April 21, 2021

Princeton COVID Cases Trend Down; Vaccines At Hand for 16 and Up

By Donald Gilpin

With COVID-19 case numbers locally continuing to trend down and vaccination numbers climbing, health officials are expressing some guarded optimism, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is talking about lifting restrictions, at least “incrementally,” in the coming weeks and months.

“It has taken a few months of vaccinations, but I believe our data is beginning to reflect vaccinations in our community,” said Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser.  “Despite the increase in vaccinations in New Jersey, the pandemic is not over yet.”

Grosser went on to point out that those who are testing positive — five in the previous seven days, 15 in the previous 14 days, according to the Princeton Health Department’s April 19 report — are on average less than 30 years old and unvaccinated because they were previously not eligible.

With everyone 16 and older who lives, works, or studies in New Jersey eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine as of April 19, health officials expect the average age of positive cases to continue to decline.

About 36 percent of New Jersey adults, about 2.5 million, have already been vaccinated, and more than one-half, about 3.8 million, have received at least one dose. It is New Jersey’s goal to vaccinate about 4.7 million people, about 70 percent of the state’s adults, by the end of June.

The Princeton Health Department has provided vaccinations offsite at senior congregate housing sites over the past two months. “Many of our Princeton residents were seeking ‘local’ shots because of a myriad of barriers to get to regional/mega or other vaccine sites for a shot,” said Grosser. Health officials will provide vaccines at another community location beginning next week and will continue to work to contact those who have not been able to find vaccinations.

Grosser stated that he has seen “a bit of a slowdown in demand for the vaccine,” but he pointed out that the expansion of eligibility to those 16 and older, along with increased community education on the importance of vaccinations, should increase demand.” The health department is once again receiving regular shipments of Moderna vaccine and will continue to have appointments available to the community, he added.

Grosser declined to weigh in on the question of whether he would endorse vaccine passports or whether he supported Rutgers University’s requirement and Princeton University’s requirement, announced April 20, that on-campus students in the fall of 2021 be vaccinated. He did say that the health department continues to work alongside Princeton University as they evaluate their campus community for COVID-19 vaccinations. “Universities should encourage students to get vaccinated as well as provide opportunities for students to receive vaccinations if they are able,” Grosser said.

The NJDOH will be hosting a free virtual town hall on “Saving Lives with the COVID-19 Vaccine” next Tuesday, April 27 at 7 p.m. It will be moderated by Dr. Meg Fisher, special adviser to NJDOH Commissioner Judith Persichilli, and will feature Dr. Irini Daskalaki of Princeton University Health Services; Dr. Hafeza Shaikh of the Cherry Hill Free Clinic; and Dr. Tamara Green, a board-certified emergency medicine physician. To register, visit bit.ly/3rRLrPX.   

An April 20 NJDOH virtual town hall addressed vaccine hesitancy in New Jersey Asian American communities, and three earlier town halls (on the NJDOH YouTube Channel) focused on Black, Caribbean, and Latinx communities.

“More and more COVID-19 vaccine appointments are available each day due to increased supply and the fact that a good percentage of New Jersey has been vaccinated in about four months,” Grosser said.

Residents still looking for a COVID-19 vaccine should visit the NJDOH COVID-19 vaccine finder at covid19.nj.gov/vaccine and/or contact the Princeton Health Department at healthdepartment@princetonnj.gov or (609) 497-7608.