In the face of critics who want a speedier state opening, Governor Phil Murphy sat down today in front of reporters in the Trenton War Memorial and pushed aggressively back, while issuing a call to New Jerseyans to join the ranks of a paid state contact tracing corps.
“These are good jobs,” said the governor amid continuing woes of out-of-work New Jerseyans seeking – but not finding – unemployment compensation. Working as part of the fledgling COVID-19 contact tracing corps pays $20-25 per hour, said Murphy, part of a program that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars every six months.
Cold comfort perhaps amid the ongoing trudge of numbers on the health and economic fronts. According to NJ.com, more than 1 million New Jerseyans are out of work because of COVID-19, and more than 88,000 filed for unemployment insurance, as of last week.
But in 24 hours, New Jersey suffered 898 positive CVID-19 test results (for the first time under 1,000 going back to March 25th, yet not a sustained trend) , for a statewide total to date of 140,743 cases.
The state also suffered the 24-hour processing of 198 more COVID-19 fatalties, bringing the statewide total to date to 9,508.
“To all those, willy nilly, who say we can open this place wide, the Nostradamus’ out there who think they they can predict the future, I want you to commit that chart to memory,” said Murphy, referring to the COVID-19 graph pictured above.
New cases per 100K, New Jersey leads the nation.
Patients in hospitals per 100K , we lead the nation;
New deaths per 100K, New Jersey leads the nation.
“The point is we are not out of the woods yet,” said Murphy, who also said New Jersey is on track to provide 20K COVID-19 tests per day by the end of the month, and to continue building out that capacity.
Critically, he wants to build a state contact tracing corps.
“We know we will need at least 1,000 contact tracers to complement the hundreds we already have on the ground,” said the governor, seeking a diverse community of contact tracers.
“Our team of contact tracers need to look like New Jersey,” he added. “These are good-paying jobs.”
New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the state will partner with academia and other institutions to build a corps numbering between 1,000 and 5,000. Corps members will require training.
Speaking directly to reporters later after his presentation, Murphy discussed an incremental state opening, but offered no specific calendar at present. “This is not an on-off light switch,” he said. “We already opened the parks. People can play golf. We’ll see how all that goes.”