NMI plans for tourism reopening hand in hand with vaccine
The Northern Mariana Islands has not only taken up the opportunity to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine in its islands, but is also viewing the vaccine as a step on the way to re-opening the commonwealth to tourism.
“This is another opportunity for us to look into our tourism bubble,” Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said during a Nov. 20 press conference. He said, “There’s some detailed suggestions on how to move forward. We are creating a new system specifically for our tourism bubble.”
He said aside from rapid testing of tourists at the Francisco C. Ada International Airport in Saipan and further testing of them at hotels, he would like to give priority to take the vaccine to employees working in the tourist industry.
Those initially receiving the vaccine will be front line workers he said. “First and foremost, will be our doctors and nurses,” he said. But a to reassuring the population that the vaccine is safe Torres said, “I would be happy to take it – as well as my family.”
Meanwhile the governor said 21 tourism sites are being readied, and commended community partners. “We’re working so our sites will be first class sites when we open up to tourism,” he said.
Esther Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., said test CHCC is aiming to understand local concerns about the vaccine. “We will be doing a survey to get feedback from the community.”
NMI Secretary of Finance David Atalig spoke of the amounts that Imperial Pacific International owes with interest, which include a $9.7 million tax lien, a $15.75 million annual fee, and a $3.1 million regulatory fee. As to his thoughts on getting the monies reimbursed, Atalig said, “I’m working hard to get that paid – one step at a time.” IPI also owes payment to Pacific Rim Constructors for its work on the property, according to Journal files.
New Guam hospital will become a reality, governor says
Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero said the island can no longer rely on Guam Memorial Hospital’s structure. “We need to build a new hospital,” she said.
Speaking at a Rotary Club of Guam membership meeting on Nov. 19, she said the Army Corps of Engineers said even if the hospital is renovated, it can no longer support “the best standards of care.”
Moving forward, she said, “I’m in the process of getting excess land to build a new hospital.”
Leon Guerrero said the administration’s support of the COVID-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier had borne fruit and the U.S. military are “very willing” to help Guam, she said. “The secretary of the Navy is going to give us excess land because of that.”
Planning is moving forward, Leon Guerrero said. “I have GEDA (the Guam Economic Development Authority) working on what are the financial options.”
As to the government’s fiscal situation, she said the administration continues to be frugal and collect aggressively and had reduced the fiscal 2019 deficit of about $83 million by 42%. “We are collecting what we projected to collect,” she said. However, she said, “I am concerned what will happen after Dec. 31,” when federal funds are due to run out.
In other comments the governor said the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation would be looking at offering more services online. “We’re trying hard to automate the driving licenses and the business licenses by the end of the year,” she said.
The governor said that future plans include quarantine regulations. “That’s another thing I’m looking at – if our numbers are really down – I’m okay to do home quarantine,” she said. mbj