May 27, 2020

Princeton Navigates New Phase of Pandemic

By Donald Gilpin

With restrictions lifting gradually in a new phase of the ongoing battle against COVID-19 — parks and beaches opening up, stores and businesses re-starting, outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people permitted, in-person graduations possible in July — Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser discussed how Princeton is navigating the hazardous waters.

“If we look around the country, states that have relaxed social distancing measures are beginning to see increased incidence of COVID-19,” he wrote in an email. “Although many of the governor’s executive orders have greatly impacted our lives, I believe without these efforts we would be in a much worse situation than we are right now.”

The Princeton Health Department reported on Tuesday, May 26, 172 total positive cases of COVID-19 in Princeton, with 65 active positive cases, 83 recovered patients,  17 confirmed deaths and seven additional probable ( symptomatic but not tested) COVID-19 related deaths.  That is just two additional positive cases since Friday with no additional deaths reported.

“Princeton has done a great job in combating this pandemic,” Grosser wrote. “Residents have been extremely supportive and compliant with social distancing efforts. We need to continue working hard to eliminate potential new cases by social distancing, wearing a mask as much as possible, and staying home when we’re not feeling well.”

Grosser noted that the Princeton Health Department has been working with non-essential businesses as they reopen in light of the governor’s executive orders. “The timing of lifting the remaining restrictions (i.e. in-person dining, barber shops, salons, etc.) must be done strategically in order to keep in check the potential for further community spread and creation of new cluster outbreaks,” he warned.

Grosser went on to point out that Princeton Care Center and Acorn Glen, where most of Princeton’s COVID-19-related deaths have occurred, have steadily decreased the number of infected residents.
The two long-term care facilities have been following the recent executive order to update their outbreak protocols to include required COVID-19 testing of all staff and residents. 

“The issue at hand is limited staffing,” Grosser said. “The Princeton Health Department has officially requested New Jersey National Guard to be deployed to Princeton Care Center to provide surge capacity staffing. Both facilities maintain daily communication with the Princeton Health Department staff to provide updates on the status of their outbreak.”

In his coronavirus press briefing on Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy reported  progress in combating COVID-19 in New Jersey, with daily numbers of new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations continuing to drop. He announced that in-person graduation ceremonies will be allowed to take place starting July 6, and professional sports teams will be allowed to resume training camps in New Jersey if the leagues authorize a restart.

The latest numbers include 54 new deaths for a total of 11,191 COVID-19-related deaths in New Jersey, with 703 new cases reported in the past 24 hours for a total of 155,765 total cases.  Murphy emphasized the positive trends, though he cautioned that lags in reporting from the extended holiday weekend might have reduced the numbers. 

The New Jersey Department of Health announced Tuesday a total of 6,544 Mercer County residents who had tested positive for COVID-19, with 452 deaths in the county from complications related to COVID-19.

Actual numbers of COVID-19 infections, locally and statewide, probably surpass confirmed case numbers because of testing backlogs and residents who have not been tested.

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