The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. reports that the CNMI has joined Guam at the top of the list of the highest case rates in the United States.
During a virtual press briefing last week, Stephanie Kern-Allely, regional communicable disease epidemiologist for the Pacific Island Health Officers Association, said the CNMI is now No. 3 in the United States in terms of highest case rates.
Guam is at No. 2 with about 378 cases per 100,000 people. Two days ago, the CNMI had a case rate of 150, which is half that, “so we are now at No. 3,” she said. She did not mention which state is at No. 1.
In addition, Kern-Allely said the CNMI is expecting a spike in cases with the omicron variant found in specimens collected back in December.
The CNMI has already started to see an increase in cases over the weekend. In the latest news report, 204 additional individuals were confirmed positive for COVID-19, bringing the CNMI total to 5,891 cases since March 26, 2020.
Of the 204 cases, 153 were identified on Feb. 4, 2022, and 51 were identified on Feb. 3, 2022. Of the newly identified cases, 119 were identified via contact tracing, 84 via community testing, 1 via travel testing. Ten were identified on Tinian, and 6 were identified on Rota.
As of Feb. 5, there were 10 individuals hospitalized as a result of COVID-19; 5 unvaccinated, 4 vaccinated, 1 partially vaccinated.
Last week, CHCC confirmed that multiple COVID-19 samples sent in to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were identified as the omicron variant.
Of the 64 samples sequenced in the batch sent Jan. 12, 2022, 43 were identified as the omicron variant and 21 as the delta variant. The samples in this batch were collected from Dec. 20, 2021 to Jan. 10, 2022. The first sample that was identified as omicron was collected on Dec. 20, 2021.
According to the CDC, preliminary data suggest that omicron may cause more mild disease, although some people may still have severe disease, need hospitalization, and could die from the infection with this variant. Even if only a small percentage of people with omicron infection need hospitalization, the large volume of cases could overwhelm the health care system.
Persons infected with the omicron variant can show symptoms similar to previous variants. The severity of symptoms can be affected by COVID-19 vaccination status, other health conditions, age, and history of prior infection. Individuals who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines and get COVID-19 are less likely to develop serious illness than those who are unvaccinated and get COVID-19.