Travel not a sure bet in survey

A December 2020 National Geographic and Morning Consult poll asked how respondents would approach travel after the coronavirus pandemic was under control. The magazine reported 49% said they would “travel less due to concern of exposure to other people” and a third (34%) said they didn’t expect to travel more in 2021 to make up for the lack of trips in 2020.

Readers can find the survey at  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/2021/01/what-will-covid-19-vaccines-mean-for-travel-coronavirus/

 

USCIS amends H-1B regs

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is amending regulations for selection of H-1B visa petitions subject to a cap or lottery by “first selecting registrations based on the highest Occupational Employment Statistics prevailing wage level that the proffered wages equals or exceeds … .” The final rule will take effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register, according to a Jan. 7 release from USCIS.

 

NMI ports described as stable

Fitch Ratings of New York on Dec. 10 affirmed the ‘BB’ rating on approximately $18.3 million of outstanding Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Ports Authority senior series 1998A and 2005A seaport revenue bonds. Fitch said the rating outlook is stable.

“The rating reflects the essentiality of the ports to a small, island economy amidst high exposure to economic volatility from tourism and a nearly 100% import-based cargo operation. The rating also considers CPA’s sustained revenue performance and history of controlled expenses,” Fitch said, describing CPA’s liquidity levels as “robust.”

 

Department of Defense announces 2021 housing allowances

Effective Jan. 1, the U.S. Department of Defense said Dec. 16 that basic housing rates will increase by an average of 2.9%, costing the department an estimated $23 billion for about 1 million personnel, up from $22 billion for 2020.

Personnel contribute about 5% of the cost, with contributions varying from $70 to $158 monthly for rent and utilities.

 

Companies awarded a slew of MilCon contracts

  • Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Pacific announced Jan. 7 the award of the long-anticipated $990 million Mamizu multiple award construction contract or MACC to seven companies.

The Hensel Phelps-Shimizu Joint Venture is the first of the seven companies awarded an initial task order at $53.9 million for the construction of the base administration building on Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz in Guam. Work for this task order will be performed in Guam and is expected to be completed by May 2023, according to a Jan. 7 release.  

In addition to Hensel Phelps-Shimizu JV, the six companies being awarded the MACC contract are Aptim Construction JV LLC of Alexandria, Va.; Black Construction-Tutor Perini JV of Harmon; Caddell-Nan JV of Montgomery, Ala.; Core Tech-HDCC-Kajima LLC of Tamuning; CWI-Weitz JV of McLean, Va; and Gilbane SMCC ECC LLC of Concord, Calif.

The majority of work will be performed in Guam, but may include other areas under NAVFAC Pacific, with an expected completion date of January 2026, the release said.

  • The tongue-in-cheek named H2O Guam JV of Hawaii was awarded a $98 million firm-fixed-price contract for the repair and modernization of Lima Wharf and facilities at Apra Harbor on Naval Base Guam.  

The work to be performed provides for the repair and modernization of Lima Wharf and associated facilities and infrastructure. Work is expected to be completed by November 2023, according to a Jan. 4 release from the U.S. Department of Defense. The contract was awarded by Naval Facilities Engineering System Command Marianas. Three proposals were received. The JV is comprised of Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. and Healy Tibbitts Builders Inc.

  • APTIM Federal Services LLC of Baton Rouge, La., was awarded a $9.03 million firm-fixed-price contract for maintenance and minor repair of petroleum systems in Guam through the Pacific Ocean Division-Honolulu District. Bids were solicited via the internet with two received. Work will be performed in Tamuning, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2021. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntsville, Ala. made the award Dec. 28. 
  • Science Applications International Corp. of Fairfield, N.J., has been awarded by the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support a maximum $90 million firm-fixed-price contract for facilities maintenance, repair and operations items, as a sole-source acquisition.

This is a one-year bridge contract with no option periods. Locations of performance are New Jersey, Hawaii, Guam and Kwajalein Atoll, with a Dec. 14, 2021 completion date. Using military services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, according to a Dec. 14 release from the Department of Defense.

  • DynCorp International LLC of McLean, Va., was awarded an $18.12 million modification, which provides for the exercise of the fourth option period to December 2021 under a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for various support services to Department of Defense components. 

The work to be performed provides for various support services to DOD components (such as the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command Pacific working in Tinian) “conducting humanitarian assistance, civic assistance, minor military construction projects, contingency efforts, supporting various exercises and other projects located at various sites, usually in remote areas … ,” the release said.  After award of this option, the total cumulative contract value will be $135.22 million. Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific made the award.

 

In other news:

  • Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction announced Dec. 21 that it had signed a contract of about $560 million with Korea Electric Power Corp. and Korea East-West Power – the venture that is developing and financing the 200-megawatt power plant in Ukudu in Guam.

Doosan will also construct a 25-megawatt storage system for power supply stability, it said.

The power plant is due to be completed by 2024, according to the announcement.

  • President Donald J. Trump signed the second and $908 billion COVID relief package on Dec. 27 in D.C., with the U.S. territories included. The package contains unemployment payments of $345 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and $300 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment till March, gives $600 to eligible taxpayers, and averts a federal shutdown. Also included is rental assistance, and another round of the Paycheck Protection Program.

Michael Q. San Nicolas Guam’s delegate to Congress, told the Journal during a Dec. 22 news conference that Compact of Free Association migrants (as citizens from the freely associated states are known) will now be able to claim Medicaid, wherever they live in the U.S. and its territories, to include Guam, upon signature of the package bill. “We’re very excited to be able to announce this as well,” he said.

Whether the $600 will receive Congressional approval to rise to $2,000 is uncertain, but it is currently in discussion. 

 

Saipan, Guam, military giving vaccine doses

The Northern Mariana Islands is continuing to receive vaccines, but Esther Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Health Care Center said, “I wish it were smoother.” Speaking at a Jan. 8 media briefing, she said of the vaccines, she said, “We are going to get them; we just don’t know when … . The numbers do change.” The NMI will continue with its phased approach, she said and encouraged people to keep appointments for second doses. Muna said the NMI was not yet certain if people had developed allergies to the vaccine. “We are investigating a couple ..,” she said.

Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said there is no confirmation yet of the first charter flight of tourists. “It’s not as easy as it used to be to get charters coming in.” However, the NMI will continue to work towards that, he said. Austerity Mondays will continue for the foreseeable future in the NMI, he said. “We continue to look at our source of revenue,” he said, also saying that it was a priority to get unemployed back to work and stressing the importance of tourism to the economy.

The governor also told the Journal that the meetings between the Trump Administration and U.S. governors had value. “I hope that they continue. It’s very helpful and information.” The meetings had given the NMI access to cabinet members and “the whole team,” he said.

Following residents aged 75 and above, the next Guam group to receive the COVID vaccine at Okkodo High School, Guam Regional Medical City and Southern Region Community Health Center on the afternoons of Jan. 7, Jan. 8 and Jan. 9 are those between 60 and 74 years of age.  Thousands of residents showed up on Jan. 7 to the school, with some turned away. GRMC volunteered to help.

Guam received 3,900 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Dec. 16 and began administering them at the school Dec. 17. The vaccine was to go first to front line workers and educators, as well as elderly in care facilities.

The island has received batches from Moderna also.

Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero said during a Dec. 16 press conference that, as a next move, “We will be looking at the potential of re-opening schools.” However, she said that did not mean movement from PCOR-1. “Our mitigation measures must remain,” Leon Guerrero said. The vaccine will give people more protection against transmission, she later said.

The island could further expect to remain under an extended Emergency Order at the end of December, she said.

Dr. Annette Aguon, immunization program manager for the Department of Public Health and Social Services, said, “We have been receiving a lot of calls from healthcare providers, who want to have themselves and their staff immunized and we are working on that.”

Anybody who is symptomatic or anybody who has had COVID-19 in the past 90 days should not be getting the vaccine, she said, or a second dose if they had certain reactions to the first dose.  

Aguon said recipients of the vaccine would be monitored.

“We are required to monitor … if there’s any type of side effects,” she said, with Guam results recorded nationally also.

Joint Region Marianas announced Jan. 4 that Naval Hospital Guam received vaccines, though not how many. Vaccination is not mandatory.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, its vaccine distribution plan has three phases. The first phase includes healthcare and support personnel, emergency services and public safety workers, as well as other essential workers and deploying personnel. The second phase encompasses high-risk beneficiaries, with the final phase moving to the healthy population. 

All islands in Micronesia now have vaccines, with the Federated States of Micronesia beginning vaccination the week of Jan. 4. See www.mbjguam.com for updates on programs in Palau and the Marshall Islands.

Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced Jan. 7 that Operation Warp Speed has distributed 19,633,525 vaccine doses. mbj