Warnings, citations issued to Saipan bars

During an Aug. 25 press conference, David R. Maratita, director of the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Commerce’s Alcoholic Beverage and Tobacco Control Division; announced two citations were issue to two different bars in Garapan, Saipan for not complying with the governor’s directives.

“We did shut them down, however, they are in communication with the COVID-19 Task Force chairman to try and fix whatever problem they had over the weekend. So, the main violation is that there was no social distancing within the establishment and also not maintaining proper protocol,” he said.

During the first visit to an establishment, a warning is given if there are violations of the directives. However, if a second visit yields infractions that are not corrected, citations are issued accordingly.

Several establishments were warned on Aug. 24, Maratita said. However, most of the establishments visited — bars, restaurants and retail stores — were in compliance with the governor’s COVID-19 Emergency Directives.

According to the directives, enforcement of businesses that are “first time offense violators” include being “subject to immediate closure of their business establishment for a period up to one month.”

Warren Villagomez, chairman of the COVID-19 task force, confirmed both bars would be shut down for one month. “I encourage everyone that’s operating to take our notice and take our enforcement visit seriously,” said Villagomez.

No monetary fine was issued to the businesses.

Maratita declined to disclose the names of the bars due to the ongoing communication between the businesses and the COVID-19 task force. He said the initials of each establishment were R.P. and S.H.

 Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said numerous business partners have encouraged the citation issuance.

“Some business partners are also concerned that others are just literally violating the directives openly. Some business partners are really strict in abiding [by] the directives,” Torres told the Journal.


Military maneuvers – eyes on military bases and COVID numbers

As of Aug. 24, 907 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Guam. Of those, 764 are civilians and 143 are military. There have been seven deaths. Of 87 positives announced Aug. 24 (from numbers from weekend testing) 17 were announced from Naval Hospital Guam.

Different U.S. military commands and different locations handle release of COVID information differently.

The U.S. military’s numbers of positive cases (as tested by Naval Hospital Guam) are released in Guam, and COVID positive numbers aboard the stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt were also released at the time.

Military positive numbers are released in Japan and in Korea, sometimes with precise base locations of personnel.

The military in Guam, however, mostly does not release whether positive cases are active duty personnel – or from which branch of the service, or whether they are local employees, or family members, though it has done – as with seven personnel deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in June, when isolating and testing was immediately carried out.

Transfer of military personnel into the island continues. Military personnel arriving in Guam operate under Restriction of Movement, and Joint Region Marianas has its own quarantine facilities on-island.

U.S forces in Korea and Japan also announce whether personnel are positive on arrival.

Positive military numbers not released in Hawaii, which the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s public affairs office there verified to the Journal. The state does not release them either, though it does list in its arrivals how many military members arrive in the various islands.

According to INDOPACOM’s public affairs office, there is now “restriction of movement” for service personnel and family members.  In a statement forwarded on Aug. 25, it said, “We have also requested the state remove the 14-day quarantine exemption for military family members arriving on island.  Previously, family members were directed by the military to do a 14-day Restriction of Movement (ROM). With the removal of the exemption, family members will now be in a 14-day quarantine based on state directives when they arrive on island.  Military service members, although exempt from the quarantine as essential workers, will continue with the 14-day ROM when arriving on island.”

The statement said that INDOPACOM is transparent and does report its numbers to the Hawaii Department of Health.

Media in Hawaii reported on an Aug. 6 memo by INDOPACOM Commander, Adm. Philip S. Davison that said about 204 service members and family members were among the 2,914 people in Hawaii diagnosed positive at the time — about 7% of Hawaii’s total infections. The memo was not intended for release.

USS Ronald Reagan arriving in Guam.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy

With the arrival of the USS Ronald Reagan carrier Aug. 22 at Naval Base Guam for a “safe haven” port visit – fresh from RIMPAC military exercises in Hawaii’s waters – Joint Region Marianas issued a release that all COVID precautions were being taken, and ship personnel were being isolated pier-side or at a section of beaches.

“With the exception of a few mandatory personnel to ensure the ship’s safe arrival, there will be no interaction with any personnel outside the designated liberty areas. For the docking process, all COVID mitigations will be in place to include social distancing, masks, gloves, and minimal interactions,” the release said.

Following circulation on social media of footage with apparently unmasked individuals pier-side on Naval Base Guam, JRM re-iterated its adherence in a further release on Aug. 23. NBG also posted Aug. 24 on its Facebook page that its beaches were closed “except for sandbox liberty.”

A further post circulated on Aug. 24 with footage showing Tarague Beach at Andersen Air Force Base with full groupings and no social distancing.

Andersen’s public affairs office confirmed to the Journal on Aug. 24 that the beach had not been closed. Further, a statement said, “The Tarague Beach basin remains open to service members and their families to allow for physical activity and relaxation to ensure continued mental and physical readiness.  All members are required to follow 36 Wing COVID-19 mitigation measures by physical distancing and wearing masks when safely appropriate.” The release further said, “Andersen AFB continues to reevaluate its policies with the benefit of our partnerships with the local community and sister services.”

Guam’s bases transitioned to HPCON Charlie on Aug. 20. As the Journal reported, it had earlier transitioned to HPCON Bravo.


Positives continue in Guam community

Among Guam’s current numbers, the Port Authority of Guam announced Aug. 24 two more employees had tested positive for a total of three. The Joint Information center announced the same date five employee cases were identified at four Guam Department of Education schools. After close contact with a family member, an Emergency Medical Dispatcher at the 911 Dispatch Center has tested positive for COVID-19. The A.B. Won Pat International Airport Guam announced Aug. 25 a second employee had tested positive.


Funds allocated for FSM

The Joint Economic Management Committee announced Aug. 25 a total of $62,968,281 in Compact of Free Association funding for fiscal 2021 for the Federated States of Micronesia, in an Aug. 25 release from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs. This followed an annual meeting of JEMCO. Funds will be allocated as follows

$27,445,045 to education 

$23,855,094 to health 

$8,339,225 to infrastructure 

$1,557,090 to “enhanced reporting and accountability” 

$1,318,257 to public sector capacity building 

$175,000 to private sector development 

$278,570 to “the environment”

$62,968,281 Total 

JEMCO’s infrastructure sector assistance would be authorized for the Pohnpei Utilities Corp.’s Water Treatment Plant in Pohnpei and the Agriculture Station Facility in Kosrae. “… JEMCO also came to an understanding that an additional $15,850,855 of fiscal year 2021 Compact assistance, above and beyond the $8.3 million approved, would remain available for possible infrastructure projects in the FSM for fiscal year 2021,” the release said.  

Certain provisions of the Compact of Free Association agreement between the FSM and the U.S. are set to expire in 2023.


Grant program extended

The Guam Economic Development Authority is extending its Qualifying Certificate Community Contribution Grant Program deadline to Sept. 11. “The QCCC grant program aims to provide grant funding up to $10,000 per award to non-profit organizations toward eligible projects and programs that will benefit our island community,” GEDA said in an Aug. 25 release. Funding is provided by Guam Regional Medical City and The Tsubaki Tower, GEDA said. Projects must fall within one of the following categories: health care, public safety, higher education, cultural preservation, tourist attractions, sports tourism, or economic development.
The Humanities Guahan Community Grant was extended to Sept. 29. mbj