In a stark reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is still far from over, the CNMI recorded two COVID-19-related deaths this weekend and 42 new positive cases, which came on the heels of two successive three-digit positive cases in the community.
In a news release yesterday, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. confirmed the CNMI’s fourth and fifth COVID-19-related deaths, who were both unvaccinated CNMI residents. The two patients tested positive for COVID-19 in November, were identified at CHCC, and were isolated.
Torres affirmed the first death on Friday, while CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muña confirmed the second death on Sunday.
Torres said “it is never easy to announce the loss of a community member” and asked the community to pray for the families and loved ones of the two individuals. Torres added that these deaths are a reminder that combatting COVID-19 is a community effort and encouraged the CNMI to get vaccinated and work together to keep the number of hospitalizations down.
Currently, there are 1,104 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CNMI with more to be announced soon.
“This is another reminder for all of us to encourage our unvaccinated to get vaccinated for all of us to continue protecting each other during this pandemic. Let’s work together to keep our hospitalizations down. We will continue to keep our community safe,” he said.
Muña also sent her thoughts to the victims’ families and said now is the time to “reflect on the effect of this unforgiving disease.” Muña also encouraged getting vaccinated and, if due for one, receiving a booster shot.
“We strongly encourage our unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated and if you are due for one, get your booster. Do this for protection from severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Also, please continue to practice the 3 W’s: wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance. Consistently practicing these measures help you and others from getting infected with the virus,” she said.
CHCC chief medical officer Dr. John M. Tudela offered his condolences to the families and wished them “comfort, courage, and love in their time of sorrow.”
He said the thousands of vulnerable, unvaccinated or undervaccinated individuals in the CNMI are still of great concern. “Knowing that there are still thousands of vulnerable people in the CNMI who are unvaccinated or undervaccinated is disheartening. I cannot fathom the grief that families will face and I can only comfort them in sharing that we will ensure that their loved ones do not suffer should their condition prove futile. I urge everyone to take our messaging seriously and start taking personal responsibility,” he said. “…I am afraid it is only the beginning as this virus continues to spread in our community.”
The 42 individuals who were confirmed positive for COVID-19 were identified through surveillance testing conducted over three days from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.
As of Dec. 3, the 42 cases bring the CNMI’s active cases to 531 and the CNMI’s total to 1,104. In its news release on Saturday, CHCC said all 42 have been isolated and are being actively monitored.
Of the 42, 24 were identified through community-based testing and 18 through contact tracing. CHCC added that the 18 cases found through contact tracing were identified while in quarantine and also reported that the vaccination statuses of the 42 were pending verification as of last Saturday.
For recent vaccination efforts, CHCC said that 558 COVID-19 vaccines were administered on Dec. 3, bringing the CNMI’s vaccination rate against COVID-19 to 87.9%.
Along with getting vaccinated and practicing the “3 W’s”, the community is reminded to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on how to protect yourself and others. These guidelines include avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces daily, being alert of symptoms daily, and registering to get tested for COVID-19.
In the CNMI, registering for testing can be done at https://covidtesting.chcc.health.
CHCC’s Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center vaccination site is open from 8am to 4pm Monday to Saturday. Vaccines are available at the respective health centers on Tinian and Rota as well. Registration can be done at www.vaccinatecnmi.com.
On Saipan, individuals aged 18 and older are now eligible for booster shots and can walk into the Multi-Purpose Center to request a booster shot. Tinian and Rota residents aged 18 and older will need to call their respective health centers to schedule an appointment.
If experiencing symptoms, individuals are encouraged to see their health care providers right away or call the 24/7 CHCC Tele-Triage Hotline at 670-233-2067.