‘No herd immunity yet, so still use face masks’

Posted on May 07 2021


Despite a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory that loosens the rules on the use of face masks among fully vaccinated people, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther Muña pleads with the public to continue wearing face masks since “we are not yet at herd immunity.”

Until the CNMI has a high number of vaccinated individuals, then the CNMI can slowly and surely get to the point where it could be okay to not use a mask, Muña said. “[We’re] slowly and surely getting to the point where we can say that ‘we’re safe now,’ but we’re not there yet,” she said.

“Please continue to wear your mask. If you’re not sure, put on your mask in any closed setting. Right now, we are not at herd immunity. …These protocols [and] guidelines that have been issued are all because of the progress we made in the past year,” she said.

Herd immunity is when a large number of people in a community is vaccinated enough to provide indirect protection for the unvaccinated ones. The number varies among different infectious diseases but the typical target is between 50% and 90%, depending on how infectious a disease is. There is no fixed number yet for COVID-19 as it is a new kind of disrease.

As of May 2, 2021, the CNMI has fully vaccinated 18,859 persons, representing approximately 50% of the eligible population.

Muña again asked for everyone’s patience and understanding as CHCC, the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, and the administration continue to monitor the guidelines being issued by CDC. Muña said that when CHCC and the task force share guidance from CDC, it’s “based on science and risk.”

“It’s based on science and is based on risk and our community has been so fortunate to have that low [number of COVID-19] cases, and to say that we’ve been safe. We’ve been hearing a lot from our residents that they feel safe, and we want to continue to do that,” she said.

Muña also wants to be sure that the CNMI’s health system will continue to stay resilient and “strong enough to handle any medical system,” which is why she is adamant about the community practicing the 3 W’s––wearing a mask, watching their distance, and washing your hands––even if they are vaccinated.

Muña reiterated that the reason for every health protocol that has been put in place is for the CNMI community and no one else. “We’re begging for everyone’s understanding and patience as we continue to see what the next best step for the CNMI is,” said Muña.

COVID-19 in Guam

The Joint Information Center on Guam announced that Guam’s 139th COVID-19-related fatality happened at the Guam Memorial Hospital at approximately 7:08pm last Tuesday. A 70-year-old male patient with underlying health conditions was admitted to GMH on Tuesday and tested positive upon admission.

Also, four new cases of COVID-19 were identified out of 324 tests performed last Wednesday.

To date, there have been a total of 8,020 COVID-19 cases in Guam, with 139 deaths, 98 cases in active isolation, and 7,783 not in active isolation.

Justine Nauta | Correspondent
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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