Princeton COVID-19 cases continue to increase

Princeton Health Department officials reported that there were 16 confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, and 23 cases over the past two weeks. The weekly and biweekly numbers are the second-highest weekly and biweekly totals since early May.

The average age of Princeton residents who have tested positive continues to go down and is now 25 for the most recent bi-weekly period. In the spring, the average age ranged from 51 to 59.

Local health department officials have received a total of 283 confirmed positive COVID-19 tests for Princeton residents since the pandemic began. Eighteen residents have died due to complications from COVID-19, and another 13 deaths are suspected to be related to COVID-19 complications.

On Monday, officials issued travel guidance for students who will be returning home this month before the Thanksgiving holiday. Many prep schools, colleges, and universities are ending the semester early before the holiday, and won’t hold classes again until after the new year due to the pandemic.

Local health officials said the safest way to avoid family transmission associated with returning students is to encourage students to avoid travel and remain at school, and to have a virtual Thanksgiving event with family members instead. Schools should provide on-campus meals and encourage students to stay in place for “Friendsgiving.” on-campus, officials said. They said Thanksgiving dining plans should include physically distanced dining arrangements with masks and hand sanitizer in well-ventilated or outdoor spaces.

Students who have recently been exposed to COVID-19 or are sick should not travel at all, officials said. If a student is in isolation or quarantine at a school, the student’s departure should be delayed until the student has been cleared for departure by campus health services after completing the quarantine or isolation period. Students who are ill with any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should not travel.

If a student does plan to travel home, the student should consider getting a COVID-19 test before leaving school. Students should be aware that the test only reflects one point in time, that there can be false negative results, and that the virus could be contracted during travel. Officials said a negative test is not a license to end other preventative measures such as mask wearing and physical distancing. Students should also consider getting tested following the completion of travel.

At least two weeks prior to departure, students should be encouraged to get an influenza vaccine, review the regulations governing travel to their destinations, minimize the risk of exposure and infection during the weeks leading up to the departure from campus, and reduce the number of people with whom they have close contact prior to the trip.

The least risky option for traveling home is private transportation by yourself or with family members. Wear a mask at all times when traveling with others, practice social distancing, use hand sanitizer, and reduce the number of stops on the trip. Use a disinfecting wipe to clean any touchable surfaces in cars planes, trains, and other forms of transportation.

When students arrive home, the most cautious approach is to quarantine for the first 14 days. Officials said this is especially important if there are vulnerable, higher-risk people living in the home or if there is a high prevalence of COVID-19 on the campus or in the local community surrounding the campus prior to leaving for home. Quarantining in the home includes eating meals in a private space or outdoors with family members at least six-feet apart. Students should use separate serving ware, utensils, glasses, plates, and bathrooms (or disinfect the bathroom after each use if a separate bathroom is not available). They should also avoid physical contact including hugging, kissing, and shaking hands. Families should also consider placing HEPA filter units in the home and opening windows to increase air circulation.