Talks brewing on new protocol for incoming passengers

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Posted on Aug 05 2020

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As the CNMI prepares for incoming flights when tourist are finally allowed to come to the islands, a challenge that the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force could face is how many more tests they can perform.

When the CNMI faced its first two positive cases last March 28, CHCC and the task force were able to get the necessary equipment: test kits, personal protective equipment, machines for testing, and more. Right now, the CNMI has roughly 40,000-plus test kits and, although that may sound a lot, the question is how will the CNMI administer the tests once the boarders are open?

“If flights are going to be coming in, how do we manage that and that’s why we’re looking at the high risk and low risk areas,” said CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña, adding that the recent surge of cases in the United States is almost a reminder of what happened in March with the lack of supplies, test kits, and PPEs, and she does not want the CNMI to be in that situation again.

“That’s why…the discussion on the next protocol [aims] to ensure that we are able to manage our inbound travelers…[and to] make sure that there are tools available that are ready to address should the [number of] cases spike up. Those are things that are being discussed with other U.S. API’s,” said Muna. API’s is the acronym for advance passenger information.

CHC staff testing
With Commonwealth Health Center staff at the frontline when it comes to COVID-19, Muña said that determining how often they get tested depends on their risk of exposure.

For instance, if a staff works in a clinic, and since there hasn’t been a trace of COVID-19 in the hospital, that staff won’t need to be tested. On the other hand, a staff who is treating COVID-19 patients will get tested, she said.

“A staff that is treating a COVID-19 patient will get tested, and that again, there’s different types of tests. …We do antibody testing for staff. That is not for diagnosis, it’s basically to determine the exposure of the individual,” said Muña.

She assured that patients who are isolated at the Kanoa Resort in Susupe are doing well and are regularly getting checked.

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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