS Superintendent Steve Cochrane wrote in an email to staff and families, “The Department of Health will be reaching out to students, parents, and staff who may have had more prolonged contact with this particular staff member.”  A separate letter was sent to the Riverside community providing guidance.

The PHD noted that the teacher is not a Princeton resident. “Close contacts will be quarantined for 14 days from their exposure and will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms,” the PHD announced. “We should presume that the virus is occurring in our community. While this does not document community spread (transmission from person to person in the community with no known source) it emphasizes that exposure is occurring in our community.”

The PHD offered the following information for parents:

Q: “My child had direct contact with a teacher/staff member who has confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19). What should I do?”

 A: “Close contacts of any person with documented COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days after that exposure. During that period of time, the child should be monitored for development of the cardinal signs and symptoms of COVID-19 – cough, fever, and shortness of breath. If those signs and symptoms develop, a health care provider should be contacted for further guidance.  As difficult as it will be, that child should be separated as much as possible from other members of the household, including other children, especially if signs and symptoms develop. While other family members are not required to self-quarantine, we are recommending that all Princetonians limit their social contacts at this time, and thus this guidance would apply to other family members as well.”

Q: “My child was in a school which has a teacher/staff member who has confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) but had no direct contact with that teacher/staff member. What should I do?”

A: “If the child DID NOT have prolonged contact (10 minutes or more in direct proximity, and no direct contact), then the child is not required to be quarantined.  Nonetheless, all families have been urged to minimize social contacts across families – play dates, parties, etc. – and this would clearly apply to any child who attends the school – or any school, for that matter.”

Princeton University reported on Wednesday, March 18, that eight university staff members had reported to University Health Services (UHS) that they have been tested for coronavirus. Five have tested positive and are receiving care in self-isolation, one has tested negative, and test results for the other two are pending. Not all of those staff members live in Princeton.

Princeton University also reported yesterday, “We are aware of three students who have been tested by UHS; one test has come back negative and we are awaiting results on the other two. Of the two awaiting test results, one is currently self-isolating on campus at a UHS designated site and one is self-isolating at home. All three have followed appropriate health protocols, including self-isolation.”

All five confirmed cases in Princeton residents stem from a February 29 house party where two attendees from the Boston area later tested positive for COVID-19.

The PHD also announced on Thursday a total of four test results pending; seven negative test results; three isolated, untested but symptomatic; six isolated but asymptomatic; and 20 cleared from quarantine.

 Visit for the latest information from the municipality, Princeton Public Library, and PPS, or visit