NMI to provide PCR testing for travel
            As of today – May 15 – the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. can provide PRC testing (which is CDC-approved) at the Francisco C. Ada Saipan International Airport for travelers within 24 hours.

            The CHCC has also set up new “COVID-19 Infolines” as advised in a May 15 release. A CHCC team member on the new line, who declined to be identified, told the Journal that the CHCC was aware of an issue for travelers from the Northern Mariana Islands who arrived in Guam with certificates related to tests performed within 72 hours, but that reflected what the CHCC called “community based testing” and what Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero referred to as “serology tests” on May 14 in answer to a question from the Journal at a news conference.

            “The test currently being used for the community is only marked for surveillance and tracking,” the CHCC individual said. PCR testing is being performed in Saipan, but only for priority testing those people who display symptoms and for tracing, she said. She was not aware of any shortage of PCR tests, she said.

The test is now available at the Saipan Airport for travelers, she said. “We’re trying to help them with it,” she said.

            Either way, she said, “It would require some planning on the traveler’s part.”

United Airlines flies between Saipan and Guam three times a week, which must be juggled with the 72-hour test window.

The CHCC, however is planning a broader 24-hour service, which will cost travelers $50. “We’re working to set it up,” she said.

            Staff at the COVID-19 Infoline can be reached on (670) 285-1542/1672/1352/1854. These numbers are available Monday to Sunday from 7.30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Staff are familiar with all tests available and the process to obtain a test and certificate acceptable upon arrival in Guam.

            Journal readers can also now check the latest information on testing at chcc.gov.mp and on community testing at governor.gov.mp, where individuals can now register for community-based testing.  The two sites are coordinated as far as information, the CHCC team member said.

            Testing will begin in Rota and Tinian on May 18, with the registration portal for all islands available at www.governor.gov.mp/covid-19-testing.

            The release also advised of mental health support hotlines and 24-7 crisis hotlines. Information about those are available on the above sites CHCC and governor.gov.mp sites.

            Travelers arriving in Saipan would likewise need a test certificate issued in Guam “from the state department of health” within 72 hours.

            According to the CHCC, “This is not an automatic waiver.” Travelers currently would be assessed at the Pacific Islands Club Saipan and have the option of being tested upon arrival to shorten quarantine, the CHCC said.

Guam residents can contact their providers or a Department of Public Health Center for testing. More information is available at (670) 480-7859/6760/3 or through the 311 information line.

            Journal readers are advised to check both islands for the latest policies before travel.


NMI renews health emergency; opens government offices
            In other news from the Northern Mariana Islands, the health emergency was renewed on May 14 for another 30 days. The curfew and restrictions on businesses therefore remain. The curfew runs from10 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Business hours remain from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

            However, government offices will open for a half day the week of May 18 from 8 a.m.to noon and for full days the week after that, although May 25 is a legal holiday in the NMI. Staff who have reduced hours will still observe those hours, according to a May 14 release.


AG nixes double pay for GovGuam healthcare workers
            Attorney General Leevin Camacho issued an opinion May 14 which said double pay (or compensatory leave credits) for healthcare personnel is not possible under the governing rule and conditions.

            Conditions under Rule 8.406 say the entitlement kicks in when the governor has declared a state of emergency, the facility where the employee works is closed, and the employee must still report to work to provide essential services.

            Since Guam Memorial Hospital and clinics remained open during the COVID-19 emergency, Camacho said many of the frontline workers would not qualify.

            However, he said, essential employees at other agencies that were completely closed, might qualify.

            Amending those rules is, or course, a matter of policy most appropriate for the legislature. The Organic Act, in fact, expressly authorizes the legislature to set the compensation of all Government of Guam employees,” Camacho said in the opinion.