Muña: We are still vulnerable

Posted on May 01 2020

That the CNMI has managed to keep its coronavirus numbers low is the result of combined efforts that required nearly 18,000 staff hours and over $7 million.

To sustain that early success, the Commonwealth needs more help: more personal protective equipment and testing reagents, financial assistance, and modernization of the 35-year-old hospital, the Commonwealth Health Center.

Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther Muña emphasized these points during a U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee meeting that was held via a live YouTube video yesterday, saying that the CNMI will need more help in order to get back to normal.

At the hearing, Muña appealed to U.S. House Natural Resources Committee chair Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) to help the CNMI with a “reliable, equitable” supply chain for more personal protective equipment and testing reagents, as well as financial assistance to keep CHCC’s staff and contact tracing team going.

She pointed out that health care is unaffordable for many families in the CNMI, since most of the public and private workers have been furloughed.

“We have been vigilant, we have been effective, but we are still vulnerable,” said Muña.

Additionally, Muña said that CHCC has managed to fulfill its regular obligations while balancing COVID-19 response, and going forth with future preparations for the worst. “Along with our governor, his Cabinet, the COVID-19 Task Force, and [Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan], we are working hard to safely bring the rest of the CNMI back to work,” said Muna. “Help us get there.”

CHCC has so far:

Screened more than 500 walk-in patients

Screened more than 1,500 patients via drive-thru at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport

Identified and interviewed 215 contacts of positive cases

Responded to over 700 phone calls about COVID-19

Overseen the care and release of more than 250 individuals from quarantine and isolation

Had more than 500 specimens tested (including specimen that’s been tested at CHCC)

Conducted more than 90 tele-consults with patients

“We can now test for the coronavirus on island, an ability that felt far from reach just one month ago,” said Muña. “The assistance has been core to our success, but we do need federal assistance to put an end to this war.”

CHCC has received 300,000 isolation gowns on April 29 for doctors, nurses, and medical workers. According to a statement from the Office of the Governor, CHCC was set to receive additional PPE’s for first responders on April 30.

To date, the CNMI has had 14 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, with 12 recoveries and two deaths.

COVID-19 in Guam

The Department of Public Health and Social Services tested 112 individuals for COVID-19 on April 29 with conclusive results. Zero tested positive through DPHSS and 112 tested negative. The results include samples from the expanded COVID-19 testing in Astumbo, Dededo.

Additionally, the sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt have been cleared to depart quarantine and return to the ship. According to the Joint Information Center on Guam the U.S Navy has already begun the process of returning the sailors off-base hotels to the aircraft carrier.

An estimated 700 sailors remained aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt to maintain the ships’ necessary functions, and to also conduct deep cleaning and sanitization of the ship’s spaces of the past few weeks.

The ship is set to have healthy sailors who spent almost 27 days in quarantine in Guam.

“These sailors have had three negative COVID-19 test results, including one to determine eligibility to depart Naval Base Guam for hotel quarantine, and two additional tests to ensure they are COVID-free and healthy,” said JIC.

Guam has a total of 145 cases with five deaths and 130 released from isolation.

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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