2 test positive in CNMI

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Posted on Mar 30 2020

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The novel coronavirus has now reached Saipan, with Esther Muña, the Commonwealth Health Care Corp. chief executive officer, announcing in an emergency press briefing last Saturday evening that the two specimen that were sent to the Guam Public Health Laboratory last March 27 were confirmed positive for COVID-19 on March 28.

“The two confirmed positive cases involve a 42-year-old male and a 49-year-old female,” said Dr. John Tudela, Medical Affairs director of the Commonwealth Health Center.

Both cases are isolated in quarantine at Kanoa Resort in Susupe after they presented symptoms and got tested at CHC last March 26, Tudela said.

CHC has already started contact tracing for the two patients’ most immediate contacts, which include family members, friends, and members of a faith-based organization, where the two had gone.

One individual recently returned from Guam on March 12 and the other individual traveled to Tinian on March 13 and returned to Saipan on March 14. The two individuals stated that they showed symptoms around March 17 and sought care at CHC on March 25 and 26.

Both individuals met the criteria of a “person under investigation” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection. Their specimens were collected on March 27 and submitted to Guam on the same day.

“Now that we have two [confirmed] positive COVID-19 cases, we are strongly advising all residents to be responsible in practicing good [hand] hygiene, social distancing, and protect our most vulnerable population, including our man’amkos and patients with chronic medical conditions,” said Warren Villagomez, COVID-19 Task Force director.

“Since January, we have done everything to be proactive as a government and implement strict social distancing procedures to keep you, your families, and our man’amko, and our loved ones with pre-existing illnesses safe,” said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, who also spoke at the press briefing, which was broadcasted live via the Office of the Governor’s social media page.

Andy (not his real name), 60, San Antonio, is not surprised. He already expected positive cases to be here. “If Guam already has more than 20-plus positive cases, Saipan would definitely have one soon but I didn’t expect it to be so fast. I just hope people would take this seriously now, try and stay home and stay clean”, he said.

A Koblerville resident had the same thought, saying people should stop those parties at the beach and stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the virus.

Precautionary measures

In a later interview, Tudela said that they have implemented precautionary measures for employees, volunteers, hospital staff, and those in quarantine at Kanoa Resort, which has been designated as a quarantine site. The Mariana Resort & Spa was also being used as a temporary quarantine site but the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services brought those in quarantine there to Kanoa Resort yesterday.

Tudela stated that they have protocols to ensure the safety of everyone who are in quarantine, as well as the first responders.

“We are using PPE [personal protective equipment], and also have designated areas for those who have symptoms that are away from patients/passengers without symptoms,” said Tudela.

Tudela assures that the two individuals are being monitored closely and checked daily, making sure they are stable and don’t need any additional health intervention. There is no reason that the two individuals should be hospitalized, he added.

“I think all of us who are working at Kanoa are really taking a risk. We are the frontline, and that’s why we would like for everyone to do their part,” said Tudela.

In addition, Tudela said that two positive patients that are in isolation do not have any contact with the rest of the people who are currently in quarantine.

“Those that are without symptoms, we have them grouped so that they can do daily stuff, but never in a large group,” said Tudela. Individuals who are in Kanoa are also practicing social distancing—keeping a distance of 6 feet from other people.

According to Tudela, “we have to prepare for the worst.”

“Let us continue to practice social distancing, staying 6 feet apart in public areas, and avoiding contact with our man’amko and our loved ones who have chronic illnesses,” said Torres.

CHCC ventilators

Right now, the Commonwealth Health Center has a total of 86 beds but only 76 beds are available and there are only 17 ventilators. Tudela stated that they will be ordering more ventilation machines.

He stated that Kanoa Resort will remain a quarantine facility to help prevent any more spread or “repress any widespread transmission.”

Guam’s confirmed COVID-19 cases

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services tested 23 individuals for COVID-19 yesterday, March 29. One tested positive and 22 tested negative.

Since March 12, a total of 388 test were performed up until last March 28. Guam now has a total of 56 positive COVID-19 cases and 334 negative, and one death.

According to a statement from Joint Information Center in Guam, seven patients have recovered. A total of 48 individuals that were confirmed positive for the virus are currently in isolation. (With Krizel Tuazon)

Justine Nauta
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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