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Princeton Board of Health looks to messaging as restrictions ease statewide

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Messaging will continue to be one of the key tools used by Princeton officials against potential incidents of failed social distancing as the town eases into re-opening.

Princeton’s Board of Health has discussed increased messaging to decrease the potential occurrence of residents not adhering to social distancing or face coverings when moving through town.

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“Right now is a challenging situation because a lot of the executive orders from Gov. Phil Murphy supersede a lot of local action at the moment. As long as we are under the executive orders, they constrain both the municipality, council and boards authority,” said George DiFerdinando, chair of the Princeton Board of Health. “We always still have the bully pulpit, but there are a lot of people competing for that pulpit at the moment. So messaging is a real challenge.”

Princeton’s official messaging site for COVID-19 related recommendations, news and information is princetoncovid.org. The site is constantly updated to provide the latest up-to-date information for residents.

“Fred Williams (spokesperson for Princeton) and the princetoncovid.org website (messaging) is so important right now as our main authority,” said DiFerdinando, during a Board of Health meeting on May 19.

According to Williams, there have been opportunities to educate members of the public when police officers observed any behavior contrary to the executive orders.

“We have had cooperation from the people which led officers to issue verbal warnings rather than making an arrest or issuing a summons,” he said.

Councilwoman Leticia Fraga reiterated the importance of messaging when it comes the Princeton’s Board of Health authority.

“The Board of Health has more authority than other municipal boards, commissions and committees do,” said Fraga, who is the liaison to the Board of Health. “Messaging regarding the importance of face coverings and social distancing, that is something we are going to keep pushing. The board gets questions as does the council on whether we can enforce that, is not something that is being considered.”

She added that rather than doing enforcement they should encourage the recommendations such as face coverings.

“If we see someone that is not wearing a face covering, the best thing we can do is offer them face coverings when available rather than policing. Because it may be that someone just does not have access to one,” Fraga said. “We are going to keep messaging.”

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