NEW JERSEY – The state is hiring more than 200 contact tracers as part of its ongoing fight against COVID-19, Governor Phil Murphy announced at press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“There are more than 230 tracers being on-boarded,” Murphy said. This is in addition to the 900 tracers already working throughout the state.

Murphy said they are trained to not only find people who have been exposed but to “see the human faces” affected by COVID-19.

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“An investment in these tracers represents a direct investment in public health,” Murphy said.

Dr. Perry N. Halkitis, Dean of Public Health at Rutgers University, said the goal of the Contact Tracing Corps is to target, test, treat and trace, which are key steps toward slowing the spread of the virus.

Halkitis said they have recruited 1,000 people who will be “rigorously trained and supported in an ongoing effort,” an undertaking he said will go on for “decades.”

He warned about possible scams, as well, informing individuals who are contacted that a tracer will never ask for money or their social security number.

Touting the fact that the New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut are among three of only four states listed by researchers and experts at COVID ACt Now as being close to containing this virus, Murphy also spoke about the joint decision by the three state’s governors to by directing residents that have travelled to “highly impacted areas” to self-quaranine for 14 days when they return.

In total nine states, including Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, were included on the list measured by a rate of positive tests of 10 cases per 100,000 residents on a rolling seven-day average. 

“Working together in so many areas, we have crushed the curves of new cases and of the numbers of our residents in hospitals and connected to ventilators across the tri-state region,” Murphy said. “We've significantly lowered rates of transmission, put in some of the nation's strongest and best testing protocols, and we are emerging from this stronger.

Murphy also announced that on July 2, museums, aquariums, and some in-door recreational facilities will be allowed to open, which include bowling alleys, batting cages, shooting ranges and boardwalk arcades.

Gyms and fitness centers for individual training and by appointment only are allowed to open. General gym admission is not currently allowed.

Libraries will be allowed to open at 25% capacity, as well, starting on July 2.

NJ Transit trains and light rail will resume a full weekday schedule beginning Monday, July 6.

Murphy also reported 169,892 total coronavirus cases in New Jersey, with 317 new cases reported Wednesday. There has been 12,995 deaths in the state, with 48 new deaths reported Wednesday, as well.

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