Current modeling for the Marianas suggests that COVID-19 positive cases are to exceed local capacity by late April, with peak hospitalization to occur in mid-June, according to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP).
Sablan said the modeling comes from a briefing by Federal Emergency Management Agency Region IX administrator Bob Fenton that he presented to insular delegates on FEMA’s ongoing response to COVID-19 in the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the CNMI. It was not immediately clarified if FEMA’s reference to the Marianas refers to both Guam and the CNMI.
“In preparation, a 50-bed Federal Medical Station, a type of alternate care site, is under construction in the Marianas to supplement local capacity. The [U.S.] Army Corps of Engineers is also looking at alternate facilities in case additional space is needed,” Sablan said.
Last Thursday, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres announced that the Commonwealth Health Care Corp. has broken ground on the 50-bed temporary hospital at the upper level parking lot behind the existing hospital, the Commonwealth Health Center, to be used as a preparedness and infection control measure should the CNMI experience a spike in the number of COVID-19 patients who would require isolation hospital care.
FEMA is also sending two medical strike teams of 10 to 12 doctors and nurses to Guam to expand capability, one of which will be deployed to the Northern Marianas, if needed.
“Two, point-of-care COVID-19 test machines, which deliver results within 15 minutes, are on the way. To date, the Marianas has received two shipments of personal protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile via military C-17 transport aircraft. A third shipment has been sent,” Sablan said.
On top of these, FEMA is also paying for the two hotels that are being used as non-primary care sheltering areas in the Marianas: the Kanoa Resort in Susupe and the Pacific Islands Club Saipan in San Antonio.
Right now, CHC has a total of 86 beds but only 76 beds are available and there are only 17 ventilators—the machines that are used to treat COVID-19 patients who are having difficulty breathing. Most COVID-19 cases in the CNMI are in isolation at the Kanoa Resort quarantine site; only one is at the hospital. The White House said last week that 500 ventilators on loan from California will be shipped to Nevada, Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.
The CNMI also recently received medical supplies and equipment, including personal protective equipment and gowns for doctors, nurses, and first responders from the U.S. national stockpile.