By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Saipan-- The CNMI Department of Corrections today reported an outbreak of Covid-19 among staff and inmates at the correctional facility on Saipan.
"Since the spike of Covid-19 in the community, it was inevitable that some staff and inmates would be exposed or found positive for Covid-19. There have been less than 10 percent of the inmate population found positive for Covid-19, but they were separated from other inmates," Corrections Commissioner Wally F. Villagomez said in a statement.
Among those who tested Covid-19 positive, only three inmates required isolation, and the positive officers have returned to work after the required time for quarantine, Villagomez said.
He said inmates and staff have been tested several times and issued N95 masks.
"Each inmate is monitored daily for symptoms, and if necessary are tested again. Each staff member is required to report symptoms, have temperature readings when entering the facility, and follow CDC and CHCC recommendations regarding handwashing and/or hand sanitizing," Villagomez said.
He said all officers are required to wear masks within the facility, and the inmates are required to wear their masks if they are outside of their cell.
Villagomez said the Covid-19 pandemic has caused strain on DOC staffing. Last year, the department managed to hire six new employees.
"While DPS has assisted with security of inmates who are being separated, every corrections officer must attend an academy prior to entering the facility. DOC has received many applications for the upcoming Corrections Academy," Villagomez said.
"The academy has been planned with the assistance of Northern Marianas College, Department of Public Safety, and the Attorney General's Office at the beginning of 2022 with approximately 30 positions."
On Thursday, the CNMI reported 65 new cases in the community, bringing the CNMI total to 3,518 cases since March 28, 2020. The individuals have been isolated and are actively monitored.
As of Jan. 5, there have been 2,762 recoveries made, 450 active cases, and 15 deaths of the cases identified since Oct. 28, 2021.
As of Jan. 6, there were 10 Covid-related hospital admissions (7 unvaccinated, 3 vaccinated; 2 on a ventilator); and 3 were discharged.
Of the 65 cases, 61 were identified on Jan. 5, and four on Jan. 4; 27 were identified via contact tracing, 29 were identified via community testing, and 9 were identified via travel testing.
Since Oct. 28, 2021, there have been 3,227 new cases, of which 1,576 were identified via contact tracing, 1,558 were identified via community testing, and 93 were identified via travel testing.