To help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in New Jersey the state Health Department has dramatically stepped up its contact tracing program.

If you test positive for coronavirus, a contact tracer from your local health department will call you to determine to which close contacts you may have spread the virus, so they can be notified, and can self-quarantine and get tested.

But huge numbers of Garden State residents are refusing to cooperate with contact tracers.

During his coronavirus update Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy said more contact tracers continue to be hired — New Jersey is up to more than 30 per 100,000 residents statewide. But the "rate of non-cooperation with our contact tracers is now up to a whopping 74%."

"Quite frankly this is unacceptable and we need folks to turn that around," Murphy said.

The governor also said the fact that three out of four state residents refuse to cooperate with contact tracers is shocking.

“You may think you’ll just call your contacts yourself, but this is a task that is best left to a trained public health professional who can answer questions about access to testing or social supports,” he said.

The governor stressed contact tracers are fellow New Jerseyans who live in the communities where the people they contact also reside.

“Remember, our contact tracers are not on a witch hunt," he said. "They are only concerned with stopping the spread of this virus. We urge you, please work with our contact tracers and do your part to end this pandemic. The more people who cooperate the sooner we can slow the spread and crush the curve.”

Murphy said he believe some people view the contact tracing as government overreach, or an invasion of privacy — which he disagrees with — but “the huge bulk of the balance are folks who continue to believe that we’re trying to uncover something that we’re not trying to uncover.”

"You’d think that when we talk about people who have died every day that, that would get people’s attention," Murphy said.

State health officials stress the information given to contact tracers is confidential. Your name is not disclosed to people you may have come in contact with when you were contagious, and contact tracers are not interested in anything but the information they need to warn those who may have been exposed.

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