Getting the welcome mat ready for a new normal

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Posted on Jun 01 2020
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With flights having resumed between Guam and Saipan, about 99% of those entering the CNMI are returning residents and the remaining 1% are contractors, according to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, who disclosed this in a news briefing last Friday.

Specifically, Torres said that the contractors are either from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, or are here to assist the Commonwealth in its COVID-19 operations.

The COVID-19 Task Force, with the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., is also implementing measures to ensure that all incoming passengers go through the required protocols in terms of quarantine and testing, before they are reintegrated with the community.

Warren Villagomez, who chairs the COVID-19 Task Force, said that screenings are in place at entry points in all the CNMI’s ports. “We have a point-of-entry task force group that gets pre-flight information on a daily basis,” Villagomez said, “and we’re continuing all the protocol on screening at entry points…with close coordination with Star Marianas on all inbound, especially the Guam flights.”

“All inbounds are being treated the same as United [Airlines], as well as airport and seaport,” he added.

In addition, the task force has also put in requests for thermal scanners, not just for entry points at the airport, but for government offices and other critical active sites in the CNMI. These will be in addition to the thermal scanner that the Commonwealth Ports Authority had already purchased.

“Early on, during this response, the CPA procured a thermal scanner. We have the scanner up at the airport active for inbound passengers right now. That is being used at the airport and ready for additional airline arrivals, but we are working on procuring [more],” Villagomez said.

In addition, the government is also working with its private partners to purchase thermal scanners for hotels.

“We’re working now with the new norm for restaurants and other facilities, even the government. We are doing everything we can to make sure that our tourists, as well as our residents, feel comfortable when they go to places,” the governor said.

The government has targeted July 15 as the day—albeit a moving target date—for the CNMI to reopen to tourists. With the island currently on vulnerability scale Yellow, restaurants and businesses have been slowly reopening too, for the community, with social distancing and sanitation directives in place.

“As we roll out our tourism [industry] and reopen [the] CNMI on July 15, this month [May] and next month [June] is a testament on how our community, our private partners, our health care providers, how are we dealing with our returning residents and our community itself,” Torres said.

“From now to July 15, our business partners, our tourism industry will see whether the CNMI is ready to receive our tourist partners. For the next two months, we’ll do everything we can to work with our private partners to understand the new norm so that when the tourism comes, we welcome them [knowing] the new normal, [that is] social distancing, and so forth,” he added.

Iva Maurin | Author
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com
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