Lack of Contact Tracing Cooperation in New Jersey Frustrates Gov. Phil Murphy

As the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations passed over 1,000 for the first time since July, Gov. Phil Murphy admitted frustrations in the cooperation of New Jersey residents when tracing cases in the state.

“I’m frustrated by the contact tracing piece,” said Murphy at a press briefing Oct. 26. “I still think this is a lot of parents trying to protect their kids who had a six-pack of Budweiser, which we do not condone.”

Murphy has proposed the issue for those being contacted is the belief they would be betraying friends hosting indoor gatherings and would rather inform their contacts themselves.

“I think the contact tracer refusal to pick up is folks not wanting to rat people out, including maybe their own kids, or somebody’s restaurant they were in or someone’s club,” said the governor.

No Witch Hunt

The state has an average of more than 21 per 100,000 residents contact tracers in each county, a total of 1,906 statewide. Over the seven day reporting period ending Oct. 17, tracers were able to follow up in more than two-thirds of cases, including 55% of cases within the first 24 hours. 

But the governor noted 58% of those contacted during this period refused to cooperate with contact tracers. 

An expasterated Murphy stated “Come on, folks….I urge everyone to take the call and cooperate with our contact tracers. Nobody is on a witch hunt and no one has any concern other than protecting your health, your family’s health and your community’s health, period.”

New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the spike has resulted in part due to “pandemic fatigue or relaxation of some of the safeguarding, which has caused a general increase in cases.”

Lower Mortality Rate

Officials noted while cases and hospitalization are on the rise, mortality continues to remain low. The state’s capacity to handle the cases is improved from this Spring, with access to more personal protection equipment, ventilators and hospital beds.

“We test a lot more, which allows us to spot this earlier,” said Murphy. “Our medical professionals have a lot deeper understanding today, by far, than they did eight months ago.”  

While deaths are a lagging indicator, Persichilli noted the demographic of those testing positive is younger and the new ways of treating patients has resulted in lower mortality. 

New Therapies Working

“I think they found that individuals that went on the ventilators earlier did not have as good outcomes as proning and high flow oxygen and Remdisivir and dexamethasone,” said the commissioner. “That seems to be what’s working right now.” 

Dr. David Adinaro, NJDOH Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Services, stated while there are currently fewer hospitalization and patients in intensive care units, those who have had the virus face an unknown future. 

“This is still a potentially lethal disease, and even just the people hospitalized…for a lot of these patients, we’re seeing people developing chronic problems related to COVID,” said Adinaro. “I think it’s important to point out that it’s not just people who die, but also these long-term effects of this disease that can last…we don’t know how long at this point.”

Daily Data

As of Oct. 28, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 232,997 with 1,682 new cases reported and 14 new deaths, bringing that total to 14,531. The state listed probable deaths at 1,793, bringing the overall total to 16,292.

For North Jersey counties, Essex had a total of 273 new cases, Passaic 118 new cases, Hudson 117 new cases, Bergen 97 new cases, Morris 90 new cases, Sussex 15 new cases and Warren 13 new cases.

State officials noted 15 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,912, followed by Bergen at 1,818, Hudson with 1,371, Passaic at 1,120, Morris at 693, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 243, Essex has 230, Hudson has 157, Morris at 145, Passaic at 141, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Oct. 22 was 4.5%. By region, the North has a rate of 5.1%, Central at 3.6% and the South at 4.4%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. 

As for the rate of transmission, it decreased to 1.25 from 1.26 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Officials reported 1,010 patients are hospitalized; by region, there were 540 in the North, 229 in the Central and 241 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 194 are in intensive care units and 80 on ventilators, while 122 patients were discharged.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 24,890, followed by Essex at 24,455, Hudson at 22,956, Middlesex at 22,111, Passaic at 20,775, Union at 20,106, Ocean at 16,642, Monmouth at 13,996, Camden at 11,519, Mercer at 9,250, Morris at 9,091, Burlington at 8,416, Somerset at 6,451, Gloucester at 5,519, Atlantic at 5,130, Cumberland at 3,996, Sussex at 1,707, Warren at 1,584, Hunterdon at 1,582, Salem at 1,169 and Cape May at 1,115.

Another 537 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 25 outbreaks involving 111 cases have been reported in nine of the 21 counties in the Garden State, up from 22 outbreaks involving 83 cases a week previous. For North Jersey, Bergen County has three confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Passaic County has one confirmed outbreak with nine cases, Hudson County has one confirmed outbreak with four cases, and Sussex County has one confirmed outbreak with two cases. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 166 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 4,601 of the cases, broken down between 2,595 residents and 2,006 staff. 

Cumulatively, 801 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 25,585 residents and 14,062 staff, for a total of 39,657 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,219 on Oct. 28. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,843 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths. 

One comment

  1. In the late 1970s I was involved with syphilis tracing in Brooklyn. Contact tracers called and were sometimes invited to the house on the basis of “You have been exposed to a serious disease and we want to talk to you” Virtually NO ONE asked the name of the disease”. That person would either come in for testing or have it done at home. Health Dept workers arrived in unmarked cars wearing no medical garb. People cooperated. I wonder what the difference is between now and then.

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