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CHCC: 10 medical personnel in quarantine

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THE Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. has quarantined 10 of its medical personnel who had contact with a woman who tested positive for Covid-19 — the  50th case of the CNMI since March 28, 2020.

In a press conference on Monday afternoon, CHCC Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna said three medical providers, five registered nurses and two nursing assistant trainees from Northern Marianas College had close contact with the woman who underwent surgery at the hospital.

“To ensure their peace of mind, and that of the other employees, their families and outpatients, we have instructed these personnel to self-quarantine,” Muna said. “In the event that they are not able to separate themselves from their families they can quarantine at a designated government quarantine facility.”

The 50th Covid-19 case of the CNMI, Muna added, was the first community-acquired case in 93 days and was identified through a mandatory pre-operation screening for a scheduled operation at the Commonwealth Health Center.

“It is within our policy…to move forward with the surgery…it is not unheard of,” she added.

“The contact level has been assessed and is deemed as  low-risk exposure. CHCC is a hospital that deals with infectious diseases on a daily basis. Because the patient was seen at CHCC and much more in a sterile setting, the risk of spread of infection is considered low,” Muna said.

Although  CHCC requires a PCR swab test for a patient who will be on the operating table, Muna said they do not rely on the test result alone.

CHCC has also implemented other measures to prevent transmission, and these include  “adequate personal protective equipment and facilities modification to enhance infection control measures.”

She said the contact-tracing team is now investigating how the 50th case was exposed to the virus.

Aside from the medical personnel, CHCC chief operating officer Subroto Banerji said the contact-tracing team has also identified five additional family members who have been determined as close contacts of the 50th case.

“We are tracing back this individual’s connection to previously identified cases…in early June and July,” Banerji said.

But Banerji does not believe that the island has widespread community transmission because the community-based testing initiative provided more coverage compared to many other places in the world.

As of Aug. 17, about 26% of the CNMI’s total population had been tested, he said. “Our biggest risk are our  borders.” 

Three additional cases

On Monday, three newly arrived individuals were confirmed positive for Covid-19, bringing the current case count of the Commonwealth to 53.

CHCC and the Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force said the individuals were identified upon arrival through incoming traveler screening.

“The individuals have been safely in quarantine and were moved to the designated isolation area for close monitoring. CHCC has already initiated contact tracing for the most immediate contacts (passengers on the same flight, close family members, friends, and associates) of the newly confirmed cases.”

Of the total 53 confirmed cases, 28 cases (53%), or more than half, have been identified through port of entry screening procedures in accordance with the CNMI Covid-19 Emergency Directives.

Of the 28 confirmed cases identified through travel screening, 20 cases originated from the U.S mainland, five from a U.S. territory, and three from a foreign country.

“Strengthening and protecting the CNMI is really rooted in protecting its borders,” Banerji said.

No lockdown ‘at this time’

Muna said they are not recommending a lockdown at this time. “But CHCC continues to emphasize that three Ws — wear your mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance: six feet apart from someone. That has always been our message since day one.”

She added, “And we don’t test blindly. We are identifying individuals based on our risk assessment and that is how we will manage case number 50.”

Banerji said, “There’s a lot of unknowns here, but we have not had too many transmissions; [otherwise] we would have seen them appearing at our hospital.”

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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