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Since the CNMI first went into a pandemic lockdown earlier this year, I have been very impressed by the expeditious and effective actions taken by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and his COVID-19 Task Force, chaired by Warren Villagomez, director for the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s Public Health and Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program, and guided by CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña. Their efforts, their team, and our entire community have helped make the CNMI the safest place in the county and one of the safest places in the world. I also appreciate how we have all worked together to restore some sense of normalcy to our islands, whether that be helping businesses safely open and keep our economy alive, facilitating safe face-to-face classes to ensure optimal student learning, or ensuring we can safely spend quality time with our family and loved ones from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

I have also been very impressed by the COVID-19 Task Force’s success in securing and administering the COVID-19 vaccine in record time.  Recently, my colleagues at Mount Carmel School and I have availed of the vaccine as education professionals. Despite a few minor glitches, the entire process, from registration to intake and administration, was extremely smooth, with CHCC staff demonstrating the utmost professionalism and even a bit of humor through it all.

I, for one, was personally moved by how well they handled my vaccination. I have an intense phobia of needles and often suffer extreme anxiety whenever receiving any kind of shot. However, resolved to keep my school family, my own family, and our community safe, I overcame my fear and signed up to get the vaccine. No amount of courage, though, could prepare me for what happened when I got my first dose. As soon as the needle left my arm, the room started spinning, my body was struck by hot flashes, and, before you know it, I was passing out. It was a harrowing experience.

But, thankfully, the CHCC team was there to save the day. They caught me before falling, quickly brought in a gurney, and rushed me to the emergency room, where they monitored my vitals and made sure I was okay. In particular, CHCC immunization program director John Moreno held me up as I started to pass out, CHCC chief operations officer Subroto Banerji personally escorted me to the emergency room, and even Esther Muña paid a visit to see how I was doing. I cannot express how much I appreciate this level of personal care and attention. That they would go to such great lengths for anyone speaks volumes about their deep and authentic commitment to the safety and health of our community.

Of course, I must also thank my wife who has always been there to help me whenever I get shots or whenever I just need her support. She was there too, staying with me the entire time and keeping my spirits up.

So, as we end this difficult year, I just want to again express my thanks to Gov. Torres, the COVID-19 Task Force, CHCC, and our entire community for doing what it takes to ensure a better and more prosperous future for our Commonwealth. Together, we are Marianas Strong!

God bless and happy New Year!

Galvin Deleon Guerrero, EdD
Garapan, Saipan

Galvin Deleon Guerrero, EdD

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