President David Kabua and his party of six became the first people in 15 months to get off a United Airlines flight in Majuro and go into quarantine at the Arrak facility when they did so this past Tuesday.
The last group to come in by a United flight was Xavier High School students who returned home when the Chuuk school closed at the outset of the Covid pandemic.
There was a small hiccup during the processing of the seven passengers on the tarmac, which resulted in the Ministry of Health conducting additional Covid tests — the second in 72 hours — on all seven inbound people and Dr. Frank Underwood, the director of Public Health. All tests were negative, according to the ministry. This was done out of an abundance of caution when Dr. Underwood, although geared up with personal protection equipment, was within several feet of one of the passengers to collect passports in a plastic bag.
But the real drama didn’t unfold until later in the afternoon. All seven — the President, First Lady Ginger Kabua, Minister Sandy Alfred and his wife Julia Alfred, and three President’s office staff — were transported directly from the airport tarmac in two vehicles to the Arrak quarantine facility without incident.
But by late afternoon Tuesday, one of the seven was developing medical problems requiring hospitalization. This required an emergency operations center meeting of top level staff at the hospital to go over protocols for managing the case with Covid protection requirements. This involved transport of two individuals from Arrak to the special Covid ICU building, and requirements for performing a CT scan on the patient. This required hospital staff involved in the radiology department to don full body personal protection suits to perform the CT scan.
Hospital staff had already had experience with managing the injured fisherman from a Taiwan seiner, who is currently recovering in the Covid ICU ward following a stabbing and later surgery. But the arrival of the two new individuals into the Covid ICU ward means that all nurses involved with the new arrivals are required to stay in the isolation facility for 14 days. Also, the staff taking care of the fisherman, who all were scheduled to be released Monday July 12, now must extend for the 14 days of the new quarantine period.
“There were many moving parts to this process and it worked as well as it could have,” said Secretary Jack Niedenthal. “I’m very happy with how the staff managed it.”
As of Wednesday morning, the new patient who was transferred from Arrak was reported to be stable in the Covid ICU ward.