Governor, health experts: Stay home

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres, Covid-19 Task Force Chairman Warren F. Villagomez, Dr. John Doyle, and Dr. Alan Zevallos were on KKMP radio on Saturday morning to discuss updates regarding the state of public health emergency and the steps that the central government is taking to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the CNMI.

“I think it is going to be a little bit of an uphill battle in a lot of ways because this virus is new and we are learning more about it,” Dr. Zevallos said.

“I have seen some conflicting data on how much asymptomatic [people] are spreading [the virus] versus people who are more symptomatic and their viral load, so that makes the situation particularly tricky.”

He added that the virus is staying on certain surfaces for a matter of hours to two days, which makes it a little more difficult to contain it.

When asked how long it takes for the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. to receive the test results of a specimen, Villagomez said it takes about a day or two at the most.

He also mentioned that the task force is going to redirect all media communication to the governor’s Joint Information Center or JIC, “to make sure that no one sees anything different” in terms of communications that are being released.

According to the governor, “We will continue to make decisions for the betterment of our community. We do not know when the virus is coming, but we should be aware that it is coming. That is the reason why, on a Sunday, we called an emergency meeting on January 26, and we have been proactive ever since. We are preparing for the worst, even if we are low risk. Again, we understand things are evolving, things will start changing, and it is changing every hour.”

The governor said, “It is really important that our community understands that we have asked everyone who is a sworn officer to get ready. I want everyone to know that if we see minors on the road [during curfew hours] …most likely, there is a high chance that they will be brought into the juvenile center. This is not because the government wants to do this, but it is important to protect our community and also children or minors that are roaming around our community. It is not safe. If we need to take them in to show how serious we are in protecting their health, then we will.”

The governor also mentioned the possibility of a directive to ask businesses to temporarily close until further notice. “We are asking our business partners to please work with us. I have always been pro-business. I have been supporting every business out there that has asked for support. Today, I am asking for their support. The approach that we will be asking politely is to please close. If there is a directive to shut down[businesses], it is for your protection, the community, and your patrons that support you. I am asking the business community to understand that when we do a lockdown, I ask that you happily close it down for the safety of your staff and your patrons that come to your bar or restaurant.”

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Covid-19 Task Force Chairman Warren F. Villagomez, Dr. John Doyle, and Dr. Alan Zevallos on KKMP radio with Gary Sword on Saturday morning to discuss Covid-19 updates.  Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

The governor said some businesses believe that his Executive Order 2020-04 is killing the tourism market. He said he is “actually saving our tourism market. If we come out here with very minimal damage in terms of health issues, we will work on our economic upturn later. Your financial loss, at the end of the day, is a gain when we do not have any of your employees or patrons [contract] this virus.”

In terms of the possibility of activating the National Guard in the CNMI, the governor said that for years, he has been working tirelessly for the creation of a CNMI National Guard. “We are one of the two insular areas that do not have a National Guard,” he added. The other is American Samoa.

“We will continue to push for this,” the governor said.

Dr. Doyle said it is possible that the virus is already in the CNMI. “No human effort has been able to stop this virus from entering a place…. It is hard to believe that it is not here now, and we just have not had any serious cases. This is very serious because people are going to get sick and people are going to die. That is just the flat-out truth. Our mission now is to make that number as low as possible.”

He then commended the governor for closing the schools. “It shows that you are out in front of this and that you are leading,” Dr. Doyle said as he reiterated the importance of remaining six feet away from a person to decrease the possibility of contracting the virus.

He also explained the difference between N95 masks and surgical masks, stating that it is safer to use N95 masks because they are fitted and more suited to protect wearers from contracting viruses.

But Dr. Doyle emphasized that the most effective method is distance. “The only thing that works is distance. That is the only way to stop this disease. That is the only thing that we have. We do not have medicine. Vaccines take a while. We do not know if hydroxychloroquine works. We cannot even test very readily yet, but we are fixing that. Six feet apart, or six feet under. It is your choice. Our grandparents were asked to go fight in the war. We are asked to sit on the couch. I think we can do that.”

Dr. Zevallos said the CNMI “has the advantage of seeing how this virus…works…. Knowing that we can take preemptive measures by social distancing is of key importance.”

Gov. Torres encourages the entire community to be cooperative in complying with the directives in his Executive Order 2020-04 as amended. “Please, just stay home. Business partners, I need all of your support as we weather these matters. This is going to be rough, and everybody needs to be aware of that.”

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