Residents of New Jersey are not cooperating with COVID-19 contact tracers at a rate that Gov. Phil Murphy described as “shocking.”
“The rate of noncooperation with our contact tracers is now up to a whopping 74% of cases,” said Murphy at a press briefing Dec. 7. “Quite frankly, this is unacceptable and we need folks to turn that around. Remember, our contact tracers are not on a witch hunt. They are only concerned with stopping the spread of this virus.”
The governor believes there are two blocks of people that need to be convinced to turn around the numbers—those making a political stance and those who believe information will be shared to law enforcement authorities.
“There’s going to be a block of folks who are not going to for whatever reason, viewed this as a political (statement)— like wearing a mask, they’re going to view this as some kind of invasion of privacy,” said Murphy. “I completely disagree with them, but there’s some amount of folks who are not cooperating. I’m fearful that the block will be sturdy and I’m not sure how many that is, but it certainly isn’t 70%.”
“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,” he continued. “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.”
Murphy admitted the numbers are “really, really frustrating” and was at a loss on how to get the message across.
“Do I have any good ideas as to how to get at it? You’d think when we talk about people who’ve died every day that that would get people’s attention. If you have any good ideas…I will take them,” he stated.
State officials have promoted contact tracing as a key element—along with testing and following health protocols such as social distancing and wearing of face masks—in containing the spread of the coronavirus.
“It is extremely critical for contact tracers to get in touch with the close contacts of those who test positive to help us stop the spread of this virus,” said Murphy. “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 in fact, who can answer questions about access to testing or social supports that they may need to safely quarantine or isolate.”
The state continues to build out the capabilities of its tracing corp, reaching its goal of having 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents statewide and all but three counties, including Bergen, have now exceeded. Officials noted an urgent need for contact tracers with Spanish language proficiency.
“Our contact tracers are people from within our own communities, stepping forward to protect their very neighbors. Through their commitment, we are beating our benchmarks. We’re holding up our end of this battle,” stated Murphy. We urge you folks to please work with us. We urge you, please work with our contact tracers, and do your part to end this pandemic. The more people who cooperate, the sooner we can slow the spread and crush the curve, the sooner we can emerge from this pandemic.”
As of Dec. 8, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 377,055 with 5,820 total new cases reported and 90 new deaths, bringing that total to 15,590. The state listed probable deaths at 1,836, bringing the overall total to 17,426.
For North Jersey counties, Passaic had a total of 452 new cases, Hudson 448 new cases, Essex 444 new cases, Morris 427 new cases, Bergen 421 new cases, Sussex 83 new cases and Warren 51 new cases.
State officials noted 49 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 2,038, followed by Bergen at 1,920, Hudson with 1,458, Passaic at 1,202, Morris at 727, Sussex at 162 and Warren with 161.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 252, Essex has 233, Hudson has 159, Morris at 148, Passaic at 144, Sussex has 38 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Dec. 3 was 11.4%, with the North reporting 10.8%, Central 10.2% and South 15.1% on approximately 38,000 tests. 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 increased to 1.08 from 1.05 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 3,481 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,612 in the North, 1,095 in the Central and 774in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 670 are in intensive care units and 422 on ventilators, while 234 patients were discharged.
Essex Tops County Count
Essex has the most cumulative cases in the state with 39,011, followed by Bergen at 38,602, Hudson at 35,115, Middlesex at 34,420, Passaic at 33,393, Union at 30,879, Ocean at 24,547, Monmouth at 23,524, Camden at 22,191, Burlington at 15,785, Morris at 15,579, Mercer at 15,281, Gloucester at 10,575, Somerset at 10,052, Atlantic at 9,039, Cumberland at 5,730, Sussex at 3,068, Warren at 2,858, Hunterdon at 2,818, Salem at 1,891 and Cape May at 1,835.
Another 862 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 70 outbreaks involving 285 cases have been reported in 19 of the 21 counties in the Garden State, with four new outbreaks involving 16 cases recorded in the last week. For North Jersey, Bergen County has nine confirmed outbreaks with 24 cases, Warren County has four confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Sussex County has three confirmed outbreaks with seven cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases and Passaic County has two confirmed outbreaks with 19 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 376 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 7,482 of the cases, broken down between 3,455 residents and 4,027 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,071 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 27,497 residents and 16,709 staff, for a total of 44,206 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,352 on Dec. 8. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,015 residents deaths and 122 staff deaths.