MORRIS COUNTY — To reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help move Morris County towards recovery, the Morris County Board of Freeholders, in coordination with local and county health officials, is taking steps to initiate an aggressive countywide contact tracing program.
While public health is handled at the municipal level in New Jersey and across Morris County, the Freeholder Board wants to be ready to offer countywide support to all 39 municipalities in what would be an enormous task.
Morris County will seek guidance from the state (which is partnering with New York and Connecticut) on compatible and interoperable contact tracing software. At the same time, the county will move ahead with hiring personnel needed to manage the contract tracing effort.
“We want Morris County to be in the best position to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to be ready to move towards recovery,’’ said Freeholder Director Deborah Smith.
“Our goal is to stay ahead of the curve, to be over-prepared, and to secure the personnel we will need for this contact tracing effort while qualified public health individuals still are available,’’ added Freeholder John Krickus.
Towards those goals, the Freeholder Board has approved and is expediting the hiring of a part-time public health nurse and three-to-five disease control field representatives to bolster the existing Morris County Office of Health Management staff.
Also, the county is fortunate to have volunteers with medical backgrounds from the Morris County Medical Reserve Corp who already have begun to offer their services for the contact tracing program.
Additionally, there are 12 health departments serving 32 municipalities in Morris County, which allows for even greater public health resources countywide. Morris County provides public health services for the other seven municipalities.
Contact tracing involves a bit of investigative health work. Trained staff will interview people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and to try to determine who may have recently been in contact with them.
They then contact those people who have been exposed and can advise them to quarantine to help prevent spreading the disease.
Typically, exposure means having been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 10 minutes, though the contact time may be lower for people in more contagious settings, such as a hospital or medical facility.