Camacho: This is a unified front-line effort

Posted on Jun 09 2020

Personnel of the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority assist the 60-plus passengers who arrived from Guam as they get on the COTA buses at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport tarmac last June 6 at 8am. (Justine Nauta)

The Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority gave a glimpse of what it does to help the CNMI government’s effort to contain any coronavirus infections in the CNMI as the primary transporter of people intended for quarantine or isolation.

Last Saturday at 8am, COTA took the lead in bringing 60-plus passengers who had just arrived from Guam aboard a United Airlines flight to the quarantine site at the Pacific Islands Club. For arriving passengers, you go straight into quarantine and on the fifth day you have the option to get tested or just stay the entire 14-day incubation period.

COTA executive director Alfreda Camacho said they use a total of 18 buses in all: 13 buses for passengers and five for just in case. The number of passengers aboard the United Airlines flight will determine how many buses are needed for transportation and how many COTA personnel will be needed.

“We know, at the latest, around 6:30am to 7am [how many passengers there will be] and then that’s when we can go ahead and plan out how many drivers and vehicles we’re doing to need,” said Camacho. A source said that there were about 67 passengers that arrived last June 6.

Camacho said that COTA’s main role is transportation. COTA’s personnel are equipped with the proper personal protective equipment such as gowns, gloves, and masks. Roughly 20 COTA personnel are mobilized. “We are all fitted with our proper PPEs, to make sure that we conduct this process safely, smoothly, and to help protect the community,” said Camacho.

From the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport, the passengers are first brought to PIC, then the empty buses go to the Alternative Care Site at the Kanoa Resort in Susupe to get decontaminated on the inside and outside before and after every transport.

Camacho said it’s a collaborative effort that involves not just COTA but also the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., the Commonwealth Ports Authority, CNMI Division of Custom Service and DOC’s K9 unit, the Division of Customs, the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, and the Department of Corrections.

“This is a unified front-line effort, and if I missed anyone, I apologize,” said Camacho. “We thank you for your continued patience and understanding during this time because, in the end, we’re all in this together, and we want to thank the community, for supporting all of us here today,” she said.

Robert Mojica, DFEMS public information officer, said that every passenger goes through a health screening upon arriving at PIC Saipan, then the passenger will be given a room where they will undergo the mandatory five-day quarantine. On the sixth day, the passenger has the option of getting tested for COVID-19.

If the passenger gets tested, they will wait until their results come back and, if it’s negative, they will be released. If a passenger doesn’t want to get tested, they will continue with their quarantine until the 14th day, which is the recommended quarantine term of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When asked about how it feels to be on the front-line, Mojica said he tries to make a difference in everything he does. “I try to make everything I do a difference, make it better as much as I can, and whatever we can do to just help out and make Saipan safer, we’re here for it.” said Mojica.

To date, the CNMI has a total of 27 cases, with 18 recoveries, two deaths, and seven active cases.

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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