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Princeton municipality, community respond to COVID-19 crisis

<p>Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian</p>

Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, several town organizations have followed the University in canceling, postponing, or virtually conducting previously planned events. Over recent days, local schools and businesses have enacted a slew of new procedures.

“COVID-19 is a serious public health threat, so these decisions are understandable despite their social and economic costs,” Mayor Liz Lempert wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian.


“We’ve also been working to spread accurate information to the public about ways to protect themselves and others,” she added. “Our Health Department has been meeting with various organizations, churches, schools, and businesses to help them with their contingency planning in the event they may need to restrict activities, and also referring them to current guidance from the CDC.”

Lempert emphasized that the municipality has taken steps to protect Princeton’s first responders. 

“The municipality has also developed plans for our first responder teams to ensure we have adequate coverage in case of a local outbreak,” Lempert wrote.

Chief Frank Setnicky, of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS), elaborated on these plans and how his squad has prepared for a potential outbreak. 

He wrote in an email to the ‘Prince’ that, among other steps, PFARS has increased the amount of personal protective equipment on hand, begun cleaning equipment more frequently, and utilized virtual alternatives to in-person meetings. Furthermore, PFARS has updated its procedures to follow guidance from the CDC and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Medical Services. 

“If we have a suspected case we will limit the number of first responders responding or treating the patient as not to expose those more than necessary,” Setnicky wrote. “If transporting a suspected case we limit the number of personnel in the ambulances and will try and not take a family member with us.”


Businesses are also taking precautionary measures.

Jack Morrison, the president of the Princeton Merchants Association, told the ‘Prince’ in an email that “informational tools have been utilized to step up safety procedures in all workplaces throughout the community to ensure the public, as well as, our staff members are secure.”

Several Princeton-area public schools have adopted additional safety protocols.

Princeton Public Schools is closing early on Thursday and Friday to explore the possibility of remote learning for students. A Community Park School parent and child are currently under self-quarantine after the parent was exposed to a co-worker awaiting results from a COVID-19 test.

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“We will use this time to continue our preparation for remote instruction as well as to organize meals for our nearly 500 students who participate in the federal lunch program,” said Princeton Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane.

Princeton Public Schools is also postponing events with large numbers of attendees as part of “social distancing” protocol.

The South Brunswick School District announced that it will briefly implement “remote learning” after a South Brunswick High School student and adult community member underwent evaluation for coronavirus. Both individuals were present at the same privately-held event as community members who have since tested positive for coronavirus. 

“We live in a small, interconnected town,” Lempert wrote to the ‘Prince.’ “The University and larger community are tied together in multiple ways. So when we put social distancing protocols in place, it makes it more challenging to meet and interact with each other and the general energy level in the town feels quieter.”

“This is tough [sic] time for everyone and my hope is that we can find a way to build community and strengthen partnerships and supports through this epidemic, even if we have to keep our physical distance to limit the spread of the disease,” she wrote.