COTA to help increase testing access to the vulnerable

Posted on May 20 2020


Gov. Ralph DLG Torres gets off one of the vans of the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority that brought passengers to the Alternative Care Site at Kanoa Resort. (Iva Maurin)

The COVID-19 Task Force is making the community-based testing even more accessible through the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority.

COTA’s entire fleet has been activated to transport individuals from the airport to the quarantine site and to support the transportation needs for persons under investigation to the isolation facility.

In Monday’s House of Representatives committees on Commerce and Tourism meeting, task force chair Warren Villagomez said that action items are in place to reach out to the CNMI’s vulnerable population, as well as to get to the villages. “We are…working along with COTA to try to bring our elderlies and the community that don’t have access to the testing [and] also access to Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.,” he said.

Rep. Joseph Lee Pan Guerrero (R-Saipan) urged the task force to help families and individuals who may not have access to vehicles. “Give the community that security that you’re there to make sure that everybody get tested, and we want people in the community to be tested, so we can get that number to where we want it, so we can hopefully open domestically first, before we start considering [opening] international,” he said.

For safe transport, COTA has taken measures, with vehicles going through a decontamination process, to ensure passengers are safe while aboard, assured COTA special assistant Alfreda P. Camacho in a separate interview. “We take it very seriously. Safety is our first priority,” she said, and added that they have gotten together with the COVID-19 Task Force to get tested together as a group.

Villagomez added that the task force is working with Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter for a listing of the vulnerable population, “not just the elderly but the folks that are compromised, home-bound population, to come up with different ways [for] testing and access to care at [the Commonwealth Health Center].”

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ Economic Recovery Team, with CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña, has been highlighting the importance of community-based testing as key to gradually lifting restrictions that are in place, as well as to reopening the CNMI back to tourists.

CHCC will be going out and bringing nurses to assist the island’s vulnerable populations. To date, the hospital has collected 3,420 specimens, which according to Muña, is at about 5% of the CNMI population.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at

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