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I feel an obligation to provide clarification in regards to the March 30, 2021, Saipan Tribune story, “Near-drowning ends in death.” The reporter did not check the facts.

The story said that the swimmer “was supposed to attend a swimming class but the instructor reportedly did not come, so she, together with the other members of the class, went swimming on their own.” This is not accurate. Swimmers knew that 500 Sails was not teaching swimming that day.

My wife and 500 Sails co-founder Emma Perez and I run 500 Sails’ swim programs that include the Adult Learn-to-Swim program. We are the instructors who teach Tuesday and Thursday mornings. On March 13, we shut down all 500 Sails public programs in response to the announcement of new instances of COVID-19 cases in the Saipan community. We posted an announcement on our Facebook page and in the Dolphin Club Saipan WhatsApp group. The announcement read:

“500 Sails “Sunday Sails” is temporarily CANCELED (including Gamsun and Sirena).

“In response to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s announcement of four COVID-19 infected individuals in the local community, 500 Sails’ Sunday activities are canceled until further notice. This includes sailing teaching and practice sessions, canoe rides, Gamsun Project lifeguard training, and the Sirena Project swim lessons for women and girls. Please pass the word.

“We will continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with an abundance of caution and cooperation with local health authorities in order to do our part in protecting the health of the community. We encourage all members of our sailing and swimming community to do the same and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

We also posted notices on the beach-side door of the Guma Sakman of the program closures.

On Monday, March 15, we posted a notice in both Facebook and WhatsApp, specifically for swimmers who may not have read past the “Sunday Sails” title of the previously posted notice. This second posting read:

“Pete and Emma will not be teaching this week (3/16 & 3/18) T/Th at 6am as we wait to see what happens with the latest community spread of Covid. Hope to see you next week!”

After consulting with the COVID-19 Task Force by phone on March 23, we were given the green light to continue our programs and intended to do so starting Sunday, March 28, but had not yet announced it when the swimmer went to swim on the 23rd.

We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend. Our heartfelt condolences to the family.

Peter J. Perez
Executive Director, 500 Sails

Peter J. Perez
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