TRENTON, NJ – Governor Phil Murphy today said a new pilot program will be rolled out to New Jersey college campuses that will “ping” students who come into contact with individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. Murphy was asked today if this “pinging” means college students would be tracked by the government and would that information be safe to protect those students.
“We hope to kick that off next week,” said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichili. “We’ll be testing on three or four college campuses. New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware are also using that same app.”
Persichili said the beta college sites will go live, then bugs and kinks will be worked out to see if any student data or privacy would be compromised.
Politico reported in August that contact tracing efforts by states has been a bust and now governors are looking to college to students to justify their continued existence.
This month, an outbreak of COVID-19 at Rowan University showed that 93 students and faculty had contracted the virus in the first few weeks of school. South Brunswick has now seen their first double digit rise in COVID-19 since June and health officials suspect it is due to the return of college students to nearby Rutgers University. Last week, 17 tested positive. Murphy’s nearly 2,000 contact tracers have been unable to trace the origin of the outbreak.
“This is not going to be a normal school year and there will be COVID positive cases, this is inevitable,” Murphy said.
“This is the reason why we set up these surveillance systems,” said Dr. Edward Lifshitz, Medical Director of the Department of Health. “This is the reason why we put the information out to the schools and the schools work with the health deparment…when it does happen, we can recognize it as soon as possible and action can be taken to prevent it from being spread further.