Health Dept. Prepares for School Reopenings and Fall Flu Season
By Donald Gilpin
With September fast approaching, the Princeton Health Department continues to work with Princeton Public Schools, Princeton Charter School, and area private schools on their return-to-school plans. The New Jersey Department of Health issued guidance on school openings on August 13, the same day Gov. Phil Murphy announced that all-virtual learning would be acceptable as long as certain conditions were met and the schools had a clear plan for progressing soon to at least partial in-person learning.
“Princeton schools have put a tremendous amount of time and effort into these plans,” said Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser. Those plans include extensive measures to implement protocols and policies to keep students and staff safe.
The Health Department reported one new case of COVID-19 in Princeton on August 16, the only new case of the past seven days, with four new cases in the past 14 days. The new case was noted as a family/household exposure linked to an out-of-county occupation exposure.
Princeton now has four active cases, 211 total positive cases, and 176 cases recovered with isolation complete. There have been 18 COVID-19-related deaths and an additional 12 probable COVID-related deaths. The average age of death in those cases is 84.6 years. The average age of all Princeton COVID-19 cases is 55 years.
Last Friday, August 14, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that, to help protect against COVID-19, all active registered New Jersey voters would receive a prepaid return-postage mail-in ballot for the November 3 general election.
The plan is similar to how New Jersey conducted the July primary elections, mostly through mail-in voting with some polling locations available. Murphy noted that the July 7 primary registered the second highest voter turnout in the history of New Jersey primaries.
“No one should have to choose between their right to vote and their health,” he said. Voters will have the option of returning their ballots by mail, depositing them in a secure drop box, or handing them directly to a poll worker at a polling place on Election Day.
Each municipality will be required to open at least one in-person polling site. Voters who choose to cast their ballots in person will use a provisional ballot. All individuals with disabilities will have access to an ADA-conforming voting machine.
“Making it easier to vote doesn’t favor any one political party, but it does favor democracy,” Murphy said.
In an announcement yesterday, August 18, Murphy added two states, Delaware and Alaska, to the New Jersey quarantine travel advisory, bringing to 35 the total number of states and territories designated as COVID-19 hotspots. Individuals traveling to New Jersey from those states and territories are advised to quarantine for a 14-day period.
In their August 17 Princeton COVID-19 Update, Mayor Liz Lempert and the Council announced that Princeton residents are invited to participate in a community-focused longitudinal study related to COVID-19, being led by a Princeton University research team.
The data collected from this study will help draw a more accurate picture of the number of infectious cases, even among people showing no symptoms, and get a better sense of the antibody response at the individual and the community level. Participants do not need to have COVID-19 or to have recovered from COVID-19. All Princeton residents over the age of 2 are invited to participate. See princetoncovid19.com to enroll or get more information.
Grosser pointed out that flu season is approaching, and the Princeton Health Department has scheduled their regular flu clinics from the end of this month through November. Clinic information is available at princetonnj.gov.
The Health Department has been tracking the ongoing Southern Hemisphere influenza season, which typically predicts what is to come in the Northern Hemisphere from November to February.
“Currently it appears that their influenza season has been very mild compared to last year’s,” Grosser said. “Some public health professionals have attributed this to increased physical distancing policies and mask wearing. If this is the case, it bodes well for us, but we are still encouraging everyone to get their flu shot this fall.”