Just wondering…


Been making calls as a concerned citizen and asking questions. When you work infection and death numbers for the size of CNMI’s population vs the rest of the United States and around the world it certainly seems that things here are far from being under control.

Why hasn’t the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. COVID-19 dashboard numbers been updated in two weeks?

Why is there a complete lack of geographic representation of cases/infection clusters so people can adjust their behaviors (and avoid hotspots)?

Who gave the political/administrative order for the CNMI to throw up its hands, surrender, and adopt the defeatist and non-science based “learn to live with the virus” nonsense that is a part of MAGA and populist nationalism playbooks?

CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña seems like a decent person who is trying but she isn’t an elected official, an infectious disease specialist, a scientist, or a doctor. Why is she the CNMI’s face of COVID control when all she does now is rest upon positive platitudes and false responses that the CNMI’s COVID response and vaccination rate is “world class” when that only applies to the uptake of two shots by the population while three jabs are now the accepted minimum? Great, if not outstanding, the previous work at getting two shots into arms but I know of almost no one here other than myself who has received the third shot. What is the rate of uptake of third inoculations? Why isn’t that rate reported?

Antigen tests often don’t detect the Omicron SAR-CoV-2 variant. The hospital here won’t give people a PCR test unless they have a positive antigen test. This is ridiculous. Whose bright idea was this?

There are drive-up PCR tests available now and then. That’s good. Why no on-demand, walk-up PCR tests in major villages and public markets/events for people who don’t have cars? Would seem to be some serious disregard for those with lower incomes and those who choose not to have cars (for environmental, sustainability, and financial reasons).

Allowing new arrivals to circulate with the general population after only one test is absurd. Without doubt, new arrivals are spreading the omicron variant far and wide throughout Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

Lastly, why is no one talking about ventilation and airflow here? From what I can tell, infections are happening at home, with family and in public businesses/venues—often all have terrible ventilation and little exchange of fresh air. I’m not blaming anyone as part of this is a function of where we live, temperatures, humidity, closed/sealed buildings, and air conditioner use. Not having doors and windows open is what is causing most of the transmission to occur. Why isn’t the CNMI government and the CHCC conducting education and outreach about this? Respiratory viruses spread via the air and people get infected because they share air with those who are infected. Masks are vital protection but if the air in the grocery store is laden with omicron, even a legit N95 mask won’t protect you over time. You don’t have to be an infectious disease specialist to figure this out. I’ll be blunt, locals are dead and suffering because of ignorance and inattention to this issue, more will die and get sick because of it.

Mark Farmer
Garapan, Saipan

Contributing Author
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