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Town Council hears COVID-19 updates, U. construction plans

<h6>Caitlin Limestahl / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Caitlin Limestahl / The Daily Princetonian

In a meeting on April 6, Princeton’s Town Council heard COVID-19 updates and a presentation on the University’s construction by Kristin Appelget, Director of Community and Regional Affairs at the University.

Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser presented a chronology of what the Princeton Health Department has done to respond to the pandemic and mitigate the virus’ spread.

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“Our work in the Health Department is not even close to being done with this pandemic,” Grosser noted. “I believe we’re getting there. I’m proud of what Princeton has achieved so far in terms of slowing the spread.”

At multiple points of the meeting, Grosser urged residents to stay informed with the most up-to-date resources, available through Princeton’s COVID-19 website.

Dr. George DiFerdinando, chair of Princeton’s Board of Health, provided a broader perspective on COVID-19 and how it relates to the municipality. 

He stated that estimates indicate the “healthcare surge” of COVID-19 cases remains weeks away. He predicted  that healthcare systems and hospitals near Princeton will be overwhelmed for the entirety of April and May.

DiFerdinando said that even if Princeton continues to have a relatively low number of positive cases of coronavirus, there is still the possibility of the municipality seeing the ripple effects of areas with a higher density of positive cases. 

“If we can look at what’s going on in New York and New Jersey, many of the critically ill patients from the rest of the state will find a bed somewhere in an intensive care unit [or] a critical care unit,” he said. “They may find that near [Princeton].”

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DiFerdinando explained how this influx of patients will affect residents.

“Even if we’re fortunate enough to maintain the current circumstance we’re in with sporadic cases, the system’s still going to be overwhelmed near us,” he said. “That’s another big reason to protect yourself. That’s a big intervention to decrease the burden on a system we know is being swamped at the moment.”

DiFerdinando repeatedly stressed the point that wearing face masks is essential to slowing the disease’s spread — or, as Grosser hoped, “bulldozing the curve.” DiFerdinando did not hide his disappointment in the number of people he saw in town without face masks.

“At all these sites I went to yesterday [Sunday], while some of them had every worker covered, the majority of them had, at best, 50 percent of the civilians covered,” he said. “Those civilians need to think of protecting the people that are working.”

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He noted that though cloth masks are “sort of helpful” in protecting the wearer, the main reason for wearing cloth masks is to protect those around you — which, he said, is especially important to remember when interacting with essential workers, such as food service or landscaping employees.

“If you’re not wearing a mask, you’re basically telling that person ‘I don’t need to protect you,’” DiFerdinando said.

Several Council members discussed their individual efforts to help the community during the pandemic.

Council President David Cohen discussed his “buddy initiative,” which pairs residents in need of assistance with a volunteer who can run errands for them or give them a regular phone call. Councilwoman Leticia Fraga said she was planning to make a video demonstrating how to make homemade cloth masks. 

In another portion of the meeting, Appelget updated the council on the ongoing construction of the new residential college and parking garage. 

Appelget said that surface drilling will begin in the next two weeks near Fitzrandolph Road, and residents can expect a noise level as low as that of a lawnmower. This is an early stage of the process for GeoExchange boring, which will allow for more sustainable heating and cooling at the University. 

Appelget also noted that the University will be hosting a blood drive with the Red Cross on campus next week. 

Other items on the agenda included a discussion of resolutions and a report on the budget from Marc Dashield, the town’s administrator.

The meeting was held via Zoom at 7 p.m. EDT and can be viewed on the municipality’s YouTube channel.

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