TRENTON, NJ - Governor Phil Murphy today laid out details about one his administration's key efforts to prepare and respond to the second wave of the virus that most public health professionals, and policymakers, have said will come.

“It’s not a question of ‘if’ the virus will come back,” Murphy said. “It’s when.”

While social distancing measures will continue to be in place, face coverings will be encouraged, and calls for regular hand washing will be ubiquitous, it is the state’s expansion of a contact tracing program that Murphy said has taken on a “new urgency.”

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Contact tracing is the process by which trained professionals, in this case by the Rutgers School of Public Health, work with patients that have tested positive for COVID-19 and communicate directly with individuals they have come in close contact with, within six feet for 10 minutes or more, to inform of them of steps they should take, including being tested and self-isolating.

State officials expect to have at least 1,600 additional contact tracers in place this month, to supplement the 900 already working on behalf of local and county health departments across the state. Murphy said the training will consist of much more than “learning to use a database” and include lessons in interviewing skills, ethics, and training. 

Following a model established by the City of Paterson which Murphy singled out, the governor said that statewide efforts will be “uniform, secure, and support other communities.”

Reiterating that “robust and comprehensive contact tracing is essential” to New Jersey’s efforts to recover from the health and economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, Murphy urged anyone who is contacted by a tracer to cooperate. “Pick up the phone,” Murphy said, “for your health and your family’s health.”

Heading off questions about privacy concerns related to contact tracing, as well as apps that some have touted as tools to be used to slow transmission rates, Murphy offered assurance that his administration is not employing tracking apps or any other means to locate those who may have been exposed to the virus through GPS or geotargeting technology.

Today marked the 90th day since New Jersey’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was declared. In that time, 165,364 have tested positive for the respiratory ailment, 12,377 residents have died as a result of the virus.

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