CHCC monitoring new COVID-19 strain

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Posted on Jan 22 2021

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The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to check if any of the new positive cases of COVID-19 in the CNMI is related to the new COVID-19 variant that is said to be more infectious.

The new COVID-19 variant, called SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.7, is a more highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 and spreads more easily.

CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña earlier said that CHCC will be working with a company in Boston to do a study on the CNMI situation in relation to the new COVID-19 strain but that plan fell through, so CHCC turned to CDC.

Part of the study, Muña said, includes sending a specimen to CDC so that they generate sequencing data from all the specimens to see if there is a connection with that and the new strain of COVID-19. She said that CHCC has already sent samples to CDC.

Muña also said that CHCC is monitoring developments on the new variant, which is believed to be more contagious, meaning it’s easier to spread from one person to another.

As for Guam, the Pacific Daily News reported that they don’t have the capability to confirm if the new COVID-19 strain, which was first reported in the United Kingdom, is on the island, but the Department of Public Health and Social Services said they can send samples to CDC.

Also, DPHSS is freezing samples collected that can be sent to the CDC for genome sequencing to confirm if the strain is on-island.

According to multiple media outlets, this new variant is projected to “dominate” in the United States by March. In fact, the CDC is urging Americans to “double down” on precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as the new B.1.1.7 “super strain” takes hold in the U.S. CDC modeling shows the new strain could cause more than half of new infections in this country by March, even as the U.S. races to deploy vaccines.

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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