As the university marked its highest single-day number of COVID-19 positive cases since the start of the semester, hundreds of students and community members queued for hours to receive booster vaccinations at a university-sponsored clinic.
On Tuesday, Nov. 30, the university reported 18 cases of undergraduates, one case of graduates and eight cases of faculty and staff, according to the COVID-19 Resources website.
From November 20-30, a total of 70 new undergraduate cases were reported on the COVID-19 dashboard. In comparison, 11 positive undergraduate cases were reported throughout the month of October — and eight cases were reported from November 1-19.
While no more recent data is available at the time of publication, the isolated dormitory occupancy rate was 35 percent on Nov. 26, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard — the highest rate since the semester began on Sept. 1. – eight undergraduate and nine graduate students are currently housed in designated isolation rooms.
“The higher number of positive cases among students in recent days has led to increased use of spaces reserved for isolation homes,” university deputy spokesman Michael Hotchkiss wrote to The Daily Princetonian. “The increase in demand highlights the need for the community to adhere to university COVID protocols and public health guidelines to minimize transmission.”
Following the rise in the number of cases and the classification of the campus’s risk status as “Medium to High” on its dashboard, the university has mandated new COVID-19 protocols, including increased testing frequency, a ban on social gatherings for more than 20 individuals and mask mandates in all academic contexts.
The university also administers booster vaccinations to all members of the community and distributes pediatric vaccinations for children aged 5-11 at the Jadwin Gymnasium clinic.
In a message to students on Nov. 27, Dean of College Jill Dolan urged all students to get a booster shot as soon as they qualify.
As of Dec. 1, the clinic administered 542 booster shots and 118 pediatric vaccines, according to Hotchkiss. Students who received the booster reported that Jadwin Gym had four vaccination stations throughout the day.
But as of Monday, November 29, there were no appointments available online for the Jadwin clinic and students had to try their luck with walk-ins.
Now, after Wednesday’s long waits, the university plans to offer a Moderna boostershot clinic for students at Jadwin Gym on Thursday, December 2 at 3 p.m. Hotchkiss wrote that the clinic is “to make it easier for students to use their booster.”
A TigerAlert announcing the clinic warned students to “be prepared for the potential long wait times outside the home,” and included information on how to register with the New Jersey Vaccine Registering System, which could provide opportunities to receive boosters at other locations in the Surface.
In addition to the student-only session, Hotchkiss added, a separate Moderna clinic for the university community will be held at Jadwin Gym on Tuesday, December 7 from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM.
Phoebe Lin ’23 queued for five hours on Wednesday to get her shot.
“Compared to, like Disneyland, this line long‘ she said when interviewed after three hours.
At 3:45 p.m., about 60 people were still queuing outside the gym hoping to have a chance. A public security officer outside Jadwin Gym, who spoke to the “prince” on the condition that he not be named, said he would estimate the last person in line at the time would have to wait another two hours to be admitted. By the time they got to the front of the line, it would be six in the evening when the clinic would close for the night.
Lin, who was closer to the front of the line, wouldn’t get her shot until two hours later – around 5:45 PM
The officer said that although the doors were scheduled to open for vaccines at noon, a line had already started forming more than 90 minutes before that time. Those he saw standing around all day felt “aggravated,” he said, but seemed to be generally in a good mood.
“One lady came with a chair,” the officer said, but most of them stopped.
A few students started playing cards, he said, 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 school work.
“We wanted to get all of this out of the way as quickly as possible,” Albert Lin ’23, who was standing in line with Phoebe Lin (no relation), told the Prince. “We all assumed it’s something we’re going to have to do someday.”
Rolf Ryseck, senior researcher in the molecular biology department, also stood in line for hours. Motivated in part 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 “highly recommends all members of the university community to get a booster as soon as they qualify.”
“Vaccination remains our best weapon against COVID and provides robust protection against serious illness and death,” he wrote.
Another mitigating measure for the increase in cases, the university stressed, is to ensure that contact tracing can be efficient.
“We want to remind students of the importance of being responsive when contact tracers contact them,” Hotchkiss wrote. “Contact tracing is an important tool to help slow the spread of COVID.”
Isabel Yip is a news contributor for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at [email protected] or @isaayip on Instagram.
Marie-Rose Sheinerman is a senior writer who has reported on COVID-19 policy, faculty controversies, sexual harassment allegations, major donors, campus protests, and more. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @rosesheinerman. She previously served as a news and feature editor and currently assists with content strategy.
Sidney Singer is a news contributor for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at [email protected] or on Instagram at @sidneysinger.