TRENTON, New Jersey -- Almost three-fifths of people who respond to New Jersey's COVID-19 contact tracers are refusing to cooperate, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday.
Murphy called on people to cooperate with the state's roughly 1,800 contact tracers, whose ranks he built up with the aim of smothering any new outbreaks.
He suggested people are worried that the tracers might pass information along to law enforcement, particularly for those associated with underage drinking parties. But he sought to allay those concerns.
"It's not a witch hunt," he said.
Overall, 82% of people getting initial calls from tracers answer them. He said 59% refuse cooperation, which he called "bad news."
Despite that, he said 20 out of 21 counties have exceeded his goal of hiring 15 contact tracers per 100,000 people. There are 21 contact tracers per 100,000 people on average, he added.
Murphy also reported 500 new positive cases overnight, putting the total at about 196,000. There were nine new deaths reported overnight, raising the death toll to 14,234 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, with 1,789 fatalities likely stemming from the virus.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.