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Muña supports reopening NMI borders by mid-June

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Posted on Apr 13 2021

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Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther Muna, left, and CHCC Corporate Quality and Performance Management manager Halina Palacios observe an orientation briefing for incoming U.S. Army medics, assigned to 25th Infantry Division, who will support CHCC’s vaccination team in administering COVID-19 vaccines to local community members on Saipan. (U.S. NAVY/BRAD RUSZALA)

With the anticipated date to reopen the CNMI’s borders to international visitors by mid-June, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther Muña agrees that it is possible if 80% of the CNMI’s population is vaccinated by then.

Speaking at a radio news briefing last Friday, April 9, Muña said that once the CNMI gets 80% of its population vaccinated, that’s when they can be sure that the CNMI can open its borders. The CNMI is ratcheting up its vaccination process as a means to hasten the CNMI’s achievement of herd immunity to COVID-19. Herd immunity is when an enough number of a population is vaccinated against a disease, providing a form of protection for those who are unvaccinated.

Speaking at the same radio news briefing, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said they are anticipating the reopening of the CNMI’s boarders either in May or June because they want to have at least 80% of the community already vaccinated against COVID-19.

Muña said CHCC has removed “all barriers” for everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which includes the vaccination of those who are 16 years and older on all three islands–Saipan, Rota and Tinian.

“In regard to details of when we get to the 80%…I believe mid-June as the governor has stated. …[That] target is something that we have to work together to make sure that it happens, and to ensure that if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this safe[ly],” she said.

Additionally, Muña said that just because one is already vaccinated doesn’t mean that one can flout health protocols. She said she doesn’t want the community to think we’re completely safe.

“We’re looking at this in a way [that] we have to consider our health system, we have to consider what we can take care of. …We don’t want our population to be in a situation that basically puts them at risk when we say ‘Okay, it’s okay…to remove the quarantine protocols,’” said Muña.

Muña reiterated that even if you are fully vaccinated, you can still get infected with COVID-19. Only the significant impact on someone’s health is “reduced with the vaccination,” she added.

CHCC is mindful of the health system, which is why they want to be sure that everyone has access to the vaccine and COVID-19 testing. This will help achieve the 80% herd immunity and help with making the decision to open safely.

Torres said realistically mid-June is their target, however, they have an airline that’s anxious for the CNMI to reopen immediately.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, Torres said they have a task force under the Governor’s Economic Council of Advisers for air transportation and it has already received some suggestions from some airlines in South Korea that they are now working on.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.

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