Carrier strike group returns to Guam
The Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and its strike group returned on Sept. 13 to “beautiful Guam for some scheduled maintenance,” it said in a post the same day that began with “Hafa Adai!” The ships are docked at Naval Base Guam. The ships carry about 3,700 personnel, according to Journal files.
The Queen Elizabeth strike group was last in Guam in August and comes to Guam from a port visit to the U.S. Navy base of Yokosuka after participating in joint exercises with forces from a number of countries, including the Japan Self Defense Forces.
The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded the Guam Economic Development Authority $1.3 million in CARES Act funding for the Guam Green Markets Project, a construction project to improve Hågat (Agat) and Mangilao Markets and build a new outdoor market in Sinajana. Funding is to “repair, renovate, storm-harden and construct green market facilities to provide a more viable commercial outlet and expanded market opportunities for small business entrepreneurs, retail vendors, cottage product manufacturers and farmers,” according to a Sept. 13 release. Work is expected to commence in the next fiscal year [from Oct. 1], with the design and engineering work for all three sites.
This is the third Economic Development Administration grant that GEDA received this year from the Department of Commerce – the other two being funding for a commercial aquaculture feasibility and to update its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.
Guam has received a $32 million grant from the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation, formerly Office of Economic Adjustment, Department of Defense, for the design and construction of a Guam Public Health Biosafety Laboratory Level 2-3, according to a Sept. 10 release. The grant will be administered by the Community Defense Liaison Office, Office of the Governor, in partnership with the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services.
The Small Business Development Center in the Northern Mariana Islands is eligible to apply for funding to establish it as a lead center, with up to $75,000 to be applied for from the U.S. Small Business Administration by Oct. 8, according to the Office of Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the NMI’s delegate to Congress. The SBDC has already moved from the NMI Department of Commerce to the Northern Marianas College.
The Federal Communications Commission awarded the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. $522,722 for telehealth devices to expand outpatient telemedicine services, particularly for patients living on Rota and Tinian who would otherwise require air travel to access care. The CHCC plans to purchase laptops, tablets, and headsets with the award, allowing community health workers to work in the field while communicating with providers, according to a Sept. 13 release.
The Guam Economic Development Authority awarded the Guam Football Association a more than $10,000 grant from a Qualifying Certificate Community Contribution Grant from Guam Regional Medical City funding. GFA used the funding to procure two portable A.I. Technology cameras and cloud-based video analysis software from Sweden-based company Spiideo. GFA can now film training matches for coaches to use for video analysis.
COVID updates, nine Guam fatalities announced from Sept. 4 to Sept. 12
Guam will not go into “lockdown,” or impose further restrictions, despite high numbers of COVID positive cases and what the administration said was eight fatalities the weekend of Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 at a news conference on Sept. 13.
Later that day the Joint Information Center announced nine fatalities at Guam Memorial Hospital and the Guam Regional Medical City from Sept. 4, one; Sept. 9, one; Sept. 10, three; Sept. 11, three; and one from Sept. 12.
The JIC also reported 174 cases of COVID-19 from Sept. 11 to Sept. 13, with 30 new cases of COVID-19 out of 261 tests performed on September 12; 11 cases were identified through contact tracing. The JIC reported four fatalities at Naval Hospital Guam on Sept. 10, which occurred on Sept. 8. The JIC report did not say whether those fatalities were vaccinated or not.
Statistics shown at the news conference reported 168 COVID-related deaths since March 2020; 42 in 2021 of which four had “known vaccinations.”
Sitting amidst a panel of doctors from Guam Regional Medical City and Guam Memorial Hospital and Chima Mbakwem, chief medical officer of the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services, Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero said on Sept. 13, “We are seeing more deaths coming through our ERs … .” Five of the deaths were people pronounced Dead on Arrival at the hospitals and five were not vaccinated.
However, the governor said, “Right now I feel that the measures we have placed in our community and the tools we have is very adequate. These measures are showing us we are making some headway.”
Guam will be offering infusion medication. “We will be standing up an infusion center, which is going to help prevent hospitalization and decrease the severity of the illness,” she said.
Infusion offers “monoclonal antibody treatment,” which is a medicine used to treat mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 in non-hospitalized adults and children (12 years of age and older weighing at least 88 pounds) who are at high risk of severe COVID symptoms or the need for hospitalization.
If there was an overall message from the medical personnel, it was that vaccinated individuals who are admitted as patients recover more quickly and have shorter stays in hospital.
Leon Guerrero said school in-person openings are tentatively scheduled, with the possibility of private schools returning the week of Sept. 20 and public schools a week after that. However, she said the final decision would rest with the schools.
A three-person team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assist the Kosrae COVID task force to vaccinate more than 500 people in Kosrae, according to a Sept. 11 release. Kosrae has now reached 73% of the 12 to 17 age group with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 91% of the eligible adults with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The FSM is looking to replicate this experience across in Yap, Chuuk, and Pohnpei once the ultra-cold storage equipment provided by the CDC is ready.
The FSM announced Sept. 13 that President David W. Panuelo has asked the FSM Congress to extend the FSM’s State of Emergency to January 2022, that the economic stimulus package for the tourism sector be extended to June 2022, and that Congress appropriate approximately $2 million to augment the FSM Social Protection Program for Low-Income Household Assistance, otherwise funded in whole by the Asian Development Bank.
Repatriation flights were announced through October for all states except Chuuk.
Contractors and visitors at Hawaii state facilities and on state property must provide vaccination proof or testing status prior to entry, effective Sept. 13, according to a Sept. 9 executive order by Gov. David Y. Ige. Hawaii unveiled its SMART Health Card app Sept. 8, which will enable individuals who received COVID-19 vaccinations in Hawaii to create a state-issued digital Hawaii SMART Health Card that can be used for verification by businesses and venues that require verification. An August executive order mandated that state employees must show proof of vaccination or be tested.
The NMI officially reached 80% vaccination of its eligible population aged 12 years and older on Sept. 10, according to a release on that date from the Office of the Governor.
The NMI’s Commonwealth Health Corp. advised Sept. 14 that four positive cases were identified on arrival. Of the 256 positive cases since March 2020, 128 had arrived from the U.S. mainland, 55 from a “U.S. territory” and 33 from an international destination.
As of Sept. 10, 86% of the Government of Guam’s line agency employees are fully vaccinated. The number rises 90% if staff with a first dose are included, according to a Sept. 10 release from the Office of the Governor.
Plan for Guam hospital is to combine financing
Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero said at a Sept. 13 news conference that plans to build a new hospital would combine about $300 million of ARPA funds with $345 million from the fiscal 2022 federal budget. “That gives us $645 million,” she said. The governor said she was trying to secure federal grants. “Our hospital only has five more years of life,” she said.
Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, Guam’s delegate to Congress said on Sept. 11 that final enactment of infrastructure allotments would free up ARPA funds.
Airline adds flights; MVA shares expectations
United Airlines announced Sept. 10 that it expanded its Guam-Manila service to daily from five-times weekly as of Sept. 7. Aside from more options on the Manila route, the weekly service offers daily connections for Manila passengers connecting to United’s daily Guam-Saipan service and Guam-Honolulu flights and onward connections from Hawaii. The schedule is available at www.united.com.
In other news from the Philippines, travelers from Guam are barred from entry as of Sept. 12, along with travelers from other destinations. Citizens of the Philippines can enter, subject to quarantine.
In other United news, United announced Sept. 9 from Chicago that the airline and Honeywell will make a “multimillion-dollar investment” in Alder Fuels – a cleantech company that is pioneering first-of-its-kind technologies for producing sustainable aviation fuel at scale by converting abundant biomass, such as forest and crop waste, into sustainable low-carbon replacement crude oil that can be used to produce aviation fuel. The goal is to produce fuel that is a 100% replacement for petroleum jet fuel.
The Marianas Visitors Authority is projecting approximately 3,800 visitors from Korea will visit the Northern Mariana Islands through Dec. 31. In a Sept. 13 release Priscilla M. Iakpo, managing director of MVA; noted actual arrivals may differ dependent on evolving COVID-19 policies and guidelines in both The Marianas and Korea, as well as consumer sentiment. mbj