Official: CHCC mindful of quarantined individuals’ mental health

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IN consideration of the newly arrived individuals’ mental health, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. limits their quarantine to five to seven days only, CHCC Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna told the Rotary Club of Saipan on Tuesday.

Other jurisdictions require a 14-day quarantine at a government site, but according to Muna, “We have to be mindful of mental health issues and ‘longer quarantine days’ mean more requests for exemptions.”

She added, “For some people, especially [those] with mental health [issues], it is unbearable.”

Currently, all newly arrived passengers who will be  quarantined have to undergo two tests for Covid-19 — one when they arrive at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport, and the second on the fifth day of their arrival.

Muna, who was one of the Rotary Club guest speakers on Tuesday, cited data indicating that some travelers who took a polymerase chain reaction or PCR test 72 hours ahead of arrival tested positive for Covid-19 either on the day or on the fifth day of arrival. “This is why we test upon their arrival so we can immediately isolate those that are positive; and on the fifth day, which is an effective day for detection of virus.”

She said CHCC has a registration system that allows the healthcare corporation to monitor individuals upon their arrival at the airport and all the way to the quarantine facility.

CHCC has been implementing these protocols since July, Muna said, adding that they have  proven effective in identifying and isolating from the community those who have Covid-19.

As of Wednesday, there had been a total of 69 Covid-19 cases in the CNMI since March.

Of these cases, 43 or 62% were identified through port of entry screening procedures; 10 or 14% were identified as community contacts; and 16 or 23% were identified as known contacts.

Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna talks about the Covid-19 situation in the CNMI during the Rotary Club of Saipan general membership meeting on Tuesday at the Hyatt. Also in photo,are Rotary Club officers Sean Ficke, Sonya Dancoe, Irene Holl and Wendell Posadas. Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

Rotary Club of Saipan president Sonya P. Dancoe commended CHCC and the Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force for developing and implementing safety measures.

“I believe that the CNMI has become a role model because of the success that we have had so far [in fighting the pandemic],” she told Muna. “I want to thank your team at CHCC, the task force and the first responders for the continued effort to keep the community safe.”

Muna said CHCC started preparing for the pandemic in January.

The first thing they did, she said, was to acquire personal protective equipment or PPE for healthcare workers and other first responders.

At that time, however, there was a worldwide shortage of PPE, and Muna said they had to ask for help from the governor and the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA.

After securing PPE, Muna said CHCC started acquiring the capability to identify a positive case, diagnose, isolate and treat people.

CHCC back then had no capability to test patients for Covid-19, she said. “We had to send the specimens off island, but it took about 14 days to get the result. That was not good enough because 14 days was the incubation period. Basically, you were allowing this individual to be out in the community.”

She said through the help of the CNMI government, federal agencies, including FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, and through constant communication with the World Health Organization and the Pacific Islands Health Officers Association, CHCC acquired test kits and purchased the equipment needed to detect Covid-19 cases.

The next step was isolating those who tested positive, Muna said, adding that it was the CNMI government that designated a  portion of Kanoa Resort as an isolation area for Covid-19 cases.

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