BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
New Jersey is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, with state officials reporting a spike of 585 new cases Friday and 699 on Thursday, up from the 484 reported on Monday.
The state has hired 1,529 contact tracers — including 185 new people hired this week — which equates to 17 per 100,000 residents. However, most residents are not cooperating when contacted by a contact tracer, Gov. Phil Murphy said at Friday’s debriefing.
Twenty percent of COVID-positive residents reached out to by contact tracers are not answering the call. Fifty percent of those who did pick up the phone refused to give the tracer any information, according to Murphy.
“The sole task is to stop the spread, to save lives. This is not a witch hunt,” he said.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli concurred that residents were not cooperating with contact tracers.
“So people don’t know if they have been exposed. These people can be your family, your friends, your coworkers,” she said, pointing to the increase in positive cases.
Murphy announced that the November general election will be primarily conducted by mail. Registered voters will receive a mail-in ballot in early October. Due to issues with the U.S. Postal Service, Murphy said the state will offer more options for voters, including 10 special ballot drop-boxes per county. Voters will also be able to hand their ballot to a poll worker on election day.
Fifty percent of polling places will be open for voters with special needs only for provisional ballots, and for ballot drop-off.
The deadline to register to vote will be Oct. 13.
The 585 new cases reported Friday, Aug. 14, brings the statewide total to 187,164. The virus transmission rate remains at 0.92. The positivity rate is at 1.63 percent.
“We have seen an increase in cases and we encourage you to wear masks and social distance,” said Persichilli.
The state reported 10 new deaths on Friday, up from the nine reported on Monday, bringing the total to 14,064. The number of probable deaths now stands at 1,839. Hospitals also reported four deaths overnight.
Thursday night, hospitals reported 514 hospitalizations, down from 592 Sunday night. Ninety-one people were in intensive care on Thursday, down from 111 on Sunday. Forty patients were on ventilators, compared to 35 ventilators in use on Sunday.
Health officials are tracking counties that have daily increases of more than 25 positive cases. Yesterday Essex County reported 35 new cases. Today however, Essex County health officials revised the positive cases down by 136, from 19,831 to 19,695. The number of deaths was also revised downward, from 1,864 to 1,852.
Of the cases recorded in Essex County through Aug. 6, people in the 30-to-49 age group represented the largest share, at 34 percent. Twenty-eight percent of cases were in the 50-to-64 age group, while 15 percent were between age 65 and 79, 11 percent were 18-29, and 8.8 percent were 80 or older.
Essex County deaths are broken down as follows: 36 percent were aged 80 or older, 35 percent were 65-79, 22 percent were 50-64, 6 percent were 30-49 and 0.5 percent were 18-29.
The most recent update from Montclair health officials on Thursday reported an increase of one new case, now totaling 485, while the number of residents who have died from the virus remains at 54.
Officials also reported no new cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, and the number of cases remains at 54.
Essex County will be hosting satellite testing sites 4 to 6 p.m. at the following dates and locations:
- Tuesday, Aug. 18, Essex County Branch Brook Park Cherry Blossom Welcome Center, Newark (located between Mill Street & Heller Parkway)
- Thursday, Aug. 20, Egan Field, 15 Oak Lane, Essex Fells
The Weequahic Park testing site will be held on Mondays from 2 to 5 p.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.