TRENTON, NJ -- Gov. Phil Murphy pleaded with New Jerseyans to cooperate with the state's contact tracers during hid COVID-19 press briefing in Trenton on Friday.
"More than half the people our contact tracers are getting in touch with are refusing to cooperate. This is highly disturbing to say the least," Murphy said. "Our contact tracers only care about protecting public health. They care about protecting you and your family and your friends."
"This is not about a witch hunt. We don't condone illegal activity and underage drinking, but it's not what this is about," Murphy added. "Take the damn call. Work with them. It’s another piece of personal responsibility to beat this virus."
"Unfortunately, we have seen the percentage of individuals refusing to provide contacts climb to 52%. The number of people not picking the call is 19%," NJ Health Commissioner Judy Persichili said. "It is essential that residents join with contact tracers to contain this disease to protect the health of your family, loved ones and friends."
"Contact tracers are calling because you've tested positive or may have been in contact with someone who has. Contact tracers are calling with life-saving information. They will identify themselves as working with your local health department," Persichilli said.
"If you are concerned it is a scam, contact your local health department. All information is confidential. They will never ask for your social security number," Persichilli added. "For each other, for us all, answer the call."
The governor later reported 313 new positive COVID-19 test results, pushing New Jersey's cumulative total since March 4 to 188,817.13. He then confirmed COVID-19 deaths, which brought the statewide total to 14,112 lives lost. (Of these 13 newly confirmed deaths, ten occurred across the previous five days.)
Importantly, the daily positivity for tests from August 17th was 1.42%. Additionally, the statewide rate of transmission is 1.04, slightly above the 1.0 target rate.
"Our spot positivity is the lowest in the nation," Murphy said.
Overnight, there were 414 patients in our hospitals (221 COVID-19 positive patients and 193 "persons under investigation," pending the return of test results). Among hospitalized patients, 61 are in ICUs and 30 ventilators in use.
"I want to thank all of you for all you are doing to keep the faith that we will defeat this virus, and for doing all the right things to see that we will," Murphy said. "Let’s not let up one bit."
The public water, gas, and electric utility shutoff moratorium has been extended until Oct. 15, the governor announced.
Gas and electric utilities are also offering Deferred Payment Agreements from 12 to 24 months, he said.
"We encourage you to contact your provider for details," Murphy said.