October 5, 2022

Health Dept. Combats COVID, Flu, Monkeypox

By Donald Gilpin

Heading into the fall season surrounded by the threat of multiple infectious diseases is not a pleasant prospect, but the news is not all bad, and the Princeton Health Department has been busy planning and carrying out flu vaccine clinics, COVID-19 bivalent vaccine clinics, and monkeypox vaccine clinics.

“We are just over two and a half years into the COVID-19 pandemic, so adding another emerging infectious disease to the mix on top of our flu efforts is clearly a daunting task — not just for our department, but for all of the public health work force,” said Princeton Deputy Administrator and Director of Health Jeff Grosser. “Along with the support provided by the mayor, council, and administration, we are working closely with the state to acquire additional resources to maintain our efforts in the continued fight against these emerging diseases, while continuing to do everything else that is required of a local health department.”

COVID-19 case numbers and transmission rates seem to have declined or at least leveled off in recent weeks, most reported cases are mild, and President Joe Biden has declared the end of the pandemic, but the country continues to see about 400 COVID-related deaths per day, and COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2021.

The coming of colder weather, indoor gatherings, and the holidays are all further causes for concern. “We’re certainly still on high alert for COVID outbreaks while monitoring new variants of concern, which are reported to our department via the New Jersey Department of Health and our regional epidemiologists,” said Grosser. “We are working through flu, COVID-19, and monkeypox vaccine distribution at community clinics; home visits by our public health nurses; and routine clinics at Monument Hall.”

COVID-19 vaccine clinics are scheduled for Thursday, October 6, at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, 45 Stockton Street, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; an infant clinic for the 6-month to 4-year-old age group on Wednesday, October 12, at Monument Hall, 1 Monument Drive, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; and Thursday, November 3 at La Mexicana, 150 Witherspoon Street, 5-7 p.m.

Flu shot clinics will take place on Monday, October 17, 1-3 p.m. at the Princeton Senior Resource Center at 101 Poor Farm Road, Building B; Tuesday, October 18, 5-7 p.m. at La Mexicana; Wednesday, October 26, 5-7 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library; Thursday, October 27, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Princeton Farmers Market, 172 Alexander Street; and Tuesday, November 1, 3-5 p.m. at Witherspoon Hall, 400 Witherspoon Street.

The health department will also be continuing monkeypox vaccinations for the foreseeable future, Grosser said. As of October 4, New Jersey had reported 722 cases of monkeypox in the state, just 22 in Mercer County, since the first reported case in June. There have been 44 hospitalizations and no deaths from monkeypox in New Jersey.

Grosser recommended continued vigilance. “This will persist as a global illness. Therefore, it is going to be something we will need to continue to educate the public about, continue to implement community prevention strategies, while maintaining readiness to stomp out disease clusters.” The health department is ready to contact trace for monkeypox and administer vaccines when called upon.

Reflecting on the challenges of staying healthy amidst all the concerns of daily life in 2022, Grosser said that each fall he gives his staff some advice that he thought Princeton residents might also benefit from.

“Take it day by day,” he wrote in an email. “Each fall when school begins it seems like those final four months of the year are here and gone in a flash. Do your best to prioritize projects and try not to get overwhelmed. Be proactive about taking time for yourself, and step back from it all when needed. This is easier said than done! Between school resuming and the holidays around the corner, it’s often go-go-go and little time to reflect and consider our own physical and mental health. We just bounce from one project to the next with little reflection or appreciation.”

He continued, “One of our daughters said to me the other day, ‘Wow, Dad, look at the sky. There are so many colors in that sunset. It’s beautiful.’ I hadn’t noticed it. It struck me in the moment because we got her home from school, had a quick dinner, did homework, and sprinted out, barely getting to practice in time. I was happy to know she was able to observe something so beautiful and put all that other stuff aside. It made me think about how we don’t always stop and think about the beautiful things around us. Hopefully this message can remind Princeton residents to do just that, and do their best to slow down and take care of what’s important.”