New Jersey to hire 1,000 contact tracers as part of COVID-19 response

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

The state 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.

Register to become a contact tracer in New Jersey

"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."

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NJ Gov. Murphy announces increased COVID-19 testing on May 12, 2020.

RELATED: New Jersey Air National Guard honors health care workers with flyover

Murphy pointed to the top four indicators: hospitalizations, patients in the hospital, patients in the ICU and patients on ventilators. They decreased 36%-71% since the peak. He emphasized that New Jersey is the hardest hit per capita state in the country and is the most densely populated.

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 governor announced $6 million of federal funding will be directed to Rutgers University to boost their test production capabilities from 10,000 tests per day to 50,000 within the next six to eight weeks.

As of Tuesday, there were 135 testing sites in the states, both public and privately operated.

Murphy said along with Rite Aid's testing locations, CVS will be opening 50 sites throughout the state by the end of the month.

The New Jersey Department of Health will be issuing an order expanding access to testing without a prescription for residents with possible exposure who fall in priority categories and lack access to a primary care practitioner, Murphy said.

"Our testing plan will also utilize mobile testing units which will go right into our communities. We will also open testing sites within our institutions of faith, including at churches and mosques. We will work with all our communities of faith to build trust," Murphy said.

The state added 898 new positive cases since Monday, bringing the total to 140,743. 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.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.


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