NEW JERSEY — Gov. Phil Murphy learned Monday that the number of people not cooperating with contact tracers had ticked up to 74 percent.
“It’s completely unacceptable," he said, a week after his office stated the same figure stood at nearly 70 percent.
"There's going to be a block of folks who are not going to, for whatever reason, have viewed this as a political, like wearing a mask. They're going to view this is some kind of invasion of privacy. I completely disagree with them,” Murphy said during his Monday afternoon coronavirus press briefing out of Trenton.
“I think the huge bulk of the balance are folks who continue to believe that we're trying to uncover something that we're not trying to uncover," the governor said. "That's the evidence that I have, that they don't want to feel guilty themselves, that they did something in their own home, or that their kid hosted a party that they shouldn't have.”
“Do I have any good ideas as to how to get at it? You’d think that when we talk about people who have died every day, that that would get people's attention,” he added.
A day after a record high 6,046 new positive coronavirus cases, New Jersey tallied another 3,573 on Monday - for a total of 371,579. Another 17 additional deaths were recorded for a total of 17,386 (15,550 confirmed and 1,836 considered “probable”).
The positivity rate is 11.4% and the rate of transmission (Rt) sits at 1.05.
Murphy and Edward Lifshitz, who heads NJ's health department's communicable disease service, also announced the following hospital census figures:
- 3,346 hospitalizations (236 awaiting additional lab tests to link with COVID-19)
- 637 patients in intensive or critical care
- 391 patients requiring ventilators
- 269 new discharges
- 417 new people admitted into hospitals
- 55 new in-hospital deaths (awaiting additional lab tests)
Lifshitz provided a breakdown of deaths by race and ethnicity: White 54.3% Black 17.8% Hispanic 20.2% Asian 5.4% and Other 2.3%.
“We believe, but cannot yet definitively determine, that some of this increase is directly related to the Thanksgiving holiday. Holidays disrupt the normal flow of individuals seeking providers offering and laboratories analyzing tests, making direct comparisons of case counts between days difficult. Given the lag between infection, illness onset testing and reporting of results., full effects as it relates to case counts [are] not expected to be known for several days,” Lifshitz said. “However, it is clear that New Jersey's cases continue to trend up. As our cases increase, it becomes even more important for New Jerseyans to remain vigilant. The department continues to urge caution during the upcoming December holidays.”
More contact tracers, state of indoor dining
New Jersey has 30 contact tracers on the ground for every 100,000 residents in all counties except for Bergen (22), Camden (29) and Monmouth (28), Murphy said.
“You may think you'll just call your contacts yourself, but this is a task that is best left to a trained public health professional, a contact tracer, who can answer questions about access to testing or social supports that they may need to safely quarantine or isolate,” he said. “Our contact tracers are our fellow New Jerseyans, and we are committed to continuing to hire New Jerseyans for this important work. These are people from within our own communities stepping forward to protect their very neighbors.”
On Monday, outdoor gathering restrictions - rollbacks given the new COVID-19 surges - have begun to take effect.
Earlier in the day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York City will reduce or outright ban indoor dining if the coronavirus hospitalization rate doesn’t drop.
Murphy said similar steps are not on the table right now in New Jersey.
“First of all, if we saw explicit waves of transmission coming out of the indoor dining experience, obviously we'd have a different approach,” Murphy said, noting that regardless indoor activities are inherently higher risk. “We are still in the mode where we can surgically strike, we will strike. And we did that with indoor dining after 10 o’clock, we did that with bar seating, and we watch it, we continue to watch it, like a hawk.”
The governor said that today resources like hospital beds, ventilators and PPE aren’t lacking like they were in the spring. Right now, the Garden State is roughly 5,000 beds shy of the peak from this past spring. The state supply also comprises approximately 100 million pieces of PPE and 2,600 ventilators (with just under 400 in use currently).
Murphy said he would rather "strike surgically" when it comes to shutdowns.
“If you shutter something completely, you're driving this into underground activity behind closed doors, private settings,” Murphy said. “We already have an issue with that, and so frankly if we think we can control that manageable risk in an enforceable space, such as a restaurant as opposed to a living room. That is our preference.”