“A whopping” 74% of New Jerseyans reached out to by contact tracers – local health officials tasked with containing COVID-19 outbreaks – are not being cooperative, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday at his COVID-19 press briefing.
That marks a major obstacle in the state’s ability to get a handle on the pandemic, as it surges in New Jersey and across the nation.
“This is not a witch hunt,” Murphy said at a Monday press conference. “We’re only trying to stop the spread of the virus. Work with our contact tracers.”
Over the weekend, New Jersey marked an all-time record-high of more than 6,000 cases in one day. The new figures are likely reflecting the early phases of a Thanksgiving surge, Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the state’s communicable disease service medical director said.
The ability to keep businesses open and not reimpose COVID-19 closures relies on local and state health officials contacting potential positive cases, urging them to self-quarantine and get tested.
Tracers collect the contact information of anyone the person might have been near or around during the period in which they may have had the virus, and urge them to also get tested and self-quarantine.
Compliance has always been spotty since the summer, with roughly two thirds of New Jerseyans refusing to cooperate.
According to state health data, 69% of people who cooperated with contact tracers refused to hand over contact information of who they may have physically been with in recent days.
Many New Jerseyans contacted have said they prefer to personally notify their contacts who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
But Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli warned against that, saying that contact tracers can more recommend how to test and self-quarantine, and an array of social services.