TRENTON, NJ — There are now 10 contact tracers per every 100,000 New Jersey residents, according to Gov. Phil Murphy, whose administration is looking to limit the spread of COVID-19 by informing all potentially infected parties of steps they should be taking. 

During a press conference Friday afternoon, Murphy said that the "greatest impediment" to contact tracing statewide has been the low response rate of people providing information on close contacts. 

According to the governor, contact tracers have only been able to successfully make contact with 63 percent of people confirmed to have the coronavirus. Of those, 45 percent have refused to provide any further contact information.

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“The ability to scale contact tracing capacity is crucial to break the chain of transmission, slow communities spread and restart our economy,” said State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, who noted that 44 percent of individuals with the virus were reachable within 24 hours.

Murphy announced the establishment of a new dashboard that will look to further detail steps taking place on the ground.

Contact tracers aim to pinpoint others who may have been exposed to the virus, determined for having been within six feet of someone with the virus for 15 minutes or more.

“No one is asking questions that have any focus other than trying to stop the spread of the virus,” said Murphy. “This speaks directly to our need for greater education about the importance of answering the call of contact tracers and cooperating with them.”

In reference to indoor parties, which have been linked with some uncooperative patients, the governor said the state does not "condone things like underage drinking or any illegal behavior," but that underage drinking is "not what this is about.”

The New Jersey Department of Health dashboard reflected an additional 384 positive coronavirus screenings and 12 deaths—bringing the statewide total to 184,061 cases and 15,860 deaths (including 1,853 probable deaths and the remainder lab-confirmed) since March 4.

Health officials also confirmed that 551 people are currently being hospitalized in New Jersey, with 298 who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 253 who are under investigation. According to officials, there are 120 people in intensive care with 73 on ventilators.

Additionally, the rate of transmission (Rt) has decreased once again to 1.15 as of Friday in New Jersey.

In the near future, the governor said, the state will aim to have 15 contact tracers per 100,000 people before seeking to double the response rate. 

Persichilli informed residents that contact tracers will identify themselves as working with the local health department, but those concerned still have the ability to hang up and call the department to verify.

“Please remember that all information will be kept confidential,” she said. “Contact tracers will never ask for your social security number, financial information or immigration status.”

Learn more about contact tracing in each county by clicking here.

CLICK HERE to read the latest COVID-19 update from the Township of Livingston and Essex County. 

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