NMI aiming for incoming flights

Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said that the Northern Mariana Islands has a target date for the return of tourist.

Speaking at July 24 news conference, he told the Journal, “We are working with our partners in South Korea and Japan, and here with the chamber and different organizations, to look for ways to reopen the market and to get the first international flight in – hopefully within the next 90 days.”

In terms of countries with which to partner for tourism efforts, Torres said that South Korea seemed to be the strongest contender, while there has been struggles with Japan and China is “out of the question.”

Torres said public health continues to be a priority. Esther Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Health Corp. said testing policies have not changed since July 9.

Procedures include a five-day quarantine at Kanoa Resort to wait for PCR swab test results. If results are negative, individuals can leave the resort after a couple of hours. Other criteria include having a negative PCR test within three to six days of arrival in the NMI. Muna emphasized that individuals must have results from a PCR test, not the antigen test.

She said community testing is continuous. “We’ve been ramping up community testing since April or May.” Warren Villagomez, chairman of the COVID-19 task force, said there are still around 40,000 testing kits available for the NMI. “We hope to get additional resources by Monday. We don’t want to become short on supply, but we’re also competing with the entire world.

There are currently six active cases of COVID-19 at Kanoa Resort. Muna said the patients are “doing well.”

Torres said the NMI is looking at vaccines for COVID-19, possibly by the end of this year or early next year.

Regarding PUA unemployment funding, Victoria I. Benavente, secretary of the NMI Department of Labor, said as of July 23, $3 million has been sent out so far, and around $800,000 to $1 million will be sent out July 24.

People still having issues with applications can go to Capitol Hill from 8 a.m.to 2 p.m. on July 29, as about 100 DOL employees will be there to assist with inquiries and adjudication of PUA claims.

Department of Labor staff have been working through an average of 30 to 40 applications each per day, with one application review process estimated as 40 minutes to an hour of work.

Benavente said that workers review applications chronologically – by when they were submitted.

However, applications submitted with “all verifiable information” are prioritized over applications with errors. Benavenate said filers will receive an email from the Department of Labor notifying whether their applications were correctly filled for processing or had errors that need to be fixed.

By the end of July, Benavente said DOL hopes to issue $4 million to $5 million worth of PUA claims. “We have no trouble doing more, as long as applications are correctly filled,” she said.

Green card holders are also qualified to file for PUA claims as “qualified aliens,” as long as they have a copy of the green card and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services paperwork in process or approve


Military bases show mixed travel picture

Of the 231 U.S. military installations worldwide, 40% or 92 have officially lifted travel restrictions.

Of the 92 installations with lifted travel restrictions [the week of July 20], three reinstated travel restrictions while five lifted restrictions, according to the U.S. Department of Defense, on July 24.

 Guam installations are officially still at HPCON Charlie. Andersen Air Force Base is still restricting visitors – to include access to those who have base entry, such as veterans wishing to shop at the Air Force Exchange.

 (See previous stories on this topic on www.mbjguam.com).


Guam COVID numbers add more positives

With five more cases testing positive in Guam in the local population as of July 24, there are 337 confirmed cases with five deaths, 244 released from isolation, and 88 active cases.

Of those cases, 288 are classified as civilians and 49 are military service members. mbj