With the recent surge of COVID-19 within the CNMI community and the reopening of schools right around the corner, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and the COVID-19 Task Force are currently in discussion with the Public School System regarding the enforcement of mask-wearing in campus.
According to Dr. Lily Muldoon, Public Health medical director of CHCC, the COVID-19 Task Force is currently in discussion with the PSS to address whether or not mask wearing will still be enforced in campuses and to what extent.
“The COVID-19 Task Force has been in touch with PSS on the school openings and the conversations are still underway on the exact mechanisms for mask wearing,” she said.
In addition, Muldoon said conversations are also underway on whether to make it a requirement for students to get their COVID-19 vaccines in order to enroll for the upcoming school year.
“There’ll be some announcements further about what exactly to expect as the school systems open. But we do expect that the Public School System should open in full. I highly encourage everybody to get back to school and take advantage of this opportunity when we have lower rates of COVID to make sure that our kids are continuing to stay educated,” she said.
Muldoon noted that these conversations were raised following the CNMI’s small surge in COVID-19 cases, which took the CNMI to Community Level Medium, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Being in Community Level Medium means that we should be wearing masks, making sure that we’re staying up-to-date on our boosters, and just being conscientious of protecting our most vulnerable community members. COVID is still with us in our community. We are seeing it impact all different types of people in various ways. I am optimistic that our COVID trends are currently down trending over the last two weeks,” she said.
Jennifer Dudek, territorial state epidemiologist, stated that in-school COVID testing will still be available this upcoming school year.
“There still will be school testing. CHCC is working with public and private schools so that will be a still available within the school systems,” she said.
Dudek said the CNMI is still at Community Level Medium based on the number of cases the CNMI has had had in the last few months, so she encourages everyone to remain cautious as the beginning of the school year inches closer.
“We have had a trend upward as of the beginning of June. As of July 27, there’s been a total of 12,661 COVID-19 positive cases [in the CNMI since the pandemic began]. Our seven-day rolling average is about 22.8 cases per day. We are trending downwards as of the last couple of weeks. We reached as high as almost 240 cases for one week. But in the last two weeks, we have been trending downward. We currently do not have anyone hospitalized,” she said.