FEMA, HHS, and DoD send critical medical supplies to CNMI for COVID-19 response

At the request of Governor Ralph DLG. Torres, FEMA, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the US Department of Defense (DoD) shipped over critical medical supplies and equipment, as well as a 50-bed Federal Medical Station from the Strategic National Stockpile to Saipan on Saturday.

The Governor, Lt. Governor Arnold I. Palacios, Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHCC) Chief Executive Officer Esther L. Muña, members of the CNMI Legislature, and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force were at the Saipan International Airport on Saturday to receive the supplies from the US Air Force C17 Globemaster Aircraft.

Last month, Governor Torres notified FEMA and DoD of several unmet needs that are negatively impacting the CNMI’s overall responsiveness in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.  Subsequently, the Governor initiated the Defense Support of Civil Authorities process through his request to US Indo-Pacific Commander (USINDOPACOM) Admiral Phillip Davidson for the immediate deployment of key essential resources to the CNMI.

“I am requesting the Department of Defense under your immediate response authority for the instant deployment of key essential resources,” stated Governor Torres, in his letter to Admiral Phillip Davidson on March 30, 2020.

The key resources the Governor requested include, but are not limited to:

·      Field Medical Hospital with beds,

·      Medical Team(s)

·      Medical equipment and capabilities

·      Lab Testing Capabilities with BioFire Test Kits

·      Airlifts to bring in Viral Transport Media and other medical supplies and equipment, inclusive of all relevant DoD capability to supplement and support the facilitation of local efforts against COVID-19

In response to the Governor’s request, Admiral Davidson immediately activated the Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO) West to actively participate in the Governor’s Unified Command Group, comprised of his COVID-19 Task Force, the Commonwealth Health Care Corporation, Homeland Security & Emergency Management Services, in partnership with FEMA.

“I completely understand the urgency of your requests and the unique challenges that CNMI faces. We have activated Harry Elliott as the DCO West to provide CNMI support to establish Mission Assignments addressing your needs,” Admiral Davidson said in his letter to Governor Torres.

The Admiral also informed Governor Torres that Major General Suzie Vares-Lum of USINDOPACOM will be coordinating with FEMA Region IX Administrator Bob Fenton to support the CNMI. Rear Admiral John Menoni, Commander of Joint Region Marianas, will provide additional support on the local level.

“I am committed to assisting you through this crisis. We will provide any assistance possible.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and my team,” assured Admiral Davidson.

The activation of DCO West, in partnership with FEMA, would augment local efforts by the Governor’s Task Force and the Commonwealth Health Care Corporation to combat COVID-19. DCO Harry Elliott is now actively participating with the Governor’s Unified Command Group and FEMA in identifying mission assignments. The Governor and Rear Admiral Menoni are synchronizing efforts to ensure efficient operations.

The shipment is part of President Donald J. Trump’s Whole-of-America response initiatives, mobilizing full federal support through the White House Coronavirus Task Force to assist states and territories across the nation.  This initiative provides for medical resources that are first sent to priority countries identified by FEMA and HHS.

“The fact that this is a global pandemic all across the United States and territories, including us here, and everyone is requesting for the same medical resources makes it a national challenge. But with the strong partnership we have with our federal partners, we are able to get this shipment here. Every little help goes a long way and I would like to thank President Trump, FEMA, HHS, DoD, and all the partners who are supporting the CNMI in this fight,” said Governor Torres.

Office of CNMI Governor and Lt. Governor
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