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  • By K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

Torres: CNMI not fully equipped to prevent coronavirus' entry

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios conduct a press conference on Wednesday morning regarding the global Covid-19 outbreak. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

Saipan-- CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the CNMI currently is not fully equipped to prevent the entry of a Covid-19 case into the territory but assured the people that the government is doing everything it can to keep the islands coronavirus-free.

“This does not mean that we are all going to be on panic mode,” the governor added. “This just means that we need to take extra precautions. Today, we continue to invite our tourists to come to our beautiful islands…and we continue to encourage our community members to live their lives normally. That is a very important part of this message that we are doing today,” the governor said at a press conference Wednesday.

“We want to make sure that our community knows that we have a task force that will address their concerns, and will conduct public outreach…. We are working extremely hard to prevent any potential coronavirus case from coming to our islands,” Torres said.

Torres, along with Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, and the other members of the Covid-19 Task Force held a press conference Wednesday morning to address community concerns about the global Covid-19 outbreak.

The task force is chaired by Warren Villagomez, director of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program.

Also participating in the press conference were Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao, CHCC Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna, Northern Marianas College Interim President Frankie Eliptico, Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada, Corrections Commissioner Wally Villagomez, Fire and Emergency Commissioner Medical Services Dennis Mendiola and Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo.

Press Secretary Kevin Bautista said “the Torres-Palacios administration has made public health and safety its top priority while maintaining the viability of the CNMI economy during this unanticipated downturn. Governor Torres recently established the Covid-19 Task Force to formalize ongoing mobile efforts, and bring together key departments, agencies, and stakeholders for a whole-of-government approach.”

The task force includes representatives from the Office of the Governor, CHCC, CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Commonwealth Ports Authority, MVA, the Department of Public Safety, DFEMS, the Department of Finance, NMC and the Public School System.

The governor said he wants “to make sure that [the community] knows what we are doing today [and] what we were doing a month and a half ago. I also want to let our community know that [it] has the best team on island addressing this issue.”

According to Lt. Governor Palacios, “We started to look at how to address this issue in January. One of the reasons that drove that was because we have a substantial tourism market from China, and the first case at the epicenter of the coronavirus was from China, so we needed to get ahead of the game.”

He said the administration asked CPA to close any and all air traffic from China. “We have basically been at it since late January/early February.”

The governor has been in constant consultation with CHCC, Palacios added.

“Warren Villagomez and CEO Esther Muna have been on top of this,” the lt. governor said.

He added that plans were rolled out, consistent with the criteria of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We know that this is certainly a grave concern, not just for the Commonwealth, but for each and every country globally. We will do our fair share — and maybe more than our fair share — to ensure that we do not have any cases of coronavirus coming into the islands,” said Lt. Gov. Palacios.

CHCC CEO Esther Muna and task force chairman Warren Villagomez, for their part, emphasized the importance of prevention, protection, and surveillance.

They also noted the progress that CHCC has made in its public outreach efforts, including increasing health screenings on island, preparing for the upcoming Saipan Marathon, as well as holding town hall meetings on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

As of Wednesday, there was no confirmed Covid-19 case in the CNMI. (Marianas Variety)


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