January 19, 2022

“Stay Proactive” as COVID Case Numbers Decline

By Donald Gilpin

The recent COVID surge in Princeton and throughout the state seems to have peaked, with numbers starting to decline, but Princeton Deputy Administrator for Health and Community Services Jeff Grosser warns that we’re not yet out of the woods.

“Surges of cases over the past two years have taught us one overarching lesson: we need to stay proactive with our public health precautions when cases are both surging and declining,” said Grosser. “We need to be careful thinking this could be the last big surge, because time and time again new variants are teaching us new lessons.”

The Princeton Health Department on January 18 reported 195 new cases in Princeton over the previous seven days, down from 257 reported last week, and 462 new cases in the previous 14 days, as opposed to 529 reported last week. The highest seven-day totals in Princeton were 287 for seven days and 568 for 14 days, both recorded earlier last week on January 10.

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) reported on Tuesday, January 18 that the COVID-19 transmission rate in the state has fallen to 0.92, with numbers below 1 indicating declining case numbers with each new case leading to fewer than one additional case. The transmission rate was 1.02 on Monday, 1.09 on Sunday, and 1.92 at its most recent high on January 1.

Princeton Public Schools, for the week ending January 16, reported a total of 79 new COVID-19 cases, down from 96 cases the previous week and 167 the week before that, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard. PPS students accounted for 59 of last week’s cases, with 20 staff members testing positive.

Grosser noted that the situation is improving for schools throughout the state. Only 4 percent of the state’s schools are currently closed and on remote learning due to COVID-19, down from 33 percent on virtual or hybrid learning two weeks ago.

The campus risk status at Princeton University remains “high” for the week ended January 14, though the positivity rate, with 225 positives out of 7,745 tests,  was 2.91 percent, a decline from the previous week’s 5.65 percent.

Most of the cases in the recent COVID surge have been due to the Omicron variant, with 53 percent suspected omicron in the four weeks leading up to January 1 and 95 percent of more recent cases attributed to omicron, according to Grosser.

He noted that early evidence indicates that Omicron symptoms are less severe than previous variants, but “infection rates are so high that overextended hospitals are struggling to care for patients, both those with COVID and those with other conditions.” Vulnerable populations, such as older adults and the immunocompromised, he added, “are still susceptible to serious illness and death.”

Grosser emphasized the importance of vaccinations. “Staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination continues to be at the top of the list of best defenses against COVID-19,” he said. “There are hopes that COVID-19 will eventually shift from pandemic to endemic, meaning there is enough immunity around the world to reduce COVID to a seasonal illness like the flu. However it’s important to remember that there are still vast numbers of people around the world who have not been vaccinated. Low levels of vaccination can also contribute to new variants, which we must continue to stay ready for. In short, until the majority of the world’s population is vaccinated, it will be difficult to get COVID-19 fully under control globally.” 

The Princeton Health Department is working with a New Jersey-based diagnostic laboratory to establish an additional COVID-19 testing location in Princeton. The site will offer both PCR and rapid tests. Further details will be available later this week.

A Montgomery Township testing site is in operation at the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Inc.’s Skillman Campus at 199 Grandview Road Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. See montgomerynj.gov/health/page/monty-pcr-testing-clinic-open for details.

Testing is also available through Mercer County and at many locations throughout the state. Further information is available at covid19.nj.gov.

The Princeton Health Department will be hosting COVID-19 clinics on Thursdays, January 20, February 3 and 17 at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, 45 Stockton Street from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and on Thursday, January 27, at La Mexicana, 150 Witherspoon Street from 5 to 8 p.m.

Princeton University is hosting a Pfizer COVID-19 clinic on Wednesday, January 19, and a Moderna clinic on Thursday, January 20, both from noon to 4 p.m. in Jadwin Gym.

Mercer County, in partnership with Capital Health and Penn Medicine Princeton Health, is hosting frequent clinics through January and into February, with details available at “COVID-19 Vaccinations” at mercercounty.org.

Appointments for the above clinics can be made at covid19.nj.gov.