The CNMI is expected to transition today to Level Blue, which corresponds to a partial resumption of international flights and curfew is amended to begin at 12am and end at 4am. Also, building occupancy restrictions are increased to authorize establishments to allow up to 75% of original capacity.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres announced this move in his regular radio news briefing Friday, and said he would also be releasing a new executive order today in response to the COVID-19 operations and directives for the community covering the period from June 15 to July 15.
“There is going to be an effective date on the [transition to Level] Blue, but there may also have additional requirement to businesses, and also to the government on some of the additional protective measures that will be in place, whether to the private sector, or even at the government offices,” Torres said.
Under Level Blue, the CNMI is anticipated to be on the tail-end of the COVID-19 curve. However, there are still risks of a second wave if preventative measures become overly relaxed. As such, social distancing and sanitation should still be observed.
“We’re just reminding everyone that as we transition to different colors in the community, or opening up more businesses, we still need to adhere to social distancing and the wearing of masks, especially in public places. We’re fighting this COVID-19 together,” the governor added.
Level Blue also signifies progress toward COVID-19 testing approximately half of the island population and the assumption should be held that at this level of testing, increasing numbers of positive cases can be expected. Last Friday, the COVID-19 Task Force and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. announced the temporary suspension of the community-based testing at the airport. The move is in line with the more expansive community-based testing, as it goes out to communities to reach more people.
In terms of testing incoming passengers, CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña said, last Friday, that everyone that arrives still gets tested, and retested after between five to seven days. She added that they are also developing new protocols as the CNMI shifts to Level Blue.
“How do we do this [and] how do we make sure that people are safe? That’s been the question that we often ask, as we’re developing the plan for the next level. The priority is our people’s safety. It may not be perfect but we’re going to try as much as possible to make it as close as [perfect],” she said.
As for businesses having to adhere to new guidelines under Level Blue, Muña acknowledged that there are several hundred of establishments that have to be evaluated, and that inspections do take time.
“It’ll be easier for those that have already been checked, but we’re going to try to make it as fair, by having more troops on the on the ground to try to do more inspections,” Muña said. “This is about safety for the community and the consumer so we’re doing this as best as we can. But again, we want to do it right.”
What does it mean?
Level Blue corresponds with a COVID-19 rating between 1.50 and 1.79. At this level:
- Partial resumption of international flights.
- Building occupancy restrictions are increased to allow establishments to allow up to 75% of original capacity.
- Curfew amended to begin at 12am and end at 4am
- Establishments should enforce social distancing precautions and promote the wearing of face masks.
- Partial restaurant and bar service permitted to allow restaurants to serve dine-in customers under strict social distancing parameters and 50% of their originally permitted occupancy limit, in accordance with supplemental regulatory guidance from the Bureau of Environmental Health.
- All mitigation measures for the tourism industry should be in place, tested and in line with the requirements of the COVID-19 Task Force requirements to reduce risks upon the resumption of flights.
- Gatherings of people from different households of less than 25 people are permitted.