CNMI receives more test kits; prioritizes COVID-19 screening of frontliners

CNMI Governor Ralph DLG Torres (Image taken from the CNMI Office of the Governor's video)

CNMI Governor Ralph DLG. Torres was at the Saipan International Airport on Saturday to receive an additional 5,000 COVID-19 test kits and testing machines.

Torres said the goal is to start testing CNMI’s first responders and their families.

Last week Monday, the CNMI government received around 20,000 coronavirus test kits — the first batch out of the 60,000 purchased from South Korea. The kits were shipped via a direct charter flight from South Korea to Saipan. Along with the test kits, a clinical pathologist from South Korea also arrived on island to perform equipment calibration and to test quality assurance and quality control of the test kits.

With the first shipment, the CNMI Government expressed its plans to have the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation perform on-island COVID-19 testing based on testing strategy guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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Torres plans to start testing frontliners this week.

“Again our ultimate goal is to try to do mass testing for everybody on the island. That’s going to take a little bit longer but we want to assure our first responders — our nurses, doctors, and their families — that we have the test kits that are needed in order for us to know where we are at,” Torres said.

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At the same time, Torres added, the community must continue to do social distancing and self-hygiene.

Torres also mentioned plans to aggressively construct and renovate Kanoa Resort Hotel, the CNMI’s current alternate care site, to be prepared just in case a surge of COVID-19 cases comes in.

He said within the next few days, he will have a detailed discussion with CHCC CEO Esther Muna and CNMI COVID-19 Task Force Chairperson Warren Villagomez on case projections in the CNMI and measures to lower and flatten the curve.

According to Torres, achieving 100 percent testing is the goal of his administration as well as the CNMI COVID-19 Task Force and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.

Around 53,890 people reside in the CNMI, according to a 2016 household survey by the CNMI Department of Commerce.