These are pretty good jobs, the governor asserted today, acting all of a sudden like an employment counselor. After all, they pay 25 bucks an hour.
Phil Murphy was talking about what may turn out to be at least 1,000 available state jobs in the field of “contact tracing.”
In the world of infectious diseases, this is not a new concept. But in the midst of a pandemic, it’s likely many are hearing the term for the first time.
The premise here is simple.
When someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, medical officials want to know how many people interacted or came in “contact” with the infected individual over the previous 48 hours. Once accomplished, the next step is to interview those people and recommend a course of action, which could mean a quarantine.
The governor said the key was “meaningful interaction.” A state health offical described that as an interaction lasting at least 10 minutes.
So, that excludes such chance meetings as two people brushing past each other in a supermarket or jogging in opposite directions on a trail in the woods.
Key to contact tracing, of course, is the willingness of infected people to cooperate and to detail their recent movements. It also is necessary to maintain the privacy of the sick individual. Further problems relating to privacy can develop if mobile phones are used to track movements of people.
The governor announced plans to implement the program at today’s briefing, pairing it with a plan to expand testing capabilities to 20,000 a day by the end of May. Both programs would help the state re-open.
On that score, Murphy said, “The progress is undeniable.”
He pointed to recent data showing average 30 percent decreases in recent weeks in the number of state residents hospitalized, in intensive care and on ventilators.
Additionally, the governor noted that the daily increase in COVID-19 cases of 898 was below 1,000 for the first time since late March.
All this comes amid continuing clamor, generally from Republicans, to quickly reopen the state.
“Governor Murphy may want to look at a calendar,” said Senator Michael Testa (R-1). “Memorial Day is
almost here and our tourism dependent economy will be hit extra hard for every day beyond then that he forces our community to stay locked down. It’s absurd that his administration’s planning doesn’t account for regional differences in recovery trends and local planning.
“Cape May County, for example, has a thoughtful and detailed plan to allow for reopening around Exit 0 to happen safely once restrictions are lifted. Governor Murphy needs to recognize that the 1st Legislative District is not densely populated like much of North Jersey. We shouldn’t be treated the same. The harm he will cause our community by delaying reopening is completely unnecessary and will have life-altering, long-lasting effects.”
The governor addressed them today, saying all those predicting rosy times ahead – he cracked that some probably see themselves as Nostradamus – should examine another set of figures.
And that chart showed that based on virus cases and deaths per capita, the pandemic still may be hitting New Jersey harder than any other state. And Murphy also reported 198 additional deaths today.
The governor can take solace from a just-released Eagleton poll showing that 66 percent of residents think the process of reopening the state is going at the right pace. Only 16 percent said it’s going too slow.
Sure, polls can change, but as of now, unless he hears differently from Nostradamus, you can expect the governor to stay the course.