With the CNMI seeing most of its new positive COVID-19 cases among incoming travelers, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. CEO Esther Muña said this underscores the Centers for Disease and Control’s message that people “should not be doing non-essential travel.”
“In regards to non-essential travel, that’s what the message is with CDC that, at this point right now with the pandemic, people really should not be having non-essential travel,” said Muña at a recent radio news briefing.
At the same time, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said at the same radio news briefing that the CDC classified the CNMI as a “high-risk” area mainly because it falls under a certain population demographic. Still, Torres said the CNMI’s effort needs to be appreciated and highlighted “because it doesn’t matter about the population threshold that they have.”
He added that even if CDC has marked the CNMI as a “high-risk area,” there are other listings that says the CNMI is “very safe” and “we are a low-risk community.”
“I just want to address and acknowledge all the hard work of our first responders, the hospital, the [COVID-19] task force, [and] our community. Our community has been tremendously just awesome and working together, sacrificing together, prioritizing our public health,” said Torres. “I think that all of us should give that appreciation, as a whole CNMI, that continue to make CNMI a very safe place, despite what the recent report came out.”
Muña echoed Torres, saying that there are other data generating teams that have said that the CNMI has the lowest risk. “It depends on which organization issues the determination. However, with CDC, non-essential travel is the message right now…and non-essential travel should really be minimized,” said Muña.
She said the CDC will be attending a meeting with the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands later this week to explain other factors that they’re looking into as to how to determine what a high-risk area is, and if there is a need to change it. She stated that there will be a global health division of CDC that will be participating in that meeting.
“CDC officials that are working with U.S. API have praised the CNMI with everyone else, that the U.S. APIs are one of the safest places. So to put us in ‘high-risk’ is really, you know, even in their opinion, it doesn’t seem right,” said Muña.
Muña does have mixed feelings about the meeting with U.S. API, with the CNMI seeing more new positive cases with arrivals.
“The issue here is that we are seeing arrivals of positive cases and that is a concern, [but] as long as we continue to control our borders, we can be comfortable with that and prevent the spread here in the CNMI,” said Muña.