Commonwealth gets multiple COVID cases
As of the morning of Oct. 29, the number of positives within the community in the Northern Mariana Islands – specifically Saipan – had risen to 13.
Esther L. Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Health Care Corp., said six of the cases were from one family, and that the cases were in two schools. The cases are mild, she said. “The additional strategy today is to add more community-based testing,” she said.
The administration has taken action against the virus and announced closure of both Public School System and private schools, as well daycare facilities, the Northern Mariana Technical Institute and Northern Mariana College for 10 days.
Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said at a somber press conference on Oct. 29, “Shutting down is a prudent thing to do.” He said the NMI had kept COVID at bay from arrivals. “We’ve done a great job containing it at the border.” He encouraged people to get vaccinated.
The NMI can currently cope, Torres said. “When it comes to manpower, our nurses and doctors are not over-extended.” The administration has been in touch with the U.S. Department of Defense, he said. “We have been communicating with Indo-PACOM (the U.S combined forces command) as well as Guam,” Torres said. He said up to the Pentagon level, the NMI would receive help if it requested it. “I hope I never have to make that call.”
Torres told the Journal after the press conference there are no plans to cease flights, not only from outside the NMI, but between the NMI islands. “We need to continue the flights,” he said.
The NMI will continue with Halloween Trick or Treating, All Souls Day remembrance and Citizen’s Day on Nov. 4. Warren Villagomez, chairman of the NMI COVID-19 task force said there would be more enforcement to ensure compliance for Halloween.
“At this moment we are prepared,” he said. Villagomez said those testing positive, or potentially positive will be quarantined at the Kanoa Resort. In addition, arrangements have been made with the Mariana Resort & Spa. “Yesterday we made arrangements to use a portion of [Pacific Islands Club Saipan],” he said. At PIC – part of the visitor travel bubble with the Kensington Hotel – potentially positive residents would be segregated from tourists.
The COVID Task Force will meet again today – Oct. 29 – and the NMI Legislature will also be briefed, Muna said.
The NMI does not have a mask mandate, except for the at the Public School System schools, and at the CHCC.
Federal funding for SSI and more should head to Guam
Guam will soon be receiving Supplemental Security Income from the federal government as a part of a territorial package, according to Michael F.Q. San Nicholas, Guam’s delegate to Congress.
While the package is officially with the Committee on Rules and voting has been suspended until the week of Nov. 1, San Nicholas said that, with the current language, the island could expect an influx of funding.
The package also allots money intended to be used for a new hospital, freeing up $300 million in American Rescue Plan funding that has been put aside.
“If we pass this bill, it is very likely that Guam will have approximately $345 million for infrastructure,” intended for use for the hospital, San Nicolas said at an Oct. 29 press conference.
In terms of the ARP set-aside monies, he said, “We’ve never done anything for essential workers, we also could provide more subsidies to help businesses employ people.”
Aside from SSI and hospital funding, the package would give the island an estimated $31 million for community development and block grants, $9.6 million for public housing, $27.5 million in home investment partnerships and another $18 million for housing inventory.
There is also $150 million for school infrastructure funding, which can be used for Simon Sanchez High School, and overall capital improvement projects across the school system.
A $3.5 billion pool has also been created through the package, allowing Guam to tap into and apply for Section 8, 11 and 202 funding, relative to helping senior citizens and those with disabilities.
Medicaid-matching finding should also be approved on an eight-year basis, he said.
The monthly child tax credit will also be extended a calendar year through the package, and childcare and tuition subsidies will be available.
The bill also calls for and funds universal pre-school for three- and four-year olds, for a six-year time frame. An increase in highway funding to about $45 million from $17 million remains intact, the delegate said.
The only item that has not made it into the final stages of this bill is funding for bus shelters, San Nicolas said.
“We are looking at potentially one casualty… and that’s $20 million in bus shelter funding that we were hoping to secure.”
He noted that Juan Carlos Benitez, in his role as chairman of the Republican Party pledged support of the Guam provisions and committed to writing to Congressional Republicans urging retention of Guam language in the bill. The Democratic Party of Guam welcomed the bill’s Guam news and thanked various U.S. leadership for their support, as well as Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the Northern Marianas Delegate to Congress for his support.
Neal Weare, president and founder of Equally American – which has long campaigned for SSI, said in an Oct. 29 release, “If Congress acts based on this draft language, it could mean monthly SSI checks of up to $794 directly to more than 300,000 of the most vulnerable residents of U.S. territories.”
US Census Data for islands finally out
The U.S. Census Bureau released Oct. 29 (CHamoru Standard Time) the 2020 Census population and housing unit counts for Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
As of April 1, 2020, Guam’s population was 153,836, representing a decrease of 3.5% from the 2010 Census population of 159,358. The housing unit count was 51,555 in 2020, representing an increase of 2.0% from the 2010 Census housing unit count of 50,567.
As of April 1, 2020, the Northern Mariana Islands’ population was 47,329 representing a decrease of 12.2% from the 2010 Census population of 53,883. The housing unit count was 18,290 in 2020, representing a decrease of 12.3% from the 2010 Census housing unit count of 20,850.
Further information for Guam can be found at https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2020/dec/2020-guam.html and for the NMI at
FEMA experts to conduct NMI training in coastal construction
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in partnership with the CNMI Infrastructure and Recovery Program under the Office of the Governor, will be conducting free training and s all group sessions throughout November to address coastal construction techniques.
The focus will be on “Building Resilience in the CNMI,” with topics on building design, identifying hazards (flood and wind), siting, design and construction of building foundations, roof systems, and the maintenance of buildings.
FEMA Mitigation Assistance Team instructors will lead the training and be available for small group meetings and virtual office appointments from Nov. 3 to Nov. 17.
The first two-day coastal construction training will be on Nov. 9 and10, with the second on Nov. 15 and 16. Both sessions will be held at the Aqua Resort Club from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Experts include John Squerciati, senior associate at Dewberry Engineers, Inc., with over 23 years of post-disaster damage assessment and hazard mitigation experience as a FEMA technical assistance contractor; Jon Chipperfield, experienced in post hurricane inspections and mitigation assessments after working 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria. He also assisted in the construction management of new roofs in the U.S. Virgin Islands due to hurricane damage.
Matthew Holland, Pwith over 15 years in structural engineering and design experience, including the design and preparation of construction documents for multi-story office buildings, elementary schools, retail centers, shopping malls, churches and homes; Donnell Clark, a key member of the CNMI MAT field team and is a mitigation project specialist with multiple years of engineering and construction experience in project design and inspection; Gregory Wilson, FEMA emergency management specialist for the Building Science Branch, where he has been involved in promoting and advancing the International Building Codes, drafting building code proposals and testifying before the International Code Council; and Yana Tukvachinski, a FEMA building science lead who has promoted resilience and contributed to several FEMA publications and products, including the Puerto Rico Prescriptive Residential Designs and Expanding Mitigation Guide series. Before FEMA, she worked on disaster risk reduction projects with local governments in the Philippines.
Professionals interested in joining the training, small group sessions or virtual office hours are encouraged to contact CNMI IRP Project Liaison Deveney Dela Cruz at [email protected]. Class sizes are limited.
Guam Hospital remedial CIP work, equipment upgrades begin
The Guam Memorial Hospital is undertaking several Capital Improvement Projects:
The hospital’s roof and envelope are being upgraded to enhance structural integrity during heavy rainfall, mitigating against potential leaks. This project is currently in the design phase, with the first portion due to begin in November. The roof upgrade is expected to take up to one year, with the first phase the area over the hospital’s laboratory.
GMHA is also finalizing plans to demolish the vacant Z-Wing portion of the building. A small footprint will be salvaged to use as additional office space; the remaining structure will be demolished and converted into parking spaces at the hospital. The project has completed the abatement phase and is currently in pre-demolition, with the demolition process expected to begin early 2022.
Additional improvements to the island’s trusted healthcare facility include HVAC upgrades, which are currently underway, to include removing and replacing 22 more Air Handling Units, to include upgrades to the ICU and Emergency Room HVAC systems in the coming months.
Mai Habib, spokesperson for GMH, told the Journal on Oct. 28, “The Z-Wing abatement phase is complete. It totaled $48,000 and was completed by Medi’s Inc. GMHA funded this portion of the project from our own operational funds.”
The roof project is not yet awarded, Habib said, but will be funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior, as will the Air Handling Units work, which has not yet been awarded.
“The Alternate Care Facility is a FEMA Public Assistance funded project. Of the items being procured, we have so far successfully awarded the two 134-ton chillers and two sets of acute care beds. The chillers are currently being manufactured by Carrier for … approximately $337,000,” Habib said.
Additionally, 48 medical/surgical beds at $426,000 and six ICU/CCU beds at $200,000 are on order with Stryker.
In addition, there are simultaneous smaller-scale repairs including Operating Room surgical light upgrades, and a ceiling-repair project for the Physician’s Parking Lot.
Alternate Care Facility plans for the Skilled Nursing Facility in Barrigada Heights will include the isolation of the B-Wing should there be a need to treat patients at the ACF, in response to COVID. Current ACF upgrades also include the manufacturing, installation and commissioning of two 134-ton chillers, as well as isolating the B-Wing HVAC
system from the remaining wings. Additionally, beds at the SNF will be upgraded, along with IT infrastructure that supports the building and other ancillary support equipment, according to an Oct. 28 release.
The Guam Department of Agriculture has been awarded $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network Program Grant. This funding will be used to establish a network of support for farmers, ranchers, and agriculture workers in times of stress and offer a conduit to improving behavioral health awareness, literacy, and outcomes for agricultural producers, workers, and their families.
The scope of work includes site visits to farmers, and training and certification of agricultural advocates with mental health training to identify those in need of support, provide initial support, and connect the community to resources. Training for agricultural advocates will provide a three-year certification. Online and in-person education resources will also be created for the island’s agriculture community.
The Guam Power Authority will present its updated energy plan to the Consolidated Commission on Utilities in November. To find out more about the plan see http://www.guampowerauthority.com/gpa_authority/strategicplanning/2021IRP.php
Docomo Pacific has the latest range of iPhones in stores, including the iPhone 13 Pro, the iPhone 13 Pro Max, the iPhone 13 and the iPhone mini.
Nissan Motor Corp. in Guam has the 2022 Nissan Frontier, which the company said is “the first complete redesign of Nissan’s mid-size truck in more than 15 years.” mbj