After a year of being on Level Blue of the Community Vulnerability risk scale, which is one level higher than the safest level, the Office of the Governor lowered the CNMI’s risk level to Green last week, which means the islands are at its lowest risk of COVID-19 community vulnerability.
According to the Office of the Governor announcement, Level Green corresponds to a COVID-19 Rating between 1.80 and 2.00 or greater. At this level, positive cases for COVID-19 and the risk to public health are low as long as points of entry mitigation continues as necessary.
Level Green in the CNMI means mitigation at points-of-entry is still intact; community vaccination rate is above 60%; fully vaccinated people are able to participate in indoor and outdoor activities; no more curfew; unvaccinated people should remain cautious; all businesses can accommodate 100% occupancy if vaccination is verifiable and, if not, 75%; and social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands are still advisable practices.
After 15 months of living through a pandemic and adjusting to health requirements in order to be safe, Saipan Chamber of Commerce president and business owner Joe Guerrero welcomes with optimism and relief this latest development.
“This means that we are slowly opening up and with less restrictions on commercial activities. For some business owners, such as gas stations, restaurants, and retail stores, it means that their operations may continue 24 hours to cater to the needs of our people and tourists, especially the ones arriving or departing the CNMI in the late night or early morning hours,” he said.
“As a business owner, it means that I can open later if needed to serve guests and as a business consultant, I sometimes need to report to the office to join a group conference call or work on tight project deadlines that sometimes require me to work past the 2am curfew hours. Lifting the curfew allows flexibility for those that do not work regular 8am to 5pm jobs, including our local commercial fishermen,” he added.
Marcia E. Ayuyu, McDonald’s Saipan owner/operator and former Rotary Club of Saipan president, said that the CNMI being under Level Green is the best news our community has received so far.
“As former Rotary Club president, I am happy to hear this because it has been over a year that we have missed seeing some members who have not come to our meetings because they are worried about their health and staying home is the safest thing to do and that is understandable,” she said. “As a business owner, this means we’re almost back to normal. …People can go around and, most importantly is, we are able to start receiving tourists once again and while they are here, they know it is safe. Our McDonald’s customers can start coming into the restaurant to sit down and enjoy having a meeting. …We are still going to continue to practice safety protocols and encourage people to sanitize their hands. This is a new way of doing business, keeping everybody health and with safety in mind. I also encourage the community to go out and get vaccinated so we can all be safe and back to our normal way of life,” she added.
For IT&E general manager Rose A. Soledad, the CNMI advancing to Level Green means progress. “It means that the safeguards we have in place and the vaccination efforts that we are doing is working. We should continue to move in this direction so that we are closer to reviving our economy and have more opportunities to resurrect our workforce,” she said.
Travis Jones, owner of the Last Shot Bar in San Antonio, said that Level Green means the mood in the community has lightened a bit and people are coming in with smiles. “Everybody is excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was only staying open until midnight but have changed my hours to be open until 2am at the request of our customers,” he said.
“I have had a couple people at the bar since we transitioned to Level Green that haven’t been out since COVID began and I believe that some who have stayed to themselves over the last year will start having family functions and social gatherings once again. I am hopeful for business meetings and mixers to be starting up in person,” he added.
Businessman Ivan Ilmov commends the COVID-19 Task Force for a job well done. “This is huge for me personally because I have three children and, as a father, you are always on your toes to keep them safe and healthy. I also hope Level Green will give more opportunities for children to go back to face-to-face classes and socialize because this is important to their development and growth, especially for the younger ones. As a businessman, this will make projects easy to achieve or finish, now that people are not afraid to go out anymore,” he said.
Bank of Saipan president and CEO John Z. Arroyo said that businesses will be frequented more because the limited occupancy has been lifted. “We will also see improvements economically . At the bank, we won’t be limited by the number of customers coming in and again have the ability to do or participate in more functions and offer more functions where people can gather in one place. …With restrictions reduced, this opens doors for businesses to entertain more of their customers, hopefully like the pre-pandemic levels, as far allowing more customers to utilize our services at any time,” he added.