DoD announces COVID requirement for bases; seeks small business opinions

The U.S. Department of Defense will require “attestation of an individual’s status as fully vaccinated or presentation of a recent negative COVID-19 test” as a condition of physical access to DOD buildings and DOD-leased spaces in non-DOD buildings in which official DOD business takes place, according to a Sept. 9 release.

Civilian employees and contractor personnel who are unvaccinated for COVID-19 or who decline to attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status will be subject to COVID-19 screening testing weekly. Such civilian employees and contractor personnel who refuse required screening testing will be denied access to DOD facilities.

View the memorandum for Force Health Protection Guidance (Supplement 23) – Department of Defense Guidance for Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination Attestation and Screening Testing for Unvaccinated Personnel.

DD Form 3150, used for attestation of vaccination status, is included as an attachment in the memorandum.

President Joseph R. Biden is expected to require contractors on U.S. bases to be fully vaccinated, according to media reports, with the requirement issued through OSHA.

In other DoD news,  the Department of Defense issued a federal register notice “requesting comments and information from small businesses that are part of the defense supply chain or are interested in becoming a part of it.”  This information will help DoD to leverage the capabilities of small businesses to increase competition, strengthen domestic supply chains and support equity and inclusion in defense procurements, DoD said in a Sept. 9 release.


GEDA sees flood of applications for small business grant program

As of close of business Sept. 9, the Guam Economic Development Authority saw “more than 1,400 application downloads, with more than 200 applications logged,” for the 2021 Small Business Pandemic Assistance program, according to Joann G. Camacho, deputy administrator. GEDA is “in the process of processing and verifying applications,” she told the Journal.

The program will offer $27.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding instead of the $20 million originally planned.


NMI administration ready and willing to aid in growth of Australian market

Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said a direct route to Australia such as Marianas Pacific Airlines is planning would be a plus. “Tourism is our only industry. Without our tourists arriving, we don’t have an economy. This is an opportunity to diversify our tourism market,” he said.

The airline is currently planning 52 flights a week on seven routes in the next three years using three aircraft. Flights would be between the Northern Mariana Islands and Australia, as well as other Asian destinations. “Having tourists from Australia would be a bonus for us,” Torres said.

As to encouraging Australian businesses to enter the NMI market, Torres told the Journal, “We’d be happy to assist them on what we have here.” Any businesses, he said “tend to go where they feel comfortable.”

Priscilla M. Iakpo, managing director of the Marianas Visitors Authority said, “Millions of Australians seek to travel.” A market such as Bali – popular with Australians – is no different in distance from the NMI, she said. Iakpo told the Journal that MVA was taking its own steps to prepare for the market. “The board had approved to create an Australian Ad Hoc Committee.” Any MVA commitment to support marketing in Australia would come as a recommendation from that group to the board, she said.

In other MVA news, Iakpo said tourism uptake from the Korean bubble has increased. “I’m really happy to say we’ve seen as increase in bookings. In the last seven days we’ve seen over 1,000 bookings.” Visitors are staying for at least seven days, she said. “We’ve seen 14, 21 days.” Visitors were not solely visiting Saipan, Iakpo said. “They’re going to Rota and Tinian as well.” As of Sept. 9, more than 90 businesses have joined the World Travel and Tourism Council Safe Travels program in the NMI, she said. “That also includes Rota and Tinian.”


GVB approves incentives for visitors

Spending $1 million to pay for potentially thousands of PCR tests for tourists was approved in a Sep. 9 Guam Visitors Bureau board meeting.

The PCR testing would be for departing tourists heading towards their home country, so they would not have to quarantine when arriving home; PCR tests are a standard test, preferred by most of the industry.

Gerald S.A. Perez, vice president of GVB, told the Journal, “The testing is intended to give us an edge over competing destinations and jump start our visitor arrivals from important source markets.”

GVB also plans a $500 tourist spending allowance program, which would begin in early 2022, around February.

The common belief is that, by eliminating the cost of the return COVID test, along with spending money while here, tourists would spend more money on hotels, shopping, restaurants, local tours and more, stimulating the economy.

In other GVB news, the board also approved a $250,000 incentive program for Korea’s convention market as well as registering GVB as a non-profit organization in South Korea.


Guam government flip flops on re-opening schools

Guam schools will not reopen for in-school learning from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade on Sept. 13. While this was planned, the Office of the Governor said on Sept. 9, “Based on the report of positive cases from last night (Sept. 8) and a high preliminary case count tracking for this evening, in-person learning will remain suspended on strong recommendation from the Surgeon Cell and DPHSS.” The Surgeon Cell is led by Dr. Michael Cruz, CEO of Guam Regional Medical Center.

Guam schools went into remote learning mode effective Monday, Aug. 30, following an Executive Order announced the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 27. U.S. Department of Defense schools in Guam remain open for in-person learning.   

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services reported Sept. 9 215 new cases of COVID-19 out of 1,197 tests performed on September 8; 64 cases were identified through contact tracing. On Sept. 8 DPHSS reported 325 new cases of COVID-19 out of 1,647 tests performed on Sept 7, with 149 cases were identified through contact tracing.


Guam gets FEMA help; NMI has submitted plan

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved Requests for Assistance to support Guam’s ongoing COVID response. The requests were made by the Department of Public Health and Social Services on behalf of the Government of Guam. 

Arriving Sept. 10 are two medical technologists or clinical laboratory scientists, according to the Office of the Governor. Three five-member teams to oversee and provide outpatient monoclonal antibody therapy are due to arrive Sept. 13. Two personnel are in Guam to assist in logistics through Sept. 30, and an RFA has also been made for 20 vaccinators to help the DPHSS Guam Community Health Centers and vaccination points.

Esther L. Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Health Center told the Journal at a Sept. 10 press conference that the Northern Mariana Islands is also in touch with FEMA. “We have already submitted a readiness plan,” she said. “FEMA has been supportive of that.” The NMI is waiting to hear more about any upcoming federal requirements for vaccinations at schools and COVID “booster shots.”

Muna said the NMI is approaching vaccination of 80% of the population.


Advocacy for SSI moves forward, Guam AG joins with amicus brief

“Congressman Raúl Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and six of his House colleagues sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Acting Solicitor General Brian Fletcher calling on the Biden-Harris Department of Justice to expressly condemn the Insular Cases, a series of Supreme Court decisions the Justice Department has continued to rely upon when defending federal statutes that discriminate against residents of U.S. territories,” according to a Sept. 9 release from Equally American.

Their letter to the Justice Department includes the following excerpts:

  • “The time is now for the Justice Department to reject the Insular Cases and the racism they and the territorial incorporation doctrine represent,”
  • “The Justice Department should ask itself whether it wants to remain complicit in the racism inherent in the Insular Cases by continuing to perpetuate the ‘separate and unequal’ status facing residents of U.S. territories. Our nation deserves better, and the people of the territories deserve better.”

The letter highlights how, in the coming weeks, the Biden-Harris DOJ will have to express its view on the Insular Cases in two high-profile filings before the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The first case, U.S. v. Vaello Madero, involves the denial of Supplemental Security Income for residents of territories. The second case, Fitisemanu v. United States, addresses whether people born in territories have a right to citizenship.

Guam Attorney General Leewin T. Camacho and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to reject the exclusion of Guam and other territories from nationwide federal aid programs, according to a Sept. 9 release. 


Google Guam?

The Journal has requested comment from Google’s corporate office, that the company is “considering” relocating its assets in Hong Kong to Guam according to reports, but had not received a reply from Google as of press time.

Google has 28 staff vacancies at its Causeway Bay property in Hong Kong. The labor force in Hong Kong has been depleted by an exodus of workers, significantly – but not exclusively – to the United Kingdom, which offered a dedicated visa from January. The UK predicted up to 154,000 people would take advantage of the status in the first year, which also offers a path to British citizenship. Canada launched its own program in February.

According to its website, Google China – a subsidiary of Google – was blocked by the People’s Republic of China. In 2010, searching via Google was moved from mainland China to Hong Kong.  Google announced in August 2020 it was ending cooperation with Hong Kong authorities on data requests, following China’s passage of a national security law in the territory.


And also …

The Westin Resort Guam has relaunched its Private Dining, which offers a deluxe ocean view room for up to 10 people for lunch or dinner, with a four-, six- or seven-course menu from the Prego kitchen. Two days advance reservation and a 30% deposit is required, according to a Sept. 8 release. mbj