On Monday, Jan. 10, in its first meeting of 2022, the Princeton Town Council announced it was reimplementing a mask mandate in all public indoor spaces. The mandate will go into effect at 5 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 13. The mandate will stay in place until 12:00 a.m. on Jan. 31, though it can be extended.
According to the Princeton municipal government’s news release, the indoor spaces under the mandate include “restaurants, bars, gymnasiums, dance studios, recreation facilities, retail stores, cafes, supermarkets, convenience stores, places of worship, commercial establishments, salons, barbershops, banks, healthcare facilities, hotels, and government buildings and facilities.”
The order comes as COVID-19 case numbers at both the University and the town are at the highest levels recorded since the beginning of the pandemic. The University has already implemented numerous measures in the wake of the most recent surge.
Princeton Mayor Mark Freda and the Office of Emergency Management also issued a State of Emergency in an effort to combat the spread of the omicron variant. This also comes as New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy re-instated a Public Health Emergency due to “the continued threat of COVID-19 and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.”
“Princeton’s record level of COVID-19 cases, combined with the colder weather that has driven people indoors, the spike in the demand for testing and increase in hospitalizations, has prompted us to take these appropriate steps,” Michael Yeh, Princeton’s Director of Emergency Services, said in a press release.
Jeffrey Grosser, the Deputy Administrator of Health and Community Services in Princeton, announced the mandate during the meeting.
“At this point, community prevention is really our best effort and trying to slow the rapid infection throughout the rest of the community,” he said. “The next few weeks will be tough, but like we did in previous surges, we're going to get through this one as well.”
When asked if the mandate had anything to do with the University’s numbers or the upcoming semester, Grosser wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian, “The town’s mask mandate was based upon community transmission over the course of the past three weeks and the effort to slow down spread of COVID cases that have been overwhelming our local hospitals.”
“Many public locations around town already required/strongly encouraged mask-wearing inside. This will aim at creating a more uniform approach at curtailing community spread of COVID-19 cases,” Grosser continued.
On top of wearing “well-fitting” masks like N-95s and KN-95s, Grosser emphasized the importance of getting fully vaccinated. According to him, the town is at about a 60 percent booster vaccination rate, compared to the rest of the country, which stood at 36.5 percent as of Jan. 10.
The University is requiring all students to receive the booster vaccination.
Later in the meeting, the Arts Council of Princeton announced April Arts Month, a month-long arts festival in conjunction with the University. Festivities will include the Princeton Piano Project, which involves painted pianos popping up around the town, and the first annual Porchfest, where musicians can play on people’s porches around town.
Councilmembers said they were excited about the event, with newly-elected Councilmember Leighton Newlin saying, “This is what we need here in Princeton: more culture through arts and building community.”
The full meeting can be viewed on YouTube here.
The next Council meeting will be held on Monday, Jan. 24.
Charlie Roth is a Staff News Writer for the ‘Prince’, focusing on local town coverage. He can be reached at email@example.com or @imcharlieroth on Twitter or Instagram.