‘COVID rules may soon be eased’


As the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the CNMI continue to go down, the Commonwealth could soon follow in Guam’s footsteps by lifting COVID-19 restrictions that still remain in place.

According to Guillermo Lifoifoi, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. spokesperson, CHCC, in collaboration with the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, will be basing their decision on the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 community levels and the CDC parameters would guide the CNMI’s decision whether or not to lift COVID-19 restrictions.

Lifoifoi said that CHCC will soon issue a press release about this.

Over a week ago, CHCC shared that the CNMI fell under the “High” category of these community levels but, as of last week, daily positive cases have been dropping significantly, which means the CNMI could soon possibly see these restrictions lifted, Lifoifoi said.

“The community levels we adopted two weeks ago will drive that decision. We are in the High level, [but] dropping,” he said.

Lifoifoi was quick to add, though, that the CNMI won’t be seeing any changes in terms of COVID-19 restrictions until the CNMI falls under the medium category of the CDC’s COVID-19 community levels.

Fortunately, based on recent data, the CNMI could soon be placed in the medium category.

“We won’t see a change until we reach medium. It’s looking like [the CNMI could be reduced to medium soon]. We will have data later this week,” Lifoifoi said.

Effective last Friday, Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero lifted outdoor social gathering limits and withdrew the vaccine requirements for government employees. Prior to the executive order signed last Friday, outdoor social gatherings were limited to 100 people.

Several other countries, including many parts of the United States, have started easing their COVID-19 rules. In South Korea, fully vaccinated travelers arriving from foreign countries will no longer be required to undergo quarantine starting March 21. The South Korean Health Ministry announced last Friday that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be exempted from self-quarantine when entering South Korea. However, these travelers will still need to take the rapid antigen tests six and seven days after entering the country.

During a virtual press briefing over a week ago, Stephanie Kern-Allely, regional communicable disease epidemiologist for the Pacific Island Health Officers Association, said the Commonwealth currently falls under the “High” category of the CDC’s COVID-19 community levels based on COVID-19 data from March 1.

In late February, the CDC 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 fell under the high category.

Fortunately, despite the current high transmission rate, the CNMI is slowly starting to see a decline in the number of daily cases.

In terms of daily COVID-19 admissions, Kern-Allely said the CNMI has been fairly stable.

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 medium category.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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