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Alternate care site at Kanoa now open

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THE CNMI alternate care site facility at Kanoa Resort was officially opened on Wednesday.

“Today is a great day for our Commonwealth, and we would not be here if it weren’t for the work of so many individuals in our government, our Legislature, our CHCC, and in our community really making the effort to protect our people and our islands from this deadly virus,” Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said in his remarks.

“It is important to remind ourselves how we got here and what we went through. If you remember back in February, March, and April when Covid-19 cases were surging in the U.S. mainland, over 9,000 healthcare professionals contracted Covid-19 while serving patients and keeping our nation’s hospitals running, many of whom wore the same PPE for many days and weeks on end.”

In the state of New York, he noted, 1,028 deaths were reported on April 9 alone.

“[The Federal Emergency Management Agency] initially projected the CNMI to have 6,000 to 8,000 Covid-19 cases by June if we did not put any plans or mitigation in place,” he said.

“We are a community that is very vulnerable to Covid-19, and we must do everything we can to protect everyone from this deadly virus.

“We did everything we could since January, listening to our federal partners, our doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals on steps needed to prepare for the worst.”

On Jan. 20, 2020, the CNMI became the first U.S. state or territory to locally take proactive action and preventative measures against the coronavirus and any other illnesses, the governor said.

“Through the leadership of our CHCC CEO Esther Muna, the CNMI began health screening passengers to ensure that no tourist with Covid-19 entered the CNMI. In collaboration with the Commonwealth Ports Authority, Customs, and [U.S. Customs and Border Patrol], CHCC set up quarantine and isolation units at the airport to treat sick or suspected passengers upon entering our islands.”

In March, the Covid-19 Task Force was formed.

The alternate care site at Kanoa Resort officially opened on Wednesday. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

“On March 15, Guam confirmed its first three cases of Covid-19, and the next day we shut down the government and suspended classes at PSS and NMC,” the governor said.

The administration then began its public information campaign, “Stay at Home, Stop the Spread” to stop people from unnecessary travel and to remain socially distant.

“That was very hard because it was against our culture as a people,” the governor said.

In April, the CNMI received funding from the White House, FEMA, and the U.S. Congress to aid in its Covid-19 response.

The CNMI then acquired 60,000 Covid-19 test kits from South Korea, and community-based testing commenced in the Commonwealth to see how widespread the virus was.

Then in May and June, the CNMI slowly reopened its economy and community again, implementing new quarantine procedures for inbound travelers.

“From July through now, we continue to work and plan, eventually leading us here to the first fully equipped alternate care site in the Pacific,” the governor said.

“Because of your efforts, everyone here, the CNMI is one of the safest places in the US from Covid-19 because of hard work, proactive planning, and collaboration with our doctors, nurses, and our Covid-19 Task Force. To our community, you all deserve a round of applause.

“A lot can be achieved when we work together. When we have a unified leadership, and we all agree on one common goal, which is to protect our people, our manamko’ and our loved ones with preexisting conditions from a deadly virus, we can accomplish anything,” he said.

The governor said the funds that the Commonwealth has spent on its Covid-19 response “are pennies to the dollars that translate to all the lives we have saved [in] our island community.”

He added, “We know our system is working because of the hard work and leadership of our CHCC CEO, Covid-19 Task Force chairman, the governor’s authorized representative, our Legislature, and our medical heroes and first responders. A lot of personal sacrifices were made by our first responders and their families. I know I have had to make those sacrifices during the early days of the pandemic. But at the end of the day, the work we do is to keep everyone in the Marianas regardless of their backgrounds safe from this virus.”

The governor said he will always make the best policy decisions possible in the best interest of the people of the CNMI.

Enormous

In his remarks, the governor’s authorized representative Patrick Guerrero said: “Throughout the early stages of this pandemic, similar facilities were built all over the world in anticipation that hospitals would not be able to accommodate the enormous scale of hospitalizations due to this deadly disease.”

He said  he has been searching and has not been successful in finding anywhere else in the U.S. where an actual hotel was converted into an acute level care facility.

“But we had no choice,” he said, because “we do not have facilities, such as sports arenas or large convention centers to turn into field hospitals and we may be forced to accommodate our people with high level medical care in a non-conventional setting.”

There were challenges along the way, he said, “but we rose to every challenge. Else, we would not be here today with our low number of cases.”

Regional Administrator for FEMA Region IX Robert J. Fenton Jr., for his part, in his virtual remarks, commended the CNMI government and the CHCC for working together to build the facility.

“I’m also pleased that FEMA can fund much of the cost,” he said, adding that soon, a vaccine will be available to the islands.

“I urge you to do your part to keep the Marianas safe. That means wearing a mask, maintaining a social distance of six feet or more from anyone, and washing your hands,” he said.

Warren Villagomez, the chairman of the Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force, said, “Public health remains our top priority, and we are thankful to be living in the safest place in the U.S. from Covid-19. Let’s continue to be vigilant about the pandemic and help each other out.”

Also attending the event were Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna, CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management Special Assistant Gerald Deleon Guerrero, Dr. John Tudela, Tan Holdings Corporation vice president for corporate business development Alex Sablan, Senate President Victor B. Hocog, Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao, other lawmakers, Saipan Mayor David Apatang, Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan, Rota Mayor Ephraim Atalig, Deputy Attorney General Lillian Tenorio, Chief Justice Alexandro Castro, Associate Justice John Manglona, Associate Justice Perry Inos, cabinet members and Diocese of Chalan Kanoa Bishop Ryan Jimenez who delivered the invocation.

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