‘Still zero severe cases’
In what is seen as the biggest surge so far in the CNMI, a total of 98 new cases of COVID-19 were identified on Nov. 22, mostly through community-based testing, or CBT.
During a virtual news briefing yesterday hosted by the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, it was learned that of the 98 newest cases, 82 individuals were identified through community-based testing, 14 through contact tracing, and two through COVID-19 testing at the Commonwealth Health Center emergency room.
Stephanie Kern-Allely, who is a regional communicable disease epidemiologist for the Pacific Island Health Officers Association, said that there are still zero cases of severe COVID-19 so far, and again credited the CNMI’s high vaccination rate, which reduces the risk of severe disease.
As for the vaccination statuses and any reported COVID-19 symptoms experienced by the new cases so far, Kern-Allely said all cases are under investigation and that this information will be shared later.
Kern-Allely added that the CNMI has ample COVID-19 treatment options, and that monoclonal antibodies treatment is readily available. “[We] are actively assessing cases for eligibility and administering [treatment] to continue to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalizations,” she said.
Kern-Allely further reported that of the 82 identified through CBT, 63 individuals were part of an emerging cluster with COVID-19 transmission origins linked to a large congregated living facility. The remaining 19 individuals are deemed unlinked to known clusters for now.
Later into the briefing, Kern-Allely mentioned that one of the two original clusters that combined for the first 21 community cases since Oct. 28 remains active.
She said the contact tracing team continues to identify additional contacts and isolate these contacts. Kern-Allely added that the contact tracing team works around the clock and that the team’s efforts thus far have been boosted by working closely with workplaces, employers, and community groups to encourage individuals to register for and take part in COVID-19 testing.
With Thanksgiving nearing, Kern-Allely said that getting vaccinated remains the best protection against COVID-19. For individuals who have not gotten a dose of a vaccine, Kern-Allely advises doing so, and for those eligible, she advises getting a booster dose. Kern-Allely also advised holding smaller gatherings this Thanksgiving, and holding gatherings outdoors.
Kern-Allely said that immunity against COVID-19 in fully vaccinated individuals wanes over time, and as such advised getting booster shots. She also mentioned that booster shots were recently made available to all individuals aged 18 and older.
Also attending the news briefing was CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muña, Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force chairman Warren F. Villagomez, and the governor’s authorized representative Patrick Guerrero.