N.J. launches campaign to boost COVID-19 testing, cooperation with contact tracers

A medical worker collects a sample after a patient self-administered a COVID-19 nasal swab test at a Walgreens pharmacy, Friday, July 31, 2020, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A medical worker collects a sample after a patient self-administered a COVID-19 nasal swab test at a Walgreens pharmacy, Friday, July 31, 2020, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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Updated: 5:00 p.m.

New Jersey officials reported Wednesday another 378 confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 183,327. Officials also reported eight additional fatalities, raising the death toll to 13,989. They also reported 1,853 probable deaths.

As of Tuesday night, there were 784 people in hospitals across the state with 117 patents in intensive care, according to the state hospital association.

The rate of transmission slightly decreased to 1.32, which Gov. Phil Murphy described as “still too high.”

State launches awareness campaign

New Jersey officials are launching a new public awareness campaign to make sure residents understand the importance of getting tested for COVID-19, cooperating with contact tracers helping to contain the spread of the virus, and taking precautions to prevent getting sick.

The state is spending $2.8 million in federal funding from the CDC on the campaign, which began this week.

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the campaign, “For Each Other, For Us All,” “reinforces that we are in this together.”

“What one person does or doesn’t do, can impact another,” she said. “And we must work together to protect not only ourselves, but our families and our community at large to get through this pandemic.”

The campaign is aimed at those considered vulnerable and at high-risk to COVID-19, especially people of color who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, Persichilli said.

Advertising will run in multiple languages on several platforms including broadcast, digital and social media throughout the summer. Messaging kits will be distributed to local health departments, other state agencies, health centers and community groups.

The campaign will also have a focus on those who are under the age of 30 “because of the risky behaviors we have seen them engage in” — specifically, large house parties, and other gatherings.

Since April, the state has seen an uptick in cases for those ages 18 to 29. Gov. Murphy has since restricted some indoor gatherings to 25% or 25 people maximum.

Persichilli emphasized that when young people gather in crowded spaces without precautions, they are putting other people at risk.

“They are putting their loved ones at risk, they are putting themselves at risk,” she said. “They may affect their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.”

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More than half of MVC backlog cleared

Gov. Murphy announced Wednesday that the Motor Vehicles Commission has cleared more than 55% of its backlog. He said that translates to more than 483,000 transactions, including vehicle titles, tags and registrations.

When the agency finally reopened after it closed in mid-March during the height of the pandemic, it was 16 weeks behind on completing those transactions. Since reopening on July 7, the MVC has gotten through about nine of those weeks.

Officials are still encouraging residents to conduct their business online before heading to an MVC branch to avoid long lines. Murphy, who has asked for “extra patience” while the agency catches up, was empathetic to those still waiting for the agency to get to them.

“If you’re not one of the ones they’ve gotten to yet and you’re frustrated, I don’t blame you,” the governor said. “Our sympathy is completely with you, but have patience; we are getting there.”

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