Pohnpei accuses the FSM of intentionally violating the State’s COVID-19 protections in its handling of Chief Mailo

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

February 9, 2021

boarding party shot 3Pohnpei—On Saturday, February 6, dozens of FSM National Police officers occupied the parking lot of the Mangrove Bay Bar and Grill.  When we asked FSM Chief of Staff Leo Falcam what was happening, he said that they were just conducting a little exercise.

On Monday, February 8, the Pohnpei State government issued a press release explaining their version of the events on February 6.  The release said that the Pohnpei State Department of Public Safety (DPS) Chief Mailo security team witnessed one FSM National Police vessel as it approached the Chief Mailo, which has been quarantined at anchorage since arriving in Pohnpei. The release said that DPS knew that the purpose for the contact was to vaccinate the crew and passengers.

The release said that DPS and Pohnpei Health Department staff members noticed that not a single person on the boarding party was wearing personal protective equipment and “very few even had masks on. They later retracted that statement saying that the boarding party did wear masks and gloves but that no one wore the full body personal protective equipment as they should have been wearing.

“The FSM Health Staff did not follow the established protocols by checking in at the Emergency Operations Center at the Department of Public Safety or Pohnpei Port Authority, instead launching from Mangrove Bay,” the release said.

It also said that Dr. Rally Jim, Pohnpei Task Force Medical Advisor and Public Health Chief along with the Chair of the State COVID-19 recommended a seven-day quarantine period for the police officers and medical personnel who were involved in the boarding of the MS Chief Mailo. Dr. Jim advised the task forces that although the positive case aboard the Chief Mailo has been classified as a “historical case”, minimal risk is still present until a negative test result can be confirmed.

At the time of the Press Release, only three members of the boarding party were in quarantine in Dekehtik. It asked for the six National Police Officers to present themselves for quarantine.

Pohnpei State issued an update on the situation at the end of the day saying that the six officers had voluntarily arrived at the quarantine facility in Dekehtik where they would spend the next seven days. The update also said that all members of Saturday’s boarding party tested negative for the virus on arrival back at Mangrove Bay. It said that they would be tested again at the end of the quarantine period before being released back to the community.

On February 9, Wincener David, Pohnpei’s Chair of the COVID-19 Task Force wrote a letter to Livingston Taulung, Chair of FSM’s COVID-19 Task Force and Carlson Apis, FSM Secretary of Transportation, Communication, and Infrastructure, essentially demanding that the MV Chief Mailo be on its way to its home port in Chuuk.  The letter included an attachment of a memo reporting a hearsay phone conversation between Dr. Rally Jim and a Chuuk official that occurred at about 3:00 PM on January 6 during which the official is reported to have said that the leadership of Chuuk is ready to receive the MS Chief Mailo. Dr. Jim reported the official as having said that Chuuk could handle both vaccinations for the crew and passengers of the MS Chief Mailo on its arrival. 

“It is obvious that ever since its arrival in Pohnpei about a month ago, despite dubious reasons that brought her to Pohnpei from a COVID-19 infected area, Pohnpei State Government had to risk its staff for humanitarian reasons to assume the responsibility to help and assist including provisioning and quarantining services required under the existing health emergency decrees and protocols imposed by the State and National Governments,” Pohnpei’s COVID-19 Task Force chair wrote.  “That was the right thing to do to ensure our resident population was protected from potential exposure and harm of COVID-19 virus. Pohnpei State Government through its Task Force did its honest best to serve, assist and help the crew throughout the period and now they are ready to go home.”

“…Unfortunately, what FSM did on Saturday 02/06/21, disrespected peoples peace, sense of security and trust in how we should be handling this delicate situation. In fact, FSM breached

our own established protocols in handling this kind of process by unilaterally did what they did and disregarded the safety of the staffs involved, their families and their community members and the safety of the population at large. That was a direct violation of the decrees of both the FSM and State Emergency Orders.”

In the most strongly worded paragraph of the letter, David wrote, “Why is it still here is a cause of concern. It is not in the best interest of our cooperative purpose. Our cooperative working relationship here in Pohnpei to prevent and contain COVID-19 is a call for both the nation and the state to heed and it will continue to be for many months, if not years, to come. Cooperation, transparency and honesty are imperatives under the circumstances without which our People will be victims. The Task Force on behalf of People of Pohnpei State, implores you to take the necessary step(s) to have MV Chief Mailo depart Pohnpei as soon as possible. In fact, its owners/ stewards are waiting for it.”

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