CNMI's Covid cases continue to slip but official warns of future variants
Updated: Mar 20
By Bea Cabrera
Saipan--It has been two years since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic and today, the world is still trying to contain and mitigate the virus through vaccines and boosters.
In the CNMI, community cases did not go up to over 10 until October last year. As of March 17, a total of 10,535 positive cases have been identified by the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and 10,290 have recovered. The hospital tallied 31 Covid-19-related deaths
“We have now seen the approval of the fourth vaccine for those who are moderately and severely immunocompromised and I anticipate the fourth vaccine to become available to more people in the population over the next weeks to months," said Lily Muldoon, CHCC emergency medicine physician and public health medical director.
"Additional vaccine boosters will provide us with the most valuable protection as we, unfortunately, expect more variants to strike over the course of the next year,” she added.
The CNMI is currently the U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s "high category" list for community levels.
Muldoon said despite limited health infrastructure, the CNMI has demonstrated resilience amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Unlike many nations around the world and even the mainland U.S., the CNMI was not overwhelmed by Covid-19 and, phenomenally, we were never required to restrict or ration care,” she said.
“We are seeing Covid-19 transmission rates rapidly decline but we are not out of this current surge yet. However, I am cautiously optimistic that the CNMI will continue to follow similar trends as the U.S. mainland and we will continue to see a steady decline and an easing up of restrictions, like indoor masking,” she added.
Muldoon said the CDC will launch “Covid-19 Community Levels” to minimize the impact of Covid on the health care system while focusing on those who are most at high risk.
“Under Communicable Disease Center guidance, we will be monitoring the number of new cases in addition to hospitalizations and hospital space to determine if we are considered level 'high,' 'medium' or 'low.' The CDC recommends specific personal and community prevention measures at each of the three levels,: Muldoon said.
Stephanie Kern-Allely, the regional communicable disease epidemiologist for the Pacific Island Health Officers Association, said the new metrics will help measure the virus and its spread in communities.
During a virtual media briefing last week, Kern-Allely said the three new metrics are being used to measure Covid-19 community levels: new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, new hospital admissions per 100,000 people, and the percent of inpatient beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. She noted a consistent decline in these numbers in recent weeks.
"This is great news. Thanks to folks getting their booster shots. We haven’t seen this since the end of November. Now with the numbers coming down, I’m hopeful that the trend will continue," Kern-Allely said.
“In the past couple of days, our hospitalizations and our admissions have been fairly stable, which is a testament to the high vaccination coverage," she added.
The CNMI reached more than 100 percent vaccination rate in February this year and early this month, launched another booster, or "fourth shot" for residents who are considered moderately or severely immunocompromised.
“Not surprisingly, the CNMI continues to be 'community-level high' as we face the impact of the omicron surge. I anticipate we will continue to see cases fall and can transition to medium level," Muldoon said.
At community level high, CNMI residents are recommended to mask up indoors and in public places and to take additional precautions if someone is at risk for severe illness.