TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — For those uneasy about contact tracing and privacy, Gov. Phil Murphy provided many answers on Wednesday that he hopes will ease concerns.

Speaking during his daily media briefing, the governor explained that even though the state-wide stay-at-home order has been lifted, coronavirus remains a very real concern. New Jersey’s hospitalization and new death metrics continue to consistently decrease, but he sad there’s really no telling when the virus will flare up again later this summer or in the fall.

“It’s the job of the contact tracers to notify these contacts to tell them that they may have been exposed, to urge them to get tested, help them find a testing site, and to urge them to self quarantine and provide the support they need to do so,” Murphy said. “To prevent further spread, our job over the coming weeks is to grow their ranks. And we will, and we will do so rapidly.”

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Murphy said New Jersey currently has 900 contract tracers in its employ, but with the next stage of reopening set to begin Monday and other stages to follow, the state is prepared to nearly triple that number by the end of June. He said going forward, the state will hire an additional 4,000 contact tracers, if necessary.

He noted that on the state’s website, more than 50,000 people have inquired about becoming a contact tracer.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Murphy emphasized the program is not a tracking app, which he hopes eases concerns about privacy.

“The safety and security of every New Jerseyan is central to our contact tracing program. The four pillars of this program are in order consent, transparency, security, and limits,” Murphy said. “Our tracers will only contact those individuals whose names they are given by someone who was tested positive. There will be no wild goose chases or rogue investigations.

“We will rely on those who test positive to be open and transparent with us for the common good — common sense for the common good. There is a responsibility on folks who have tested positive to really think through those meaningful, at least 10 minutes, shorter than six feet interactions that they’ve had,” Murphy added.

He said contact tracers will not ask for the following:

  • Social Security numbers
  • Financial information
  • Immigration status

The governor added the information gathered will never be used for:

  • Immigration enforcement
  • Public charge assessment or to deny access to health care or any other essential service

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Murphy said the state ensures total privacy during the contact tracing process, adding health information will never be shared with contacts, and that citizens’ cellphone number or geolocation will never be tracked.

Things you may be asked include:

  • Basic information
  • Health status
  • Living situation
  • Insurance status
  • Nature of your job
  • Communication preferences

If you want to learn more about contact tracing, please go to covid19.nj.gov/testandtrace.

Murphy said Wednesday marked 99 days since New Jersey reported its first positive case of COVID-19. There were 611 new cases on Tuesday, but the daily positivity rate is down to 3.4%.

He also said the metrics out of long-term care facilities, which have been hard hit during the pandemic, continue to decline.

Overall, there were 74 new deaths on Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 12,377.

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