Following Guam’s confirmation of three cases of the novel coronavirus last Sunday, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres yesterday signed Executive Order 20-04 declaring the CNMI under the State of Significant Emergency and a State of Public Health Emergency.
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– Two weeks of govt shutdown
– Activities with over 50 people prohibited
– 6 feet recommended social distancing
– Travel ban unless for health reasons to be in place
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Under the directive, the Commonwealth Health Care Corp., Homeland Security & Emergency Management Office, Commonwealth Ports Authority, CNMI Customs Division, and the Marianas Visitors Authority are to undertake immediate emergency COVID-19 containment measures.
The declaration, Torres said, is necessary to protect the health and safety of the CNMI’s children, senior citizens, businesses, residents, and visitors.
“As COVID-19 moves around the world and gets closer to our beautiful shores, your government is doing everything it can to contain this virus by working with the White House, federal partners, and global health officials,” Torres said in a statement Sunday night.
“As a strong island community, we have remained resilient in the face of the worst storms and economic downturns, and we emerged stronger because we chose to work together… Now is the time for vigilance, not fear or panic. Let’s work together to stay informed and help each other out.”
Govt shutdown and travel bans
“I [am] suspending the government for two weeks,” Torres said, adding that the shutdown would fall under an administrative leave, with every department on stand-by should its services be needed.
Under the executive order, all government offices and all non-essential government functions are shut down for two weeks. All non-essential personnel are also asked to stay home until further notice.
Essential personnel are those who work for COVID-19 public health emergency related work. Mayors of the municipalities have the discretion in designating employees that engage in such.
A travel ban for all government employees is now also in place, and any government employee who would want to leave would need to get an approval from the Governor’s Office, by the governor or the lieutenant governor, and then only in cases of emergency or in directly dealing with the COVID-19 threat.
“Unless it’s a health care issue, nobody will be leaving the island,” the governor stressed.
Restricted entry into the CNMI
Individuals wanting to get into the CNMI will be subjected to quarantine protocols.
Non-CNMI residents traveling into the Northern Marianas, wherever they are coming from, including the U.S. and Guam will be restricted from entering the CNMI, unless they possess a document, recognized and certified by the Commonwealth Health Care Corp., attesting that they are not infected with COVID-19.
The date of the test must not be more than (1) week from the date of attempted entry into the CNMI.
Without proper documentation, the individual shall be quarantined for no less than 14 days, per the protocols developed by CHCC in consultation with key Commonwealth and federal agencies.
Returning residents without the same CHCC-recognized and certified document, would have to self-quarantine, following the protocol set by CHCC, for 14 days or as long as considered necessary by CHCC.
CHCC will continue coordinating with CPA, CNMI Customs Service, the Marianas Visitors Authority, and key local and federal government agencies to develop and implement protocols, quarantine measures, and increased monitoring and controls at the Commonwealth airports and seaports, as to all arriving travelers, passengers, and cargo for screening for COVID-19.
“I am also effectively prohibiting activities with greater than 50 people… Community, civic, public leisure, faith-based, sports event, concerts, festival, fiestas and so forth,” Torres said.
Under the directive, gatherings of 50 people or more in a single room or single space at the same time, are prohibited throughout the islands of the CNMI.
These include social, spiritual and recreational activities, including, but not limited to, community, civic, public leisure, faith-based, or sporting events, parades, concerts, festivals, fiestas, conventions, fundraiser, and similar activities.
The governor also stressed the importance of social distancing, that is, maintaining a distance of at least six feet between individuals.
“I cannot emphasize how important social distancing is,” Torres said, adding that with families and friends, “if you love them, stay away from them at this point, or … at least for the next two weeks, or maybe a month.”
To further strengthen ongoing mitigation measures, the CNMI government strongly recommends social distancing of at least 6 feet whenever possible and reasonable.
“Social distancing is important because COVID-19 is most likely to spread from person-to-person through direct close contact with a person while they are infectious, or in the 24 hours before symptoms may appear,” the executive order stated.
COVID-19 can also be spread through close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes, or through touching objects or surfaces contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed infection, and then touching one’s mouth or face.
With the threat of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) getting closer to the CNMI shores, Torres is calling on everyone to work together to stay informed, help each other out, and to remember that “we will continue to be Marianas Strong.”
“Are we here to tell you that we are hundred percent safe? No, we’re not,” Torres said.
“But we are here to tell you that we are 100% certain that we are trying everything we can to prevent any outbreak here in our arena… and if we [will] have one, there is a playbook, there’s actions in place for us to move forward.”
The governor reiterated his appeal to everyone to take extra precautionary measures in terms of sanitation and again, social distancing.
“Our man’amko and our loved ones with preexisting illnesses are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, and we will prioritize their safety. We ask that our family and friends, who are in this group to stay home. If you feel sick, please stay home and contact your doctor or our hospital.”
The Man’amko Centers on all three islands will remain closed until further notice. The Garapan Thursday Market has also been postponed.
The governor also announced that the Marianas Visitors Authority’s Tagaman triathlon on Saturday will be postponed, along with the Marianas March Against Cancer, and the Flame Tree Arts Festival.