TRENTON, NJ — There are now 10 contact tracers per every 100,000 New Jersey residents - looking to limit the spread of COVID-19 by informing all potentially infected parties of steps they should be taking.
A new dashboard, announced by Gov. Phil Murphy during a press conference Friday afternoon, will look to further detail steps taking place on the ground.
Murphy said contact tracers were able to successfully make contact with 63% of people confirmed to have the coronavirus. Of those, 45% refused to provide any further contact information.
“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% of individuals with the virus were reachable within 24 hours.
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,” Murphy said. “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, “We do not condone things like underage drinking or any illegal behavior. But that is not what this is about.”
The state’s Department of Health dashboard also reflects an additional 384 positive coronavirus screenings and 12 deaths as of Friday — bringing the total to 184,061 cases and 15,860 deaths (1,853 probable and the remainder lab-confirmed) since March 4.
Health officials confirmed 551 people are currently being hospitalized (298 confirmed to have the virus and 253 under investigation). The state is aware of 120 people in intensive care with 73 on ventilators. The rate of transmission (Rt) is now 1.15.
Murphy said "the greatest impediment" to contact tracing statewide has been the low response rate of people providing information on close contacts.
In the near future, the governor said, the state will aim to have 15 contact tracers per 100,000 people before seeking to double that figure.
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 your county by clicking here.