The CNMI entered the half-a-year mark of being under a State of Public Health Emergency, and continued Significant Emergency, following Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ issuance of Executive Order 2020-13 last June 15, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new order remains in effect for 30 days, or until July 15.
Torres first declared the state of emergency last January, in a move to prevent and contain the highly-contagious virus from spreading all over the islands. Globally, more than 7.76 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in more than 188 countries and territories.
So far, the CNMI has 30 cases, with nine currently active—not the thousands that were earlier predicted for the islands by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Along with the new executive order, the Commonwealth also transitions to Community Vulnerability Level Blue following the governor’s declaration, which came with the amendments to the emergency directives to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Level Blue, up to 25 people can now be in a room or space, churches can now accommodate up to 50% of their allowed occupancy, and some businesses’ occupancy limit is now increased to 75%. Non-contact recreational activities, gym workouts, and group exercises, are also now allowed.
Strict social distancing and sanitation protocols must be implemented. The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. provides the guidance on these mandatory social distancing and sanitation implementation.
Curfew is now from 12am to 4am. Only law enforcement officers on duty, and those who are lawfully employed, or are going to or returning home from their place of employment or from admission to hospital, or completion of medical treatment, are exempted during these hours.
Businesses under ‘Blue’
Businesses with facilities open to the public can now open from 5am to 11pm. Groceries and shops can have up to 75% of the occupancy limit.
For restaurants and bars, permitted occupancy limit is now at 50%. In addition to strict adherence to social distancing and sanitation, temperature screening of all employees and patrons must also now be done prior to entering the establishments.
Managaha Island is open to the public, so long as social distancing is implemented for both transport vessels and on-island activities. Public parks, including the Grotto, remains closed to the public. Beaches and pathways remain open, and still only for exercise and wellness, and for shoreline subsistence fishing and commercial fishing activities, and all within 4am up to 12 midnight.
All businesses engaged in gaming, such as casinos, video poker establishments, and e-gaming facilities are to remain closed to the public.
Under Level Blue, hotels, tour operators and tourism industry stakeholders must finalize preparations for thermal monitoring and establish internal Standard Operating Procedures for mitigating risk in preparation for tourist arrivals, alongside public health officials.
Tourism operators must also prepare in anticipation of the resumption of flights. Guidance should be sought to Federal Officials on the steps necessary to resume international flights.
Up to a one-year closure awaits businesses violating the business hour mandate, while businesses that do not comply with the social distancing mandate could get shut down for up to 30 days or more until mitigation measures have been implemented.
First-time violators of the business hour mandate will be subject to immediate one-month closure of their business establishment; second-time offense is closure for six months; and third-time or more offense means closure for one year.
Curfew violators can also be fined up to $750. First-time violators found in public, including individuals found driving on a public road, during curfew will be fined $200. Second-time violators will be subject to a $500 fine, and third-time or more violators will face up to a $750 fine, and/or the impoundment of his/her vehicle by the Department of Public Safety.
Each passenger in a vehicle found driving on a public road during curfew will also be subjected to a $100 fine for a first-time offense, $200 for a second-time offense, and $300 for a third-time or more offense.