NMI tracks COVID source, preps to vaccinate children

As the Northern Mariana Islands’ 10-day suspension of in-person learning comes to an end on Nov. 8, a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines approved for children aged five to 11 is expected to come days before on Nov. 6.

“We want to give these opportunities for our children,” said Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres in a Nov. 5 media briefing. “I look forward in mandating and seeing what we can do to get all of our children vaccinated.”

Eligible children can receive the vaccine at any of the current vaccination clinics once it arrives, and Torres encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated. There will also be special allotments for those children that have special needs or developmental disabilities.

“Now that we’re focusing more on our children, our school systems play a great success in our children being vaccinated,” he said. “If we can cooperate with the schools and get full-support on both sides, we can expedite this process for the betterment of our children.”

He also pledged any necessary resources needed to keep the process going.

“If they need more resources, we will provide those. At the end of the day, we need to get our children vaccinated,” he said.

In regard to the recent spike in COVID cases in the NMI, Esther L. Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. said there is no evidence that the community transmission of the virus is widespread and that the highest number of cases have come from dense households with children who, up to this point, have been ineligible and unable to be vaccinated.

The case that started the uptick was linked to an essential employee, whom has ultimately left the NMI.

“We are looking at plans to make changes to the [quarantine] protocol, but it is not to stop the essential workers, they still need to do their work,” Muna said.

“Contact tracing can easily contain this, and that’s why it’s very essential,” she said.

With the 2,700 vaccines arriving this weekend, Muna said, “How we use them and how fast we use them will determine the next inventory that will be delivered to us.”

In other NMI news, the governor’s COVID-19 Task Force launched Nov. 4 a new website www.staysafecnmi.com to streamline all COVID-19 information, including an updated health declaration form that all travelers are required to fill out 72 hours prior to arrival.

Site visitors can fill out travel entry requirements, register for COVID-19 vaccinations, and access COVID-19 test results.

The new traveler declaration form on the website makes the process easier for visitors and returning residents to fill out NMI travel entry requirements, and also includes a new NMI portal that serves as a one-stop resource center for COVID-19 community updates and response.


Price ratio sees international increase in air cargo

With holiday season shopping and shipping yet to come, international air cargo grew 9.1% in September.

According to the International Air Travel Association, the cost-competitiveness of air cargo relative to that of container shipping remains favorable.” Pre-crisis, the average price to move air cargo was 12.5 times more expensive than sea shipping. In September 2021 it was only three times more expensive,” IATA said in a Nov. 3 release.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their international air cargo volumes increase 4.5% in September compared to the same month in 2019.This was a slowdown in demand compared to the previous month’s 5.1% expansion. Demand is being affected by slowing manufacturing activity in China. International capacity is significantly constrained in the region, down 18.2% vs. September 2019. Looking forward, the decision by some countries in the region to lift travel restrictions should provide a boost for capacity, IATA said.  


OSHA releases vaccination and testing standards

On Nov. 4, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration released  a COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard for employers with 100 or more employees as required by President Joseph R. Biden’s Path Out of the Pandemic COVID-19 Action Plan.

The ETS is effective immediately upon its publication in the Federal Register on Nov. 5. The public can submit written comments on the ETS until 30 days after publication. 

The Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association advised members of the impending action in a Nov. 5 release.

Covered Employees are required to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 and unvaccinated employees are required to produce a negative test on at least a weekly basis. By Jan. 4, all covered employers must ensure that their employees have received the necessary shots to be fully vaccinated. By Jan. 4, all covered employers must ensure that any employees who have not received the necessary shots must begin producing a verified negative test to their employer on at least a weekly basis. More information is available at https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets2


Navy sub hit underground mount, report said

“The investigation determined [the] USS Connecticut grounded on an uncharted seamount while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region,” 7th Fleet spokesperson Cmdr. Hayley Sims told USNI News in a Nov. 1 statement. The commander, executive officer and senior enlisted sailor for the attack submarine have been fired. 

The submarine had been in Guam undergoing repairs, USNI News said, but is due to return to Bremerton, Wash.

A collision with an underground mount also caused major damage and loss of life to the USS San Francisco in 2005, according to Journal files.  


Both Guam military bases unmasked; Army personnel arrive

Naval Base Guam joined Andersen Air Force Base in allowing individuals who are vaccinated to go unmasked on base, both indoors and outdoors, according to a release. Andersen introduced the same policy in October, according to Journal files.

In other military news, members of the U.S. Army’s First Corps arrived in Guam for a training exercise, according to a Nov. 3 release. No indication was given on where the group is based.


Troubled KEPCO gets more time from AG

The Office of the Attorney General will maintain its suit against defendants Korea Electric Power Co. and Samsung E&C America seeking damages for the harm caused in Sasayan Valley. However, the OAG has agreed to give the defendants until Jan. 7 to formally respond to the suit. “During this time, the defendants will provide the Department of Public Works, Guam Environmental Protection Agency, and the OAG an assessment of the impact that the runoff from the solar plant had on the freshwater cave and a plan for remediation and restoration,” a Nov. 4 release said.

And for your diary:

Guam Chamber of Commerce members will vote electronically for the 2021 board between Nov. 10 and Nov. 17. Members in good standing or their designated representative for voting will be sent a link to do so. mbj