Guam and NMI ease COVID restrictions
From June 19, according to a June 16 Executive Order by Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero, all incoming travelers to Guam “who have been fully vaccinated with an FDA or WHO authorized COVID-19 vaccine (including, but not limited to, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, and AstraZeneca), upon verification, are exempt from quarantine.” Travelers will still be required to self-monitor for COVID-19 and comply with DPHSS Guidance, including verification requirements.
The EO adds AstraZeneca-vaccinated individuals to the list, making it possible for fully vaccinated tourists from Korea who have received AstraZeneca shots to enter the island.
Unvaccinated incoming travelers who present a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours of arrival, are eligible for home quarantine.
The EO also lifted the foreclosure and eviction moratorium and allowed senior citizen centers to open.
The Northern Mariana Islands announced June 17 that Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres, would move Community Vulnerability Level Green, since the island had vaccinated 60% of its population.
As of June 17, 72.7% of the adult population received their first dose; 66.4% of the 12 and older population received their first dose; 25,435 individuals or 60% of the 12 and older population have been fully vaccinated.
“Current guidance from CDC emphasizes that if one is fully vaccinated, masks are to be worn when required by the location or jurisdiction. Unfortunately, determining who is vaccinated can be difficult and therefore some restrictions must remain until CNMI reaches herd immunity of 80% and greater,” a June 17 release said.
CDC guidelines can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html
The NMI will continue to test arrivals. The latest difference being that fully vaccinated arrivals who have registered through the NMI portal will now be tested through a rapid test at the Francisco C. Ada International Airport in Saipan (and are then free to go to their pre-approved accommodation) and then on the fifth day. At a news conference on June 18, Esther L. Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Health Corp, told the Journal that fifth day testing is possible in Saipan, Tinian and Rota.
“To date, cases are continuously detected and contained at the CNMI’s ports of entry. The CNMI’s total cases as of June 17 … is 183 with an overall positivity rate of 0.1%, far below most other U.S. jurisdictions. Since the first detection of COVID-19 in the CNMI, two lives were unfortunately lost and four were hospitalized,” the Office of the Governor said in the June 17 release.
In addition, the Office of the Governor announced June 18 the cancellation of curfew hours and termination of reduced business hours, effective June 18. Since curfew was between 1 a.m. and 5 p.m., this will not affect all businesses.
NMI DOL requesting continuance of PUA payments
Vicky I Benavente, secretary of the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Labor, said at a June 18 news conference that her department is on discussion on extending Pandemic Unemployment in the NMI.
“We have requested the U.S. Department of Labor to consider the possibility of extending the PUA program. … We continue to see a number of businesses closing,” she said. “As of this time, we are seeing a great number of people who are affected.” Her office would officially request the continuance, she said.
Benavente also said 39,000 Pandemic Unemployment Claims had been received and $200 million in benefits have been disbursed. Of the 39,000 claims, 26,000 were fraudulent, and 2,509 are pending. The NMI has recovered $30 million for fraudulent and other payments, she said.
GEDA seeks site for medical facilities
A new government medical complex is on the horizon for Guam, with three possible sites in mind — two in Mangilao and one at Oka Point in Tamuning.
The most probable spot, according to Melanie R. Mendiola, administrator and CEO of the Guam Economic Development Authority, is Eagles Field on Route 15 in Mangilao, which is partly federally held. Currently officials are working on an analysis of the land to determine the cost of bringing the new infrastructure to all three sites and see the price comparison.
“What we’re doing now is looking for financials, grants,” Mendiola said. She also said the timeline for the analysis would be to have results in “a week or two.”
GEDA is helping with the medical complex project as part of the governor’s Medical Center Working Group.
“GEDA is really playing a major role in this,” Joann G. Camacho, deputy administrator for GEDA, said.
The contractor in charge of the project is Matrix Design Group.
In other GEDA news, the board voted to approve the issuance and sales of airport revenue bonds during the June 17 board of directors meeting.
Recovery Task Force to release vaccine tourism details, has more plans
The details of the Guam Visitors Bureau’s Air V and V program, where tourists can get vaccinated on island, will be ironed out today, with guidelines released by June 19.
GVB also announced its new multi-level Hafa Price campaign. The campaign will be marketed towards all facets of regaining tourism on the island, from the travel agents that book trips and the tourists to the hotels and airlines. With options for tourists like buying a $150 voucher worth $300 and refunding airlines part of the airfare, the campaign is aimed at the re-opening of tourism.
“There’s multi-assets to the program and at this stage it’s just a conceptual discussion,” said Carl T.C. Gutierrez, president and CEO of GVB. “I really needed some input on what options to include, and then we can cost this out.”
USCIS extends transitional parole for NMI long-term residence applicants
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service extended the transitional parole for applicants for Northern Mariana Islands long-term residency until the end of 2021 or until their application is adjudicated, according to a June 17 announcement. USCIS also extended paroles so applicants could work. This is the fourth time USCIS has extended the paroles and work authorizations, according to a June 17 release from Gregorio Camacho “Kilili” Sablan, the NMI delegate to Congress.
Retailer unable to accept credit cards or debit cards
As of June 18, Kmart Guam was only able to transact cash sales. The retailer’s system for credit and debit transactions has been down for at least two days, according to Journal sources, and staff were advising customers hoping to use credit and debit payment, to call the store at 649-9878 to check on the system’s return.
Mixed picture for celebrating Juneteenth
On June 17 (Eastern Daylight Time), President Joseph R. Biden Jr. signed S. 475, also known as the “Juneteenth Bill” designating June 19 Juneteenth National Independence Day and a legal federal holiday. With June 19 a Saturday, many institutions on Guam followed the convention and celebrated on Friday.
- Naval Base Guam announced various closures on Friday, June 18, “as the federal holiday falls on a Saturday,” with the Naval Base Guam Visitor Control Center closed.
- Andersen Air Force Base will be celebrating on June 21.
The Andersen Air Force Base Visitor Control Center stayed open June 18. “Pass and ID will be closed on June 21, but the Visitor Center will still be open to accept already issued passes,” the 36th Wing’s public affairs office told the Journal. “Contractors work schedules will be determined by individual work centers base on mission necessity,” the public affairs office said.
- The government of the Northern Mariana Islands announced leave from noon on June 18 “for all non-critical Executive Branch employees.”
- The District Court of Guam closed for June 18.
The Juneteenth holiday commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans and the end of slavery in the United States. mbj