No quarantine for fully vaccinated

Posted on May 17 2021


Fully vaccinated individuals who are coming in from areas that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified as Level 1 jurisdictions in its Travel Health Notice will no longer have to quarantine, effective today, May 17, 2021.

The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force announced Friday this change in its quarantine protocols, provided that the individual provides verifiable vaccination documentation from their health department or health provider and after passing their house passes an inspection (CHCC has to first inspect their house to check if there is space for someone to safely self-quarantine).

Areas that the CDC has designated as having a Level 1 status means there is a low level of risk. Among some of the countries on the Level 1 tier are American Samoa, Australia, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, New Zealand, Palau, and Taiwan. The CNMI itself is at Level 1.

In a separate news briefing with CHCC CEO Esther Muña last Friday, she said individuals are considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or first dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine.

If a household assessment failed, CHCC said travelers will be given the option to self-monitor at home. Also, travelers from Level 1 jurisdictions also do not have to test upon arrival but will be tested on their fifth day after arrival.

As for those who are fully vaccinated from other jurisdictions that aren’t a Level 1 jurisdiction, they can still apply for home quarantine after being verified for completing their COVID-19 vaccination and passing a lodging or household assessment.

Should their household assessment fail, these individuals will be required to quarantine at a government quarantine facility. Those from a Level 2 or higher jurisdiction will continue to be tested on arrival and on their fifth day. CHCC said that if any individual tests positive during any test, they will be isolated at a government quarantine facility.

Those who are vaccinated in the CNMI and applied for the modified quarantine will have their applications processed faster since CHCC can verify the vaccination status quickly.

Travelers applying for any modified quarantine may receive an application decision after they arrive and may be required to quarantine at the designated government facility while they wait for approval.

CHCC and the task force recommend that individuals should apply at least 72 hours prior to arrival into the CNMI, since applications are processed in the order of receipt and validation.

Muña said that vaccination documents should be uploaded when filling out the modified quarantine application. She also clarified that documents should also be brought with them for the CHCC team to review.

Travelers who are requesting Critical or Essential Work approval will be evaluated based on the strength of work justification, point of origin, pre-arrival polymerase chain reaction test, COVID-19 vaccinations, and transit/flight plans.

According to CDC, there are more evidence that the risk of infection from COVID-19 is minimal for fully vaccinated individuals and has issued a guidance relating to masks and fully vaccinated individuals.

However, since vaccinations are not easily verifiable, and the CNMI has yet to achieve herd immunity, CHCC and the task force reminds the public that masks in public places are still necessary and urge more residents to get vaccinated. More vaccination locations are open, with registration available on-site and at no cost to anyone.

As of May 15, 2021, 57% of the eligible population of the CNMI is fully vaccinated.

Individuals won’t have to wait 2 weeks

Additional guidance from CDC says you won’t have to wait two weeks to receive the vaccine. Muña said one of the questions that they ask an individual before getting inoculated with the vaccine is if they have been vaccinated within the last two weeks. Muña said CDC has removed this barrier and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing. This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines on the same day, as well as co-administration within 14 days.

Muña said the reason why you had to wait two weeks is because reports show that it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to fully take effect. “According to CDC, after two weeks, your body will acquire enough immunity to defend against a symptomatic case of COVID-19,” said Muña.

Parents to receive letters from CHCC

According to Muña, CHCC will be issuing out letters of consent to parents who have children from age 12 to 18. The COVID-19 vaccinations will be available at the Medical Care and Treatment site at the upper CHCC parking lot, while discussions continue with school officials.

“We will be going to the schools and we will be issuing out letters to the parents for them to sign the consent form. So that anyone that could be vaccinated will be vaccinated,” said Muña. She is hopeful that CHCC and the task force will have a successful rollout at campuses before the school year ends.

“Twelve- to 15-year-olds usually don’t really think about the primary care, so trying to think about their health [and] trying to get their attention now is the best time to do it. It’s perfect timing…right before school ends. We’re happy that this was released right before that,” said Muña.

3 more test positive

Three non-vaccinated travelers have tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, raising the CNMI’s cumulative total to 173.

Two individuals were confirmed positive for COVID-19 from on-arrival testing last Friday. Both were confirmed to not have been vaccinated; this brought the CNMI’s total COVID-19 count to 172.

Another individual was confirmed positive for COVID-19 from on-arrival testing yesterday and was confirmed to not have been vaccinated. This then brought up the total cases to 173.

All individual has been moved to the designated isolation area for monitoring. The CHCC Communicable Disease Investigation/Inspection team has initiated contact tracing for contacts with the highest risk of exposure.

“Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine also helps keep you and your loved ones from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19,” said CHCC.

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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