Friday, December 3, 2021
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. After a year and a half into the pandemic, our preventive measures to mitigate COVID-19 have been working. However, CNMI residents and those around the world have seen our cases rise over the past few weeks. It would be insensitive to say not to panic but being at the forefront of the pandemic makes it easier to educate and provide comforting advice to our residents.
At the beginning of the pandemic when a vaccine was not yet available, my staff and I worked at the airport to monitor arriving passengers and manage their transport to the quarantine facility. Our presence was also a tangible show of leadership to address concerns and make necessary decisions. We went months without community transmission until a short spike in March 2021, when we identified our first cluster. We knew that despite the travel protocols in place, there is always the risk of breakthrough cases entering our islands and spreading rapidly as what we’re seeing now. We knew no measures put in place can be perfect but numerous measures can help reduce risks.
The seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that our lives won’t be the same for a while, but the public health initiatives have worked over the test of time and we have to depend on it this time too. We wore our masks and stayed six feet apart. These practices helped to ease our fears. With the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, we feel assured that there’s light at the end of this dark tunnel. The vaccines won’t return us to our pre-pandemic lifestyle, but they will offer us significant protection. Please get vaccinated so we can keep each other safe.
We are seeing an increase in hospitalizations and unvaccinated patients take up the majority of that number. The current situation is disheartening because we know that the vaccines are safe & effective in preventing serious complications from the virus. This is especially vital when we have a highly transmissible variant like what we’re seeing now.
I get many inquiries about what residents can do to reduce their risks of infection. Besides getting vaccinated and practicing the three Ws – wear a mask, wait at a distance, and wash your hands – there are many solutions to ensure safety for everyone. This holiday season, families should consider hosting their gatherings outdoors to reduce their chances of breathing in respiratory droplets containing the virus. Families should also limit interactions with those outside their household and avoid shaking hands with others. We should limit physical touch, sanitize our areas and things we’ve touched, and practice the three Ws. If you’re a contact, the first thing to do if you can’t get tested right away, is to self-quarantine at home and limit contacts from others. All these measures combined help reduce the risks of COVID-19.
The Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation, and the Governor’s Office meet daily to strategize how we can continue to keep the community safe. As we reach the end of the year and go into the holidays, it’s evident that we would have not made it this far without community-wide cooperation. I’d like to thank our partners -- Department of Public Safety, Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Service, Commonwealth Office Transit Authority, and many more to mention -- for their efforts in keeping the Marianas safe.
Though we are in an unprecedented situation, I assure you that the community’s safety continues to be our top priority.
For more information, visit the GCEA at cnmieconomy.com, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Esther L. Muña
Esther L. Muña is the Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation and has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic and helping to keep the community safe. Esther serves on the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force to strategize protocols and community guidance to mitigate COVID-19.