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Community members wait hours for boosters, isolation housing expands amid COVID-19 spike

<h5>Community members outside of Jadwin Gym at around 11:50 a.m., prior to the Pfizer vaccine clinic opening. The line would grow in the coming hours.</h5>
<h6>Zachary Shevin / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Community members outside of Jadwin Gym at around 11:50 a.m., prior to the Pfizer vaccine clinic opening. The line would grow in the coming hours.
Zachary Shevin / The Daily Princetonian

As the University marked its highest single-day COVID-19 positive case count since the beginning of the semester, hundreds of students and community members stood in line for hours to receive vaccine booster shots at a University-sponsored clinic.

On Tuesday, Nov. 30, the University reported 18 undergraduate cases, one graduate case, and eight cases among faculty and staff, according to the COVID-19 Resources website.

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From Nov. 20–30, a total of 70 new undergraduate cases were reported on the COVID-19 dashboard. By comparison, in the entire month of October, 11 positive undergraduate cases were reported — and from Nov. 1–19, eight cases were reported.

Though more recent data is not available at the time of publication, the isolation dorm occupancy rate stood at 35 percent as of Nov. 26, according to the University’s COVID-19 dashboard — the highest rate since the semester began on Sept. 1. Thirty-eight undergraduates and nine graduate students are reported as currently being housed in designated isolation rooms.

“The higher number of positive cases among students in recent days has led to increased use of spaces set aside for isolation housing,” Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss wrote to The Daily Princetonian. “While we do still have additional beds available for isolation, the rise in demand highlights the need for the community to adhere to the University’s COVID protocols and public health guidance to minimize transmission and limit stress [on] our systems for supporting those who test positive. 

Following the uptick in cases and the classification of campus risk status as “Moderate to High” on the dashboard, the University mandated new COVID-19 protocols, including increased testing frequency, prohibitions on social gatherings for more than 20 people, and mask mandates in all academic contexts.

The University is also administering booster vaccine shots to all community members and distributing pediatric vaccinations for children ages 5–11 in the Jadwin Gymnasium clinic.

In a message to undergraduates on Nov. 27, Dean of the College Jill Dolan urged all students to receive a booster shot as soon as they become eligible.

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On Dec. 1, the clinic administered 542 booster shots and 118 pediatric vaccines, according to Hotchkiss. Students who received the booster reported that Jadwin Gym hosted four immunization stations throughout the day.

But as of Monday, Nov. 29, there were no appointments available online for the Jadwin clinic and students were left to try their luck with walk-ins.

Now, following Wednesday’s long wait times, the University plans to offer a student-only Moderna booster shot clinic at Jadwin Gym on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. Hotchkiss wrote that the clinic is intended “to make it easier for students to get their booster.”

A TigerAlert announcing the clinic warned students that they should “be prepared for the potential of long wait times outdoors,” and included information about how to register with the New Jersey Vaccine Registering System, which could provide opportunities to receive boosters at other sites in the area.

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In addition to the student-only session, Hotchkiss added, a separate walk-in Moderna clinic will be held for the University community at Jadwin Gym from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m Tuesday, Dec. 7.

Phoebe Lin ’23 stood in line for five hours on Wednesday to get her shot.

“Comparatively to, like, Disneyland, this line is long,” she said, when interviewed at the three-hour mark.

At 3:45 p.m., around 60 people were still waiting in line outside of the gym in hopes of getting a shot. A public safety officer outside of Jadwin Gym, who spoke with the ‘Prince’ on the condition that he not be named, said he would estimate the last person in line at that moment still had two hours to wait to be admitted. By the time they would reach the front of the line, it would be 6 p.m., when the clinic was scheduled to close for the night.

Lin, who was closer to the front of the line, wouldn’t receive her shot until two hours later — at around 5:45 p.m.

The officer said that although doors were scheduled to open for vaccines at 12 p.m., a line had already started to form more than 90 minutes before then. Those he observed standing throughout the day felt “aggravated,” he said, but on the whole seemed to remain in good spirits.

“One lady came with a chair,” the officer said, but most were left standing.

A few students began to play cards, he recounted, and one student practiced juggling. Many in line seemed to take advantage of the wait to get some work done, pulling out laptops and books for classwork.

“All of us wanted to get this out of the way as soon as possible,” Albert Lin ’23, who waited in line with Phoebe Lin (no relation), told the ‘Prince’. “We all assumed it’s something we’ll have to do at some point anyway.”

Rolf Ryseck, a senior research scientist in the molecular biology department, likewise waited in line for hours. In part motivated by encouragement from the University and in part by his desire to protect his own health, Ryseck said he wanted to get the shot as soon as possible.

Hotchkiss added that the University does “strongly recommend that all members of the University community get a booster as soon as they are eligible.”

“Vaccination continues to be our best weapon against COVID and provides robust protection against severe illness and death,” he wrote.

Another mitigation measure for the uptick of cases, the University stressed, is ensuring that contact tracing can proceed efficiently.

“We want to remind students of the importance of being responsive when contact tracers reach out to them,” Hotchkiss wrote. “Contact tracing is an important tool in slowing the spread of COVID.”

Editors Note: This article has been updated to include more information provided by Hotchkiss concerning the state of isolation housing. 

Isabel Yip is a news contributor for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at isabelyip@princeton.edu or @isaayip on Instagram.

Marie-Rose Sheinerman is a senior writer who has reported on COVID-19 policy, faculty controversy, sexual harassment allegations, major donors, campus protests, and more. She can be reached at ms78@princeton.edu or on Twitter at @rosesheinerman. She previously served as a news and feature editor and presently assists with content strategy.

Sidney Singer is a news contributor for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at sidneysinger@princeton.edu or on Instagram at @sidneysinger.

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