NJ to Hire 1K Contact Tracers as Part of COVID-19 Response

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -
Governor Murphy. (Edwin J. Torres for Governor’s Office/File)

New Jersey will be more than doubling the number of public health professionals currently tracing COVID-19 cases, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday.

New Jersey will hire at least 1,000 people, creating a Community Contact Tracing Corps and supplementing the roughly 800 to 900 mostly county health officials who are currently tracing contacts among coronavirus-positive residents, the first-term Democrat said.

The news came as Murphy announced the state’s COVID-19 data is trending in the right direction, though he stopped short of specifying dates by which the state might reopen its economy.

“The road back is paved with five words. Public health creates economic health,” Murphy said. “We will move as quickly as we can but as safely as we must.”

The state’s more than 500 long-term care facilities must also test all their residents for the virus by May 26 under a new health department order, Murphy said. There must also be a follow-up test a week later, and facilities must update their outbreak prevention plans by May 19, he added.

The state added about 900 new positive cases since Monday, bringing the total to about 141,000. It’s the first time since March 25 that the number of new cases has been below 1,000, Murphy pointed out. There were 198 deaths reported since Monday, bringing the death toll to 9,508.

Murphy unveiled a six-part plan last month aimed at reopening.