As summer approaches and New Jersey continues to gradually reopen based on improving data, it may be tempting for residents to resume life as if COVID-19 never happened. But the pandemic is not over. Despite the declining number of cases, the virus is still circulating. Many of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 have not exhibited any symptoms. The best way to stop its spread and prevent the resurgence we’ve seen in other states that have reopened their economies is through robust testing and contact tracing.
COVID-19 Testing in New Jersey
New Jersey recently passed the one million mark in diagnostic tests performed in the state. We need to continue this trend to slow the transmission of the virus. Testing is vital to identify positive cases quickly, trace contacts and encourage them to get tested, self-isolate and monitor for symptoms.
“Testing is vital to identify positive cases quickly, trace contacts and encourage them to get tested, self-isolate and monitor for symptoms.”
Since the pandemic began, the Murphy Administration has worked aggressively to ramp up testing. Today, testing is available for all residents who want it or need it at more than 250 testing sites.
As the outbreak spread, it further exposed and underscored long-standing health and economic inequalities in our nation and state. Residents of communities of color have been disproportionately impacted due to barriers in healthcare and testing, as well as a higher prevalence of underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for serious complications and death.
To help reach underserved populations and urban areas, we are working to offer greater access to testing through mobile and walk-up sites in partnership with local public health departments, community and faith leaders, and the private sector.
Who Should Get Tested?
It’s especially important to get tested if you fall into any of the following categories:
- are experiencing symptoms, including: fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, sore throat, muscle pain, shivering, headache or new loss of taste or smell
- have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19
- are an essential worker (healthcare professional, transit worker, first responder or food-service worker)
- have participated in a large gathering—like a demonstration or march —where you may not have been able to maintain social distancing
Contact Tracing in New Jersey
Along with testing, it is also important to track the virus once someone tests positive.
“…the State is working with the Rutgers School of Public Health to develop a contact tracing curriculum that will help us to recruit, train and deploy 1,600 additional tracers by the end of June.”
New Jersey’s local and county health departments are at the center of our contact tracing efforts, with approximately 800 contact tracers already on the job. To boost their ranks, the State is working with the Rutgers School of Public Health to develop a contact tracing curriculum that will help us to recruit, train and deploy 1,600 additional tracers by the end of June.
Contact tracers will call only if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or if you may have come in close contact with someone else who did. It’s critical that you answer the call and provide important information that will help you and will help the State to prevent further disease transmission in your community.
Trained contact tracers will provide information about how you can protect those around you from getting sick, such as isolating yourself. They will tell you about available community supports, such as job protection measures, pandemic unemployment benefits, childcare resources and food assistance through NJ SNAP and WIC. If necessary, they will be able to link you to services to support you during your self-isolation period.
Any information collected through contact tracing will be kept confidential. The contact tracer will not reveal your name or COVID-19 status to your contacts—that information will be provided only to public health officials. They will never ask for your Social Security number, financial information or immigration status. Your cell phone or GPS location won’t be tracked, and the confidential information you provide will never be shared with immigration or law enforcement.
New Jersey is a very diverse state. We are working to ensure that as many as possible of these new contact tracers come from and reflect the diversity of the communities they will be working in. We expect that they will be able to effectively communicate and engage with individuals who speak languages other than English and have diverse cultures.
Success Depends on You
In order to be successful, we need to ensure residents are familiar with and trust the process. We have been reaching out to public health officers, community and interfaith leaders and elected officials so they can educate their residents on these public health tools. These efforts will help us build a stronger and safer New Jersey. But for us to be successful, we are counting on everyone to participate and cooperate.
Do your part: Get tested to ensure your health and safety and that of your loved ones. And if a contact tracer telephones you, take the call. You can save a life.