TRENTON, NJ – Governor Phil Murphy is building an army of information gatherers, contact tracers that will investigate COVID-19 positive cases and link those cases to others who were in contact. So far, it’s not working as planned as many residents of the state are ignoring calls from contact tracers, but Murphy suggests a public education program could be necessary to get the results he wants.
Murphy announced a new COVID-19 contact tracer dashboard so residents can see the success and failures of the now 1,344 strong army he has assembled.
“This dashboard will allow everyone to see where our core of now 1,344 contact tracers is currently on the job as well as the latest available information on their efforts since COMCARE, the state’s uniform data reporting system was launched last month,” he said.
Across the state, there are currently 15 contact tracers on the ground for every 100,000 residents, and more will be added until every county hits that 15 per 100,000 thresholds.
“Then we’ll seek to double it. You may ask by when? My guess is by fall, end of year, in that timeframe. We’re on our way to seeing these ranks keep growing,” Murphy said. “From the work of our contact tracers, we are already seeing what works and where we need to work harder. According to the dashboard, 63% of those who are called by a contact tracer were successfully reached. Nearly half of all contacts were able to be notified of their exposure. That’s good.”
Murphy said the greatest impediment to contact tracing has been for people not answering that important phone call or worse yet, refusing to assist our contact tracers.
“Among those who have tested positive for coronavirus and did answer, 45% refused to provide any contact information to our contact tracers. We need to be perfectly clear; this is about public health, period. No one is out on a witch hunt here. We do not condone things like underage drinking or any illegal behavior, but that is not what this is about,” Murphy said. “No one is asking questions that have any focus than other than trying to stop the spread of the virus. This speaks directly to our need for greater education about the importance of answering the call of contact tracers and cooperating with them.”
On Wednesday, Health Commissioner Judith Persichili outlined the Governor’s new public awareness campaign which the Department of Health is undertaking to inform New Jerseyans of the vital need to answer the call and to work with our contact tracers to protect public health.
“Putting our community contact tracing core on the ground and providing the resources they need is only half of the equation. The other half is for you all to answer the call and help them so that together we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and to protect anyone who may have been exposed,” he said. “We will update the dashboard, Judy, every Friday. It will be a once a week update. Our contact tracers are on the frontlines of our pandemic response. I and we thank every single one of them for their commitment to the work ahead. Their work is vital to the health of our communities, and we will continue to work directly with our diverse communities so every resident knows the importance of the work our contact tracers are doing.”
Photo: (C) Warner Brothers, screen grab, the Matrix.