CNMI wants CDC explanation on high-risk advisory

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Posted on Aug 11 2020

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Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther Muña is adding her voice to that of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, who had complained about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing a health advisory that designates both Guam and the CNMI as high-risk areas for COVID-19.

Muña, who disputes the CDC’s designation of the CNMI and describes it as inaccurate, has written to CDC to ask it for the reasoning in how it came up with the travel health advisory.

“All Pacific islands, even those with no confirmed [COVID-19] cases, were placed on the same category of high risk,” Muna said.

The Pacific Islands that were placed in the same category are Guam, American Samoa, Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, which includes Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap.

In an earlier radio briefing last Aug. 4, Muna stated that Guam is merely a gateway to a high-risk area. “They may be in Guam for a week or less than a week but if they have traveled from somewhere else, [that makes Guam] a gateway to the high-risk carriers, so we are concerned and we do quarantine individuals,” said Muña.

If an individual comes in from a high-risk area, whether it is the United States, Guam, or elsewhere, even if they have a polymerase chain reaction test, they will still be quarantined until CHCC gives them a green light to be released, she said.

While Guam’s positive rate is 1.6% out of 23,840 tests, the overall percent positive rate in the CNMI is 0.1%, and out of the assumption that the CNMI’s population, including Rota and Tinian, is about 50,000, 26.76% has already been tested. CDC’s data shows that the U.S. has a higher positive rate, which is 8.7%, with its population at 328.2 million.

As of Aug. 10, Guam has 418 cases, the CNMI has 48, while the other islands have none.

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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