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Staff member tests positive for COVID-19, town declares state of emergency

<h6>McCosh Health Center: Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
McCosh Health Center: Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian

One of the two University staff members under self-quarantine since Tuesday has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email sent to all students.

“The New Jersey Health Department has notified the University that one of the two staff members under self-quarantine after possible exposure to COVID-19 has tested positive,” the email read. “The staff member remains in self-isolation, and we are working to ensure they have the support and access to care that they need.”

The second staff member possibly exposed to the virus at an off-campus gathering is still self-isolating — with their result still pending. The undergraduate student tested for COVID-19 yesterday after exhibiting flu-like symptoms “continues to remain in isolation at McCosh until the results are received in the coming days,” according to the email. 

This is the town of Princeton’s first presumptive positive coronavirus case, according a Princeton Health Department press release.

The municipal department was “notified of presumptive positive results for this individual from the New Jersey Department of Health’s Public Environmental Health Laboratory today” and is awaiting confirmatory results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The University staff member is a 49-year old woman who attended a private party at a home in Princeton on Feb. 29 — a party from which upwards of five attendees have now tested positive. She has been isolating at home since the evening of March 9, according to the Health Department.

The staff member began experiencing a mild illness on March 3 and attended a Staten Island dance festival and a meeting at the Princeton Medical Center prior to self-isolating.

The Health Department release notes that they have “contacted the event coordinators” at the dance festival and Medical Center meeting “to further identify any possible exposure.”

“As more cases are observed throughout New Jersey, we are urging people with underlying health conditions, pregnant women and the elderly to practice social distancing by avoiding non-essential travel, public events, community gatherings, and indoor venues,” the Health Department release added. “Everyone and every organization has to do their part to help slow the spread of this virus.”

At 4 p.m. the municipal government held a press conference during which Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert declared a state of emergency. 

Mayor Liz Lempert declares a state of emergency: Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian

The municipality has canceled “all scheduled public meetings” held by government boards and commissions through April 5. Lempert has also canceled all Princeton Council meetings through April 5, excluding “special and emergency meetings.”

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Additionally, with this declaration, the Mayor has canceled “all municipality-sponsored public events,” “all private events held on municipal property,” and “all events requiring municipal permits” through April 30. This includes events for which permits have already been issued.

“We are all in this together, and we are all going to be experiencing severe disruptions in our normal course of business and our lives,” Lempert said. “And it’s important for our community’s public health for each of us to step up and do our part.”

The declaration also barred all municipal employees from business-related state travel and attendance at any business-related large group gatherings “until further notice.”

There are at least 50 positive cases in the state of New Jersey, according to reporting from NBC Philadelphia. At around 3 p.m. today, President Donald Trump held a press conference and declared the pandemic a National Emergency.

The University’s notice went on to emphasize the importance of self-distancing, stating that “no one should be engaging in large gatherings on campus at this time.”

“We cannot stress enough how important it is to adhere to University standards of conduct and follow the public health measures proven to mitigate community spread of the virus,” it read.

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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