2 more local COVID-19 cases

Posted on Mar 16 2021

Expanded contact tracing from the positive community cases identified over the weekend has resulted in the identification of two more positive COVID-19 cases yesterday, raising the CNMI’s cumulative total to 156.

This means a total of 10 individuals have already been identified as a community cluster of COVID-19 cases, according to a Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force statement. This includes the 147th case last Friday, 148th, 149th, and 150th cases on Saturday, 151st, 152nd, 153rd, and 154th cases on Sunday, and the 155th and 156th cases yesterday.

“This is an evolving situation, and updates will be made available as the COVID-19 Task Force and [the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.] continue to confirm results and information as part of this investigation,” said the statement.

Despite this development, the task force and CHCC said there is no high-risk for community transmission.

According to the CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña, over 50 people have been identified through contact tracing and everyone have been tested, resulting in the confirmation of the new cases.

Additionally, CHCC yesterday was able to test approximately 200 individuals, including the community-based testing at Kanoa Resort and inbound flight. Muña said that testing ended at 4pm yesterday and that test results takes six hours to process, so the results will be announced later. CHCC will continue its CBT today until March 19 from 1pm to 4pm at the Kanoa Resort in Susupe.

In a text message interview, Muña encouraged people to prioritize their health. “Not delaying your care when you need it not only ensures you stay healthy, but it also contributes to the strengthening of our health system,” she said.

During the emergency press conference last Saturday, Muña urged people not to panic, saying that a year ago today the CNMI didn’t have the “tools” that the CNMI now has to contain and identify cases quickly. This includes the COVID-19 testing kits that amounted to over 60,000 and some, three testing platforms—BioFire, Abbott ID Now, and the polymerase chain reaction test, personal protective equipment for the island, and more.

“This is the new normal. We need to remember that three W’s is not going away soon [and] it is something that we have to be prepared for. …As we continue to vaccinate more people, the whole goal is to try to ensure that we are [all] protected from severe illnesses,” said Muña.

While she doesn’t advise a lockdown for now, Muña said that that ultimately would be up to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.

In a text message, she encouraged people to avoid unnecessary trips and limit gatherings to close family and friends. “The mitigation efforts CHCC and the task force put in place are there to keep the CNMI safe. Let’s continue to be vigilant and enforce them,” Muña said.

Similarly, Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force chair Warren Villagomez said those who are were in contact with the recent cases should comply with the contact tracers.

“I’m asking the community to work with our contact tracers and ease the pressure that they already have in making sure that you know we’re getting through the situation we’re in,” said Villagomez.

Justine Nauta | Correspondent
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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