President David W. Panuelo has signed new guidelines for the implementation of the Healthy Border Protection Act. The effect is that mandatory requirements for the vaccination of children aged under five years old are waived for travel to any FSM State; ALL PERSONS traveling to states with community transmission of COVID-19 (i.e. Pohnpei and Kosrae) do NOT need a COVID-19 test. These guidelines are dated as being signed on August 8th, 2022, but the Division of Public Information received them this afternoon on August 10th, 2022. These guidelines are attached to this email and can also be found here: https://gov.fm/files/
****To clarify–the vaccine is not necessary for persons under five years old to travel into the FSM (any state).
****To clarify–“a negative COVID-19 test result is temporarily suspended as a travel requirement for the purpose of travel and entry into any of the FSM States with community transmission”, i.e. if you are traveling to Pohnpei or Kosrae, you don’t need a test prior to travel–but if you are traveling to Chuuk or Yap, you 100% still do.
There are currently eighteen (18) deaths in the FSM directly attributable to COVID-19.
Officials from the US CDC and FSM Department of Health & Social Affairs informed the Office of the President that one out of every three COVID-19-attributable deaths in the FSM are reflective of persons who were either unvaccinated, or only partially vaccinated; that all deaths in the FSM are reflective of persons who had comorbidities such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or obesity; and that no death was reflective of a person who received COVID-19-related therapeutics such as Paxlovid or EvuSheld. I remain unable to acquire additional information on those who are deceased, such as gender and/or age breakdowns.
Officials from the US CDC reported to the FSM Department of Health & Social Affairs that the State of Kosrae broke the world COVID-19 record last week, as measured by cases per day per million residents, which was attributed to a combination of zero prior natural immunity, exceptional access to tests and preventive treatment, and good recording of their data.
Officials from the US CDC reported to the FSM Department of Health & Social Affairs that, for the State of Kosrae, the “burn of BA.5 was three times hotter than estimated (BA.2)…and ended three times sooner than projected.”
*****I possess no medical expertise and so I asked an official at the FSM Department of Health & Social Affairs to clarify what that means, and I was advised that the main idea is that both Pohnpei and Kosrae saw enormous community spread almost immediately, with test positivity rates at sometimes more than 90%, followed by a sudden and sharp decline in new cases.
*****The above explanation tracks with my own observations in the communities. Businesses that were closed are open again, including banking institutions, the FSM Post Office in Pohnpei (now on regular hours again), restaurants, and construction entities.
FSM Government departments and agencies that previously experienced an abject lack of staff are reporting that the majority of staff have returned to work.
The Governor of the State of Chuuk, Alexander R. Narruhn, submitted a request to the FSM Government to cancel the flight on August 22nd, 2022. The purpose of the request was on the premise that Chuuk State does not have the capacity to receive additional people. The cancellation of the flight is described to directly impact 139 persons who were scheduled to travel to Chuuk on that date. The Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Communications, & Infrastructure consented to the request, which was conveyed forward to relevant international commercial carriers.
FSM Government officials advised that they are engaged in ongoing conversation with Chuuk State Government regarding proposed flight dates for Chuuk in September and October. It is the intent of the FSM Government to have publicly known and scheduled flight dates at the nearest opportunity so as to ensure that the public law guaranteeing open borders (PL 22-134) is followed in a fair and equitable manner, while also consistent with Chuuk State’s intent to avoid community-transmission of COVID-19 until their hospital has completed its renovations (i.e. by November).
Officials at the Pohnpei State Government advised the Office of the President that the Test & Treat sites at Pohnpei Island Central School (PICS) and Pohnlangas will be closed down by 5pm today, Wednesday, August 10th 2022. Officials described that “Public health is scaling back and providing services in the [community-based] dispensaries starting Thursday, August 11th.”
Multiple FSM Government officials have reported concerns regarding lack of public adherence to the President’s decree for all persons to wear masks when in public places. Video and photography widely promulgated on social media, depicting funeral ceremonies for prominent persons, including former traditional leaders and elected officials, demonstrate extensive public gatherings, the sharing of food including common cups and utensils, and inconsistent usage of masks and other forms of personal protection equipment among attendees at these gatherings.
On August 8th, 2022, the Secretary of Health & Social Affairs was joined by officials from the US CDC and the World Health Organization to provide the public a briefing on regarding COVID-19 in the FSM. The 30-minute briefing and approximately additional 15-minutes of Q&A from the FSM’s only independent media entity, the Kaselehlie Press, is available here, and includes timestamps for the various questions and answers: facebook.com/piofsm/videos/
On Thursday, August 11th 2022, President David W. Panuelo will conduct a cabinet meeting to discuss, among other matters, the FSM’s COVID-19 related social protection programming (including the utility subsidy program for low-income households), and additional COVID-19-related support from friends, allies, and development partners, including ongoing support from the Government of Guam and the Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Representatives of friends, allies, and development partners are physically present in the FSM and actively providing support; beyond officials from the US CDC, the US Department of Health & Human Services, and the WHO, these also include e.g. representatives from the Ayuda Foundation and a representative from Joint Region Marianas.
Vice President Yosiwo P. George remains in hospital, and the Vice President’s Special Assistant described that the Vice President is allegedly receiving nutritional assistance through a tube as he is not able to eat or drink. Other officials familiar with the Vice President’s health status describe deep worry for his condition and suggest that it is worsening. One official described concerns that the Vice President, who wishes to travel to Kosrae so as to be with his family, may not be able to do so in the near future.
That concludes the updates for today.
Below again are the links to the President’s decree as well as the regulations guiding the Healthy Border Protection Act.
Notes on reading the FSM SitRep:
First–Both Yap and Chuuk remain COVID-19 free in their communities. All active positive cases, as of this email, are described to remain in quarantine and/or isolation.
Second–the term “hospitalization” in the attached report means “a person is positive for COVID-19 and is presently under medical care at a state or private hospital.” This is the census number for all individuals in the hospital.
Third–the term “discharged cases” in the attached report means “a person who WAS under medical care at a state or private hospital is no longer positive for COVID-19 and has left the hospital’s care.” This is a cumulative number. (It also used to say “recovered cases” and we have since changed it to say “discharged” in an attempt to avoid confusion).