Sen. Manglona: NMI must expand diagnostic testing capabilities

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SENATOR Paul A. Manglona said there is a need to expand the Commonwealth’s diagnostic testing capabilities.

In a letter to the governor he said, “We have a few CNMI residents who received communication from the mainland informing them of possible exposure to an infected individual in the U.S.”

Manglona said he believes these individuals and others should be tested. However, he added, the individuals were advised that the tests are only administered for highly suspicious cases.

The senator said he was aware that the Torres administration and the Covid-19 Task Force “have already gone to great lengths to combat this Covid-19 pandemic.”

“However, I believe these measures may be insufficient to shield all our islands from exposure to Covid-19 if we do not address our islands’ coronavirus testing capacity and ability,” Manglona said.

There are three parts to the Covid-19 testing process, he added. First, there is the issue of testing kits availability; second, there is a need for protective gear such as gloves, gowns, N-95 masks, and goggles for the physicians and nurses to obtain patient samples for laboratory analysis; and third, there is the necessary coordination with the CNMI’s off-island laboratory testing location, the Guam Health Laboratory.

Manglona said, “Due to the limited testing supply, Covid-19 testing has been strictly limited to critical cases and healthcare workers. However, from a public health perspective and not solely on the supply, I believe testing should be expanded more widely. That’s the only way we will know how many asymptomatic carriers there are in our islands. I believe that your administration and the task force should consider expanding the testing criteria so that an individual who does not necessarily meet the Covid-19 person under investigation criteria, but was potentially exposed to positively tested individuals, could be tested.”

He added, “I understand that testing kits are limited, but how can the CNMI know the extent of this coronavirus spread if we do not at least perform tests on possible cases? Perhaps, the Covid-19 Task Force may consider allowing flexibility for our island’s doctors and clinicians to recommend and have tests performed on individuals who may not qualify under the [person under investigation] criteria, but may have been determined to be potentially exposed and considered to be possibly asymptomatic.”

Manglona said, Aas we all know, the most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chain of transmission, and to do that we must test and isolate. As someone said we cannot fight a fire blindfolded; similarly, we cannot stop this pandemic if we do not know who is infected.”

He noted that as soon as Covid-19 reached Guam, “it was considered for all practical purposes that it is also present here in the CNMI already.”

He said there were still flights coming in from Guam, bringing in residents and nonresidents.

“We cannot be so sure that these passengers are not carriers of the virus. We need to be vigilant in our testing, and administer tests liberally when it comes to possible exposure.

Manglona said the Trump administration has declared a rapid expansion of Covid-19 diagnostic testing capabilities throughout the U.S.

“As the CNMI is the closest U.S. jurisdiction to major Covid-19 outbreak epicenters, the Commonwealth should receive a significant amount of assistance in deterring the fatal virus, especially now since its neighbor, Guam, has [over a] dozen cases of infected individuals,” Manglona said.

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