Task force has final say in Butterfield case

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The man who fled quarantine at Kanoa Resort last Sunday evening could possibly be released following the completion of his mandatory quarantine period, and it all depends on the decision of the COVID-19 Task Force, said the Department of Public Safety.

According to Department of Public Safety spokesperson Dre Pangelinan, the COVID-19 Task Force will have the final say on whether David Butterfield will be released to Department of Corrections custody following his quarantine period in Kanoa, or whether he will be free to return home.

Following his arrest last Monday, it was learned that Butterfield was charged with obstruction of justice and public nuisance and returned to the Kanoa quarantine facility after being booked and detained.

Task force chair Warren Villagomez separately assured that the task force and other health officials take the CNMI’s COVID-19 protocols and the safety of the community seriously.

In a phone call Wednesday, he said that additional security has since been added at all current quarantine sites and that the task force, DOS, and other related agencies have been “looking into the situation” and investigating how Butterfield left the quarantine site.

“We reassessed our access points at Kanoa and [Pacific Islands Club Saipan], and we’re making sure that DPS and [security company] G4S [at] Kanoa stay vigilant. … I, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, and [Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.] chief executive officer Esther Muña take this seriously,” he added.

Further details on what penalties will be imposed on Butterfield, as well as an official announcement regarding the matter, will be made public later, he added.

Villagomez also said Wednesday that he and the CNMI’s other health leaders must do their part in engaging with their work and communicating effectively with the public and warned those in quarantine inspired by Butterfield’s actions against attempting to leave their sites. “You won’t be out too long, and you will be detained immediately for the safety of our people,” he said.

According to the Saipan Tribune archives, DPS arrested Butterfield last Monday after he fled the Kanoa Resort quarantine facility six days into his mandatory quarantine.

Butterfield, who arrived from Guam on Oct. 12, was arrested around 11:13am last Monday after police pulled him over in the parking area of American Nails in Garapan.

Butterfield, who is a freelance photographer, claims he walked straight out of the quarantine facility on Sunday evening. In a lengthy note he posted on social media hours before his arrest, he said he left Kanoa because he did not agree with the task force’s quarantine protocols for non-vaccinated individuals.

Butterfield also noted in his post that he is not vaccinated and had already have COVID-19 but has since recovered.

According to the renewed executive order regarding COVID-19 safety measures issued by the Office of the Governor, violators of the mandatory quarantine protocol will receive a maximum sentence of no more than one-year imprisonment, and/or no more than a $500 fine.

The entry requirement that took effect back last Sept. 24 states that all inbound travelers originating from a Level 3 or higher jurisdiction on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel recommendations list who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are required to quarantine for seven days in a designated government facility if they submit a negative PCR test dated no earlier than 48 hours prior to arrival, or 10 days if they do not submit a negative PCR test dated no earlier than 48 hours prior to arrival.

Fully vaccinated travelers are still required to quarantine for five days in a designated government facility.

The revised entry requirements for unvaccinated travelers is based on guidance from the CDC. (With Joshua Santos)

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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