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Covid-19 Task Force urged to test ‘as many as you can’

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WITH six positive Covid-19 cases in the CNMI as of Wednesday, Sen. Paul A. Manglona is hoping that the governor’s task force and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. will test “as many individuals as they can.”

Paul Atalig Manglona

Manglona at the same time thanked the administration and the task force “for all the hard work and continued efforts in combating the Covid-19 pandemic in our islands.”

He noted that Covid-19 testing has been strictly limited to critical cases and healthcare workers.

He believes that “testing should be escalated to test as many as possible, including individuals who may have come into contact with those who tested positive.”

He added, “This is the only way we will know how many asymptomatic carriers there are in our islands. The Covid-19 Task Force should seriously consider expanding the testing criteria so that an individual who does not necessarily meet the Covid-19 person under investigation or PUI criteria or the surveillance case definition, but was potentially exposed to positively tested individuals, could be tested.”

At present, Manglona said the following individuals do not meet the PUI or surveillance case definition for testing:

• CNMI residents who are on contact tracing listing who do not exhibit severe symptoms.

• Residents who do not exhibit symptoms but have received communication from the U.S. mainland or elsewhere informing them of possible exposure to an infected individual there.

• Patients of private clinics who exhibit mild to moderate symptoms of Covid-19 and are recommended by their physician for testing (patient testing request must still go through CHCC team for approval).

• Airline pilots who come to Saipan, Tinian, or Rota regularly either on cargo or passenger flights who do not show symptoms of Covid-19. Manglona recommends that they should be tested “biweekly at a minimum.”

“While I agree that we must take a comprehensive approach — contact tracing of infections, social distancing, public efforts to increase awareness of hand sanitation, voluntary self-quarantine measures, strict measures at health institutions, and the likes — we all know the most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chain of transmission,” the senator said.

To do this effectively, he added, “we must test and isolate.”

“We may expeditiously do this if we procure test kits with local CNMI funds. I humbly ask you, governor, to take immediate action and procure test kits that have been proven to give accurate results from outside the U.S. mainland, like China or South Korea. President Trump has stated that equipment (such as test kits, personal protective equipment, ventilators, etc.) procured from foreign jurisdictions, that are necessary to combat Covid-19 are federally reimbursable,” Manglona said.

“We cannot be certain as to who are carriers of this virus. Aside from social distancing, we need to be vigilant in our testing and administer tests liberally when it comes to possible exposure,” he added.

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