New Jersey Hot Spots Flare as Contact Tracers Are Turned Away

Five of New Jersey’s 21 counties are reporting swiftly rising novel coronavirus cases while Covid-19 carriers increasingly refuse to cooperate with tracers trying to stem the spread, Governor Phil Murphy said Friday.

Statewide, contact tracers reported that 58% of individuals reached in the past week declined to help. A week earlier, 56% were uncooperative, according to state officials. In August, just under 50% wouldn’t disclose information.

Ocean County alone accounted for 20% of 612 cases reported over the past 24 hours, according to health department data. Bars in some towns in recent weeks have been cited for failing to enforce social-distancing rules. The county also is home to MTV’s “Jersey Shore” party house, where law enforcement on Sept. 14 broke up a gathering of hundreds of young people responding to a YouTube invitation.

At least half the county’s cases this week were in Lakewood, whose tight-knit Hasidic Jewish community is in the middle of the high holy days. The state has been in contact with religious leaders to review safety steps for worshiping in groups. And it’s providing thousands of test kits, according to health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. The state also is assigning Lakewood more contact tracers, who alert people to the possibility of infection by a known carrier.

Rising cases in Monmouth County are attributable partly to house parties, and those in Gloucester County are linked to Rowan University students, she said. Bergen and Middlesex counties also have higher-than-usual numbers.

In all, 16,097 New Jersey deaths have a lab-confirmed or probable Covid-19 link. The state, which on Monday reported exceeding 200,000 cases, now has 202,100 positive results.

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