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By Donald Gilpin
The Princeton Health Department reported Monday that COVID-19 case numbers dropped again, down to 83 new cases in Princeton over the previous seven days and 209 cases in the previous 14 days. Princeton registered its highest new case numbers of the pandemic less than a month ago with a seven-day total of 287 cases from January 4 to 10 and highest 14-day total of 568 from December 28, 2021 to January 10, 2022. Infection rates have declined steadily since then.
Princeton Deputy Administrator for Health and Community Services Jeff Grosser noted the decrease in cases from the Omicron spike, and pointed out, “During the spike, Princeton saw some of its highest rates of COVID-19 cases, but despite the higher case rates, hospitalizations of Princeton residents remained lower than the state average.”
Grosser went on to express cautious hope for the weeks ahead. “It’s too early to tell, but we do know that with the high number of infections, there should be some form of community protection,” he said. “Whether or not this protection provides longstanding support against new variants or case surges is still to be determined.”
On New Jersey’s COVID Activity Level Index (CALI Score), Mercer County, in the Central West region of the state, has dropped from “very high” to “high” for the first time in four weeks.
Princeton Public Schools reported 46 new cases for the week ended January 28, an uptick from the previous week’s 39, but far below early January totals.
The Princeton University campus risk level remained at “high,” but the asymptomatic testing rate continued to decline with 177 positive new cases for a positivity rate of 1.05 percent, down from 1.58 percent, 2.91 percent, and 5.65 percent in the previous three weeks.    
Throughout the state the Omicron surge continues to decline, with the seven-day average for new cases down 41 percent from a week ago and 76 percent from a month ago, as reported by the New Jersey Department of Health on February 1. Hospitalizations in the state were also down significantly, and Monday’s statewide transmission rate was 0.55,
with numbers below 1 indicating a declining outbreak with each new case leading to fewer than one additional case.
Numbers of deaths in New Jersey, which tend to rise weeks or more after a surge in cases, were continuing to increase with 2,380 deaths reported in January, the highest monthly death toll since May 2020.
Princeton’s indoor mask mandate, which went into effect on January 13, ended on January 31 and was not extended “due to the rapid decline in cases,” though the Office of Emergency Management and the health department continue to strongly recommend mask-wearing indoors in public.
The January 31 Princeton municipality newsletter cautioned, “As we have observed throughout the pandemic, during surges in cases due to new variants, the community should utilize scientifically-backed precautions such as physical distancing and mask-wearing. The best defense against severe health complications from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and stay up-to-date with booster doses.”
Grosser noted that the Princeton Health Department is continuing to work on administering vaccines and boosters to eligible populations and is planning additional clinics for March and April to increase accessibility.
The health department will be hosting vaccine and booster clinics on Thursdays, February 3 and February 17, at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, 45 Stockton Street, from 10 a.m. to noon.
Princeton University has announced Moderna vaccination and booster clinics on Thursdays, February 3, 10 and 17 and Wednesday Pfizer clinics on February 9 and 16 at Jadwin Gym from noon to 4 p.m.
Vaccines and boosters are also available at several pharmacies and other clinics in and around Princeton. See covid19.nj.gov or vaccines.gov for further information.
The Princeton Health Department is operating a COVID-19 testing site at the former Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad building at 237 N. Harrison Street next to the Princeton Shopping Center.  Hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but to schedule an appointment visit testnj.online/reg.aspx.
Mercer County has announced COVID-19 vaccine clinics and testing clinics throughout the month of February at CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton and other locations. See mercercounty.org or covidvaccine.nj.gov for further information.
For at-home testing, free rapid test kits are available at covidtests.gov, and free PCR test kits at learn.vaulthealth.com/nj.
Health experts have recently discussed the possible goal of moving from the pandemic phase of COVID-19 to an endemic phase, in which the population would have high enough immunity so that the infection rates would be kept at low levels without widespread hospitalizations. But Grosser is not yet ready to declare the arrival of an endemic phase.
“The goal we are hoping for is to avoid serious forms of COVID-19 disease in everyone,” he said. “There have been many discussions and speculation on how COVID-19 should be considered endemic. With this novel coronavirus, there is still too much to be learned about the occurrence of disease, surges, and community response to define it as such.”

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