With the CNMI in the middle of a surge in COVID-19 infections arising from the omicron variant, the Commonwealth currently falls under the high category of the U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 community levels.
During a virtual press briefing with the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. last week, Stephanie Kern-Allely, regional communicable disease epidemiologist for the Pacific Island Health Officers Association, said this is where the CNMI is at based on COVID-19 data from March 1.
Kern-Allely said the CDC has released new COVID-19 guidelines, including metrics to measure COVID-19 community levels. The three new metrics used to measure COVID-19 community levels include: new COVID cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, new COVID admissions per 100,000 people, and the percent of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.
Although the CNMI is considered low on two of these three metrics, because of the consistent high number of daily cases, the CNMI falls under the high category.
“Our current COVID-19 community level in the CNMI, with data up to March 1, is high. Although two of our three are sort of close to that lower, medium mark, we still have really high rates of COVID-19 here in the community and we’re also seeing cases on Tinian [and] Rota, which we didn’t see with the delta surge back in December. So, until that overall transmission number comes down a little bit further, we’ll still be in this high category,” she said.
Fortunately, despite the current high transmission rate, the CNMI is slowly starting to see a decline in the number of daily cases.
“That’s been declining in recent weeks, which is great, great news. Thanks to folks getting their booster shots. We haven’t seen this since the end of November. Now with the numbers coming down, I’m hopeful that the trend will continue,” she said.
In terms of daily COVID-19 admissions, Kern-Allely said the CNMI has been fairly stable. “In the last couple of days, our hospitalizations and our admissions have been fairly stable, which is a testament to the high vaccination coverage,” Kern-Allely said.
As for the third metric—percentage of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients—the CNMI is hovering at around 12% to about 10%, which is around the mdium category.
Overall, because the CNMI is still experiencing pretty high transmission rates, CHCC is encouraging everyone to avail of the free testing that is offered to ensure that the spread can be controlled.
“We’ve been seeing a reduction in testing over the past couple weeks. I would encourage folks to access testing. We want to make sure that we’re keeping our friends and family safe. Make sure that you’re not positive and you’re not transmitting it to anybody that you might be seeing. I just want to encourage folks to continue to get tested,” Kern-Allely said. (Kimberly B. Esmores)