So how are things going with the latest surge in COVID-19 cases and the government actions in response to these numbers? At least in New Jersey, not all that well, apparently. Garden State residents are clearly suffering from a wave of pandemic fatigue, but in this case, it’s not simply a matter of being tired of the virus. A significant majority are clearly equally tired of the Governor’s authoritarian response to the surge in new cases. Like many other states, New Jersey has attempted to step up its contact tracing protocols, quizzing everyone who produces a positive test result as to who they’ve been in contact with recently and then hunting down those people to question them as well. But over the course of November, Governor Phil Murphy reports that nearly three quarters of those individuals refused to cooperate with the government contact tracers when they came knocking at their door. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy expressed his frustration with people who aren’t willing to help COVID-19 contact tracers. During a Monday press conference, the New Jersey governor urged residents to cooperate with contact tracers.
“The rate of noncooperation with our contact tracers is now up to a whopping 74% of cases. Quite frankly, this is unacceptable and we need folks to turn that around,” Murphy said. “It is extremely critical for contact tracers to get in touch with the close contacts of those who test positive to help us stop the spread of this virus.”
Murphy said contact tracers are not conducting a “witch hunt,” that they’re just trying to help people.
Murphy reiterated his demands on social media, insisting that the government isn’t engaged in a “witch hunt.” He’s just trying to help people, you see.
Contact Tracing Update:
We now have more than 30 contact tracers on the ground for every 100,000 residents.
The rate of non-cooperation is now up to a whopping 74%.
This is not a witch hunt. We’re only trying to stop the spread of this virus.
Work with our contact tracers. pic.twitter.com/ZL79FkiWst
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) December 7, 2020
Murphy went on to suggest that at least part of the surge in numbers was a result of too many residents having the nerve to go celebrate Thanksgiving with their relatives. In addition to the army of thousands of contact tracers that have been deployed, Murphy rolled back some of the reopening measures that had been in place. Public or private outdoor gatherings are now limited to 25 people instead of the 150 person limit that was previously in place. Also, all youth and high school sports are once again prohibited.
Back in the spring when we were still largely in the dark about this new virus and people were hitting the panic button, we saw a lot more cooperation on the part of the public. I had the sense that Americans were largely falling back into their traditional attitude of everyone being in this mess together and a readiness to find a way to safety. But a lot of time has passed and a general feeling of “fatigue” is obviously setting in. The bizarre, conflicting reports we’ve seen about everything from the actual effectiveness of cloth masks to just how lethal COVID-19 really is have raised legitimate questions in the minds of many.
I was one of the people sounding the alarm all the way back in March about the dangers of handing unbridled authoritarian powers to state and municipal executives, lest they gain a taste for such broad, sweeping control. The government’s arguments have been further undermined by the “do as I say, not as I do” habits of multiple governors and mayors. The complete crashing of one of the most vibrant economies the country has seen in ages didn’t do much to assuage people’s concerns either.
Underneath it all, there were always valid concerns over how intrusive the government would become in terms of the collection of citizen’s data and personal information. Telling bartenders and waitresses that they will need to collect the names and addresses of everyone who orders a beer was never going to go over well. When a stranger in a mask shows up at your door and demands a list of everyone you’ve come in contact with over the past week, how do you expect people to respond? It’s not unfair to ask where all this data is being stored and who will have access to it once the investigation is concluded.
I’ll grant you that a 74% rejection rate was even higher than I ever would have predicted, but should we really be all that surprised? We’re approaching the one year mark since all of this garbage began and people are growing sick and tired (both literally and figuratively) of it. Vaccines have been developed at a record pace that almost nobody predicted originally. Distribution is beginning and will ramp up in the weeks and months to come. Yes, the novel coronavirus is here and it’s likely here to stay. But we’ve managed to keep the flu largely under control for decades and we’ll do the same with COVID.
You’re never going to get the death rate to zero (just as we never have with the flu) but it will be as “under control” as is manageable. People aren’t that stupid in general. With all of that in mind, I have to wonder if New Jersey isn’t acting as more of a harbinger than an outlier. There’s a limit to how much of this the public is going to put up with, and it sounds as if we’re very close to hitting that limit.