IN ANTICIPATION OF THE CNMI REOPENING
As flights continue to bring home residents to the CNMI, and eventually tourists starting July 15, the government is ramping up efforts to ensure there would be enough quarantine sites for the possible influx of passengers, as well as new testing and quarantine protocols.
At the moment, the CNMI has the Kanoa Resort, with 224 rooms and serving as an isolation facility for confirmed cases and persons under investigations; and Pacific Islands Club Saipan, with its 308 rooms, as a quarantine facility for all arriving passengers.
The island also only has 23 COVID-19 recorded cases, the latest of which was reported last Tuesday, an inbound medical referral returning resident, coming from the U.S. mainland.
Should United Airlines start bringing in 160 passengers every flight, the island would possibly be needing more than just PIC as a quarantine facility. The empty Mariana Resort & Spa in the north is one of the sites being looked at.
“We do have Mariana…Resort as also an option,” Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said in an interview. “No governor in the [United States], or in the territories or insular areas, have the authority to suspend flights, especially international flights. We are also looking at other protocols, because we want to reopen the travel and our tourist industry,” he said. “Eventually, we will be having a different protocol regarding testing and quarantine. My set of order ends on June 15. We’ve been talking with the hospital, [Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.], the [Governor’s COVID-19] Task Force, and other entities, [Commonwealth Ports Authority], on how do we address increase number of returning residents, as well as tourism.”
Based on an earlier projection by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, COVID-19 cases in the CNMI was expected to hit 6,000 mid-May, and peak at as high as 8,000 in mid-June. FEMA also estimated that 3,000 would have died if mitigation measures were not implemented. With 23 COVID-19 cases overall and just five active cases and two deaths to date, the CNMI is way below the projected surge.
As early as January, the CNMI has been treating COVID-19 on a high-risk approach, even with zero cases at that time. There are now 1.8 million COVID-19 cases in the United States, with over 100,000 deaths.
“The worst thing that we can have is for the government, the hospital, the task force to not take this seriously and not be prepared. If that surge hits and we’re not prepared, our people will die,” Torres said.
CHCC’s community-based testing has collected almost 6,000 specimens, more medical equipment and supplies are expected to come in from California over the weekend, and the Alternative Care Site at Kanoa Resort is expected to open in the next few weeks.
“We hope we never get to use it, and I’ve said that, and I want the same thing with the MCAT [40-bed Medical Care and Treatment Facility at the Commonwealth Health Center]. I hope that we never get to use it. But if that surge does come here, we are prepared for it. We have enough PPEs here for every nurse, every doctor, every first responder, government employees,” said Torres.
Continue the vigilance
Torres credits the community’s vigilance as a big reason for the low number of COVID-19 case in the CNMI. “Our community is awesome. We have an excellent community. Everybody has stepped up, one way or another. We are moving into finally finding the new norm,” he said.
As measures to lessen the threat of COVID-19 in the CNMI are strengthened in preparation for returning residents and the reopening of the CNMI’s borders to tourists, the governor is calling on everyone to remain vigilant, keep up with social distancing and sanitation, and get tested for COVID-19.
“Patience now is what we need as we move forward. I ask that we continue the community-based testing. Please come out and get tested. That is one way and probably the best way for us to know where we stand in healthcare in the CNMI,” he said. “We’re doing a great job, all of us. So let’s continue to be vigilant, encourage our community-based testing, and let’s move forward and continue the progress.”
MD: Quarantine facilities, COVD-19 measures beefed up
KW: Quarantine, COVID-19, Ralph DLG Torres, flights, reopening