More Covid cases in quarantine

US Army security personnel keep an eye on the United Airlines flight that transported a group of 27 Marshallese from Honolulu to Kwajalein October 31 to begin quarantine at the US Army base. Photo: RMI Liaison Office.

GIFF JOHNSON
Three new Covid cases among the 27 Marshallese in managed quarantine at Kwajalein were confirmed by testing November 15.
President David Kabua, following a Cabinet meeting with a briefing on the development by National Disaster Committee (NDC) officials, took to V7AB Tuesday late afternoon to announce the news.

To reassure the public, the President said the three who tested positive are classified as “border cases,” meaning they have been in quarantine with no contact with the wider community.

The immediate result of the positive findings is that the quarantine for the Marshallese at the Kwaj Lodge facility at USAG-KA is being extended an additional seven days, said a statement from the Office of the Chief Secretary Tuesday. This means the earliest the group can now be released, pending negative testing, is November 28.

Chief Secretary Kino Kabua, who heads the NDC, said all the RMI staff operating the quarantine facility and laboratory at the Kwaj Lodge tested negative for Covid and are in good health.

“The first repatriated group are confined, controlled and contained in the Kwaj Lodge Quarantine Center and have been since 31 October,” said the Office of the Chief Secretary earlier this week.

Those positive are one adult, and two infant children. The group of 27 includes the First Lady Ginger Kabua and two relatives who are staying in a separate facility. All were tested on arrival October 31 and all but two tested negative. The two were determined to be “historical/recovered” cases of Covid from earlier in the year and considered not contagious.

The next Covid test was administered this past Sunday, November 15, resulting in the three new Covid-positive results.

Because of the two-week gap between the tests, Health officials said it was not possible to determine if the active Covid cases developed soon after their arrival at Kwajalein or in the few days prior to Sunday’s testing.

At the time the three tested positive Sunday, they were all in separate rooms with other occupants: the adult with one other adult family member, and the two children with their mothers.

“The adult is (now) by himself,” said the Chief Secretary Wednesday. “The family member that was with him has been moved to (another) room and isolated. The other two cases are with their mothers as they are infants.”

A second group of Marshallese was possibly going to arrive for quarantine at Kwajalein in mid-December but has been postponed.

The NDC had already made a recommendation to postpone the next repatriation group based on issues identified with moving the first group through Honolulu International Airport as well as deciding to add additional testing prior to departure from Honolulu, said Kabua.

“Now with these new cases on Kwaj, this adds further to our review and discussion on next group of when exactly that will take place,” she said, adding: “Before these three new cases were identified, the Repatriation Working Group had already made a recommendation to NDC to postpone the second group because there were still some areas that need to be strengthened, for example, antibody testing in the first phase quarantine in Honolulu, hiring of additional staff to help processing of repatriation group at the Honolulu airport.”

Kabua said she has received a report from the RMI Honolulu Consulate with recommendations which both the Repatriation Working Group and NDC fully support. 

Aside from the Marshallese continuing their quarantine at the Kwaj Lodge, the first group of 17 American base workers to arrive since October 27 arrived Tuesday this week to begin three weeks of quarantine.

Kwajalein workers have been repatriated since June 9 year. The process was delayed for several weeks so the Army could change its Honolulu quarantine arrangement after one member of the late October group tested positive for Covid-19 at Kwajalein, becoming the RMI’s first Covid case. He was released earlier this week, following a declaration by his primary care doctor at Kwajalein that he is no longer contagious.

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