NMI COVID cases rise; Guam continues to see fatalities

As of Nov. 1, the number of locally transmitted COVID cases has risen in Saipan.

Since Oct. 28, of 27 new cases, 19 were identified via contact tracing, seven were identified via community testing, and one was identified via travel testing. Of the newly identified cases, 24 of the 27 or 89% reported experiencing symptoms.

Two clusters were identified, according to a Nov. 1 press conference, with five of the positive cases unlinked to the clusters.

As to demographics, the majority of positive cases were between 20 and 49 years of age, with eight under 19 years of age, and 19 fully vaccinated. Esther L. Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., said that most are asymptomatic, and none of the positives are hospitalized.

While numbers have risen, Epidemiologist Stephanie Kern-Allely told the Journal, “Evidence of transmission does not indicate acceleration.” She also said the numbers of positives have reduced each day.

Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres reconfirmed that there would be no changes to doing business. “I don’t plan on shutting down any of the government,” he said. “It’s important to understand how much effort we’re putting in to having our kids vaccinated.”

Muna said the CHCC was getting a better picture of cases in the Northern Mariana Islands. The NMI is still seeking its source case.

No links have been established between cases in Saipan and Rota and Tinian.

Saipan saw a higher number of vaccinations on Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. Warren Villagomez, chairman of the NMI COVID-19 task force said, “We also have a very obedient community.”

In Guam, the Joint Information Center announced Nov. 1 an additional four fatalities, with 13 positive cases identified out of 155 tests on Oct. 31. On Oct. 30 78 of 1,320 test positive for COVID.


The cost of that bank building and other real estate info

Cornerstone Valuation Guam Inc. released its third quarter newsletter Nov. 2, which featured the sale of the Bank of Guam building in Hagatna. Citadel Pacific Ltd. purchased the building for $6.75 million, undisclosed at the time of purchase.

Bank of Hawaii’s new building in Chalan San Antonio in Tamuning is scheduled to start construction in late 2022.

According to Journal files the building on West Soledad Avenue was originally offered for sale in 2018 for more than $12.9 million.

Siska S. Hutapea, president and chief appraiser of Cornerstone, said in the newsletter, “The continued increase in the median price of residential units is fueled by low-interest rates, limited additional supply, and the old adage of real estate as a hedge against inflation. Leonard Kiefer, Deputy Chief Economist at Freddie Mac reported that the U.S. is undersupplied by 1.5 million housing units and the lack of inventory trend is the same in Guam. Buyers are competing for a limited number of properties and with most buyers having VA Loans, with zero down and housing allowance, the price increase is inevitable.”

Hutapea said Guam real estate activity has increased this year. “The three quarters of 2021 reflect a substantial increase in sales activity. Q2 and Q3 2021 quarter-on-quarter sales increased by 88% and 71% respectively compared to the pandemic ridden 2020. Yes, the pandemic dampened the activity in 2020, but both quarters reflect sales volumes that are also higher than the same quarters in 2019.”  

Top sales were dominated by local buyers, Hutapea said.

“New record prices were paid for various apartment buildings and buyers noted higher rent expectations as the motive to pay the higher prices, in addition to rising construction costs. GHURA did increase the rent twice in 2020, which side effect includes price increase in the lower-priced segment and dislocating non-subsidized tenants into oblivion. Smaller commercial buildings are also in demand by owner-occupant buyers.  Ready to build land with infrastructures are harder and harder to come by.” 


Shipper announces sustainability goals

Matson Inc. announced Nov. 2 new long-term sustainability goals in a supplement that commits the shipping line “to reducing fleet greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and achieving net zero fleet [greenhouse gas] emissions by 2050.”

The supplement can be found at www.matson.com/sustainability


FSM joins international organization; repatriation flights set

The Federated States of Micronesia will become a member of the World Health Organization’s executive board next year, representing the Asia-Pacific region. The FSM’s membership in the executive board will last for three years, and as a member of the Board the FSM will assist in implementing the decisions and policies of the World Health Assembly, according to an Oct. 29 release.

In other FSM news, a repatriation flight to Pohnpei is scheduled for Nov. 3, with the first direct repatriation flight to Chuuk to take place Nov. 10. Future flights may not occur until 2022, a release said. The country is still planning on bringing essential workers into the FSM.

Approximately 72% of the FSM’s population of adults aged between 18 and 99 years have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Approximately 85% of adults aged between 45 and 99 years have been fully vaccinated.


Military base policies for entry differ on Guam

Fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear a mask indoors or outdoors at Andersen Air Force Base, a move announced on Oct. 22. Mask wearing is mandatory for non-vaccinated individuals.

Naval Base Guam Public Affairs Officer Therese M. Cepeda told the Journal Oct. 27, “…all personnel on Naval Base Guam installations are required to wear a face covering in congregate settings, whether indoor or outdoor and regardless of vaccination or immunization. For purposes of this policy, a congregate setting is any setting where more than one person from different households are present.

“This policy is applicable to all military personnel stationed, assigned to temporary duty, or assigned to a visiting unit temporarily located on Naval Base Guam, and to civilian dependents, contractors, and DoD civilian employees and visitors to NBG.” mbj