More test kits arrive in the CNMI; community-based testing plans being finalized

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CNMI Governor Ralph Torres
CNMI Governor Ralph DLG Torres says the trip provided a rare opportunity to market the CNMI. (Still image from the CNMI Governor's special address)

The CNMI government has already received 40,000 test kits out of the 60,000 purchased from South Korea earlier this month.

Aside from the kits, the government has also received 70 additional ventilators, medical equipment, and PPEs, including 48,900 masks, 217,000 gloves, 12,725 isolation gowns for its first responders.

CNMI Governor Ralph DLG Torres made the announcement in a special address on Saturday. He said several direct charter flights from California, South Korea, and other parts of Asia brought in the supplies and equipment.

Over the last several weeks, according to Torres, the CNMI’s COVID-19 Task Force and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation have been ‘hard at work increasing healthcare capacity through the new field hospital and Alternate Care Site at Kanoa Resort; upgrading the CHCC Laboratory, and; finalizing plans for Community-Based Testing with the new testing platforms.’

 He said that through the CNMI’s strong partnership with FEMA, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Defense (DoD), the 40-bed Medical Care and Treatment Facility (MCAT) outside of CHCC will be opened on Monday, while the Alternate Care Site at Kanoa Resort is scheduled to be operational in mid-May.

“Again, I hope we never get to use this facility, but we will continue to be proactive by preparing the worst-case scenario, should our cases increase,” Torres said.

Community-based testing

He said that plans for community-based testing are being finalized.

“Our Task Force has been doing a walkthrough to ensure we are able to test based off the HHS and CHCC’s priorities.”

While the goal is to test everybody, the most critical priorities are hospitalized patients and healthcare facility workers, including nurses, and doctors. This is followed by the man’amko and people with underlying medical conditions.

Torres also provided updates on the various available COVID-19 federal assistance, such as the stimulus checks, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and the SBA Paycheck Protection Program, and economic injury loans.

He said he was informed by the IRS that stimulus checks will be out by mid-May.

SBA loan applications will be reopened soon, according to Torres. So far, 56 small businesses in the CNMI successfully applied for $12.62 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans.

“President Trump just signed legislation to increase funding, so that we can give more businesses the help they need to pay their employees,” he said.