TRENTON, NJ – About 1 in 5 New Jersey residents don’t take the call when contacted by one of the state’s COVID-19 contact tracers.

And about half of those who do answer refuse to cooperate.

That was the disturbing news delivered by an obviously chafed Gov. Phil Murphy at his COVID-19 briefing Friday.

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Murphy and State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli have continually touted contact tracing as one of the best techniques to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Those who have been exposed can then get tested and/or quarantine rather than taking the risk of infecting others.

Murphy has credited the state’s robust contact tracing program for playing a big part in flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases.

On Friday, Murphy announced that one of the most telling data points, the rate of transmission, had again fallen below the 1.0 mark. Another good sign to come out of the briefing is that the daily positivity rate (1.63%) remains very low.

Murphy announced that they were adding 185 new contact tracers to their ranks, bringing the statewide total to 1,529.

He was clearly rankled by the news that thousands of New Jerseyans are not cooperating with the COVID-19 tracers.

“It is incredibly important for everyone to take this seriously and to work with our contact tracers,” he said. “Our contact tracers aren’t out on a witch hunt for any illegal activity like underage drinking – by the way, none of which we condone. Their sole task, however, is to stop the spread of this virus and to save lives, period. Please answer the call and work with and be honest with the contact tracer who calls you.”

On a day when the state reported another 582 positive cases and 10 more COVID-19 deaths, Persichilli explained how contact tracers are helping save lives.

And when resident don’t cooperate with contract tracers, “That means that many individuals, the contacts are not aware they have been exposed to COVID-19. These individuals could be your family, your friends, your co-workers who could unknowingly be contributing to the spread.”