Following the recent discovery of the BA.5 variant of COVID-19 in the CNMI, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. has announced that another round of boosters that is specific to the strain of the virus is forthcoming.
Speaking at an online news briefing last Friday, Dr. Lily Muldoon, medical director of Public Health, said that CHCC is expecting to announce another round of boosters in the next few weeks.
“We are expecting another booster to be coming out in the next few months that will be specific to the omicron variant and therefore should be even more protective than the boosters that we’ve had before. More information from CHCC about that is coming,” she said.
Muldoon explained that this new booster is specifically meant to combat the omicron variant, the variant from which BA.5 stems from.
“BA.5 is a lineage of the omicron variant, which is actually one of the most contagious viruses that we’ve seen so far. However, it is not the most deadly. That’s why we’re not seeing a high rate of hospitalizations as we had seen in previous surges,” she said.
While the CNMI awaits the arrival of the new booster shots, Muldoon encourages everyone to remain proactive in ensuring that the CNMI does not jeopardize the health of the more vulnerable population as there still is COVID-19 in the community.
“Symptoms generally have been more mild than we were seeing previously with the delta variant, but still people are being wiped out, particularly if you are high risk for COVID-19, Meaning you have underlying medical conditions or you’re elderly. We see the symptoms can be a lot worse and so we recommend for those of you who are high risk to make sure that you are masking up, getting tested if you develop any symptoms, and are also seeking treatment,” she said.
Fortunately, Muldoon said, COVID-19 treatment is now available for those who may experience severe symptoms. The most common treatment provided is an antiviral drug called Paxlovid, she added.
“I really want to make clear that treatment options exist right now. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for you to be screened and treated quickly because treatment is important to get underway as soon as possible even when symptoms are mild,” she said.
These treatments will only be provided once a positive COVID-19 test is reported and the individual is screened by a CHCC nurse.
“Once you make the phone call or fill out the online portal, you will be screened by a nurse to determine if you are high risk for COVID-19 and therefore are eligible for treatments. Criteria includes: older age (if you’re older than 65), have ever been told by a doctor that you have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, kidney disease, or history of smoking are a few of the examples of people that are eligible for treatment. Then you will be recommended to get COVID-19 treatment as soon as possible and you will be sent to the medical care and treatment site,” Muldoon said.
According to a previous Saipan Tribune article, the CNMI experienced a small surge in COVID-19 positive cases in the past two months, bringing the CNMI back up to COVID level medium. Fortunately, the number of cases continue to decrease as of last Friday.