Three days after the CNMI logged its 50th positive case of the virus that causes COVID-19, three more passengers who were tested upon arriving yesterday morning, Aug. 17, were also found positive for the coronavirus, lifting the CNMI’s total to 53.
The three individuals were identified through traveler screening and are currently in the designated isolation area where the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. can monitor the three individuals.
Contact tracing has been conducted for the most immediate contacts of the latest cases such as passengers on the same flight, close family members, friends, and associates.
In reference to the CNMI’s 50th case, CHCC held a press conference yesterday, during which Esther Muña, CHCC chief executive officer, said that 10 personnel—three health care providers, five registered nurses, and two Northern Marianas College nursing assistant trainees—were in close contact with the 50th case.
“[The 10] close contacts of case 50 have been quarantined and are being monitored. To ensure the peace of mind of the employees, their families and our patients, [we] instructed these personnel to self-quarantine. In the event that they aren’t able to separate themselves from their families, they are able to quarantine at the designated government quarantine facility,” said Muña.
She assured that CHCC is confident in their infection control practices, and has deemed the 50th case as low risk. The spread of the virus from the 50th case is also deemed low risk, she added.
Addressing speculations about the 50th case, which was reportedly identified through a mandatory pre-operation screening for a scheduled surgery operation at the hospital, Dr. Beth Kohnen, CHCC’s deputy chief medical officer, said it was actually a case of “delayed diagnosis.”
Muña explained this means that an individual who’s prescreened for COVID-19 before surgery may come back as negative, but is later found positive after the surgery. She said that the COVID-19 is usually done 48 to 72 hours before the surgical procedure is actually performed,
“So an individual who’s on the table may not be COVID-19-free, even though they were tested and gone through prescreening,” said Muña.
Muña said that, once they were informed that the 50th case was positive, they immediately did contact tracing.
Subroto Banerji, CHCC chief operations officer, says that it’s hard to tell which specific area the possible transmission occurred, but that is the reason why the contact tracing team at CHCC continues to “follow up on leads.”
“We have identified at least 10 individuals who were as part of the surgery event and then beyond that. There’s been at least five additional family members who’ve been identified as close contacts. We are back tracing these individuals’ connection to previously identified cases, looking backwards to cases identified in early in June and July,” said Banerji.
Banerji added that looking back as far as June and July allows them to check if there is some family connections. However, investigation is still ongoing, and they will continue to “dig and investigate all the possible sources of possible transmission.”
The Commonwealth Health Center has been able to resume elective surgery procedures because they have adequate supply of personal protective equipment.