November 4, 2020

Board of Health Issues Safe Community Pledge In Ongoing COVID Battle

By Donald Gilpin

The Princeton Board of Health last week issued a COVID-Safe Community Pledge “as a proposal to the people, institutions, businesses, and visitors to Princeton to encourage shared community awareness and actions to protect each other.”

“We have data in Princeton showing that our behavior can help mitigate this pandemic,” said Princeton Board of Health Chair Dr. George DiFerdinando. “That’s what makes me hopeful, that people have shown that they’re willing to make changes. This Pledge is a way of reinforcing what they already know and reorienting them for what they have to do in the fall and winter.”

DiFerdinando emphasized that the Pledge is intended to acknowledge all the hard work that’s been done in Princeton so far to combat the virus, to focus attention on “what we need to keep doing,” and to realize that things are going to be different in the coming months and “we have to be even more conscious of our behavior.”

He went on, “We have to be even more mindful and do things in a specific way. We have to double down.” He mentioned the challenges of bringing students back home from colleges and of celebrating upcoming holidays. He predicted that a vaccine will not be widely available before spring, and that the next five months would be especially challenging.

Princeton Council and Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, in their COVID-19 Update on Monday, November 2, echoed the Princeton Board of Health announcement, noting, “These actions included in Princeton’s COVID-Safe Community pledge, if committed to and followed by the large majority of our community, will have a measurable effect of decreasing exposure, infection, disease, disability, and death. While we cannot change the virus, we can and must change our behaviors to lessen its impact on ourselves and others.”

Noting the onset of “COVID fatigue” and emphasizing the need for everyone to work together to combat the virus, the Princeton Board of Health added, “We all want things to be ‘normal’ again, but COVID-19 is still a threat, so when one of us engages in high-risk activity, we make it less safe for everyone else. This is why it is so important for all of us to continue to follow COVID-19 safe practices.”

The Princeton COVID-Safe Pledge states the following:

“We pledge to value the health of others as well as our own health as we go about our essential activities; remain aware of the risk involved in the activities we engage in and understand that the risks we take not only affect ourselves, but also affect our family, friends, teachers, businesses, and other members of our community; follow to the best of our ability national, state, and local public health guidance related to COVID-19; if necessary, quarantine if exposed, or if returning from travel in an area with high levels of the virus as designated by the state of New Jersey; staying home — isolating — if we become ill with signs and symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or while waiting for a COVID test result until cleared to go out; getting tested if having signs and symptoms consistent with COVID or having been in close contact with someone with COVID; wearing a mask/face-covering over both nose and mouth at all times when out and may be within six feet of others who are not members of our household; practicing social distancing at all times when outside of our home; cooperating honestly and openly with contact tracing to protect the health and safety of others in the community; and being respectful of others in our community and committing to COVID-safe etiquette in the community.”

Noting that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy had warned that the spread is occurring in social events, families, and personal spaces, DiFerdinando added, “Maybe this Pledge will affect people when they’re thinking about those personal spaces.” He noted that the Pledge had already gained significant attention and interest from mayors and local health boards throughout the state.

The Princeton Health Department reported on Monday, November 2, a total of eight active positive COVID-19 cases in Princeton with seven new cases in the past week and 12 in the past 14 days. 

“Since late February, the municipality has been committed to sending an unwavering message of safety and supportive guidance to our community,” said Princeton Press and Media Communications Director Fred Williams. “Now, as seasonal changes conducive to the virus take place, our message will focus on doubling down on COVID-19 mitigation measures.”

He continued, “The irony here is, apart from masking and social distancing, these are the same precautions we take every single year during cold and flu season.”

Vaccination Plan

Murphy and state health officials last week announced a preliminary COVID-19 state vaccination plan for vaccinating 70 percent of the state’s eligible adult population within six months once an approved vaccine becomes available.

According to Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser, the primary strategic aims of the plan include: to provide equitable access to all who live, work, and/or are educated in New Jersey; to achieve community protection; and to build sustainable trust in COVID-19 and other vaccines.

“Early doses will likely be rolled out to long-term care centers and nursing homes directly,” said Grosser. “The Princeton Health Department will be an integral part of the first responder distribution plan in town. First responders will be a priority population to receive the vaccine once it becomes available.”

Stating that the initial supply would probably be limited, Murphy noted, “We will work quickly to move across population segments and deliver vaccines into the communities that were hardest hit by COVID-19.”

He continued, “Our health experts will be closely reviewing the science and will  make the call as to when a vaccine, and which one or ones, will be acceptable for New Jersey. “ Federal funding for a vaccine program is essential, he added. “If we do not receive any additional funds, achieving a 70 percent vaccination rate will take many years, if it happens at all.”

Local Testing

COVID-19 testing is available to all Mercer County residents. An at-home saliva test can be requested by visiting

Mercer County, in partnership with Vault Health Services, is offering free COVID-19 testing on Friday, November 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the CURE Insurance Arena, 18 Hamilton Avenue in Trenton. The saliva test is available to County residents 14 years or older and anyone employed as a first responder or health care worker in Mercer County.

Testing will be limited to 250 people on Friday, but additional pop-up testing sites will be scheduled around the County in the near future.