The U.S. mainland has now reached a vaccination rate of 63% and the race to have 70% of the population in the U.S. mainland vaccinated by July 1 is still ongoing. Many states are getting creative putting up lotteries that give away cash, food, and school scholarships. In the CNMI, the vaccination rate has been moving steadily up in the beginning but has slowed down and clinging at 55% for a month now.
At the Tourism Resumption Task Force meeting last Tuesday, it was agreed that getting more people vaccinated in the CNMI is a means to jumpstart the economy and tourism and a shield for the health and safety of the community when tourists start coming in.
One way of doing that, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said, is giving those who are not yet vaccinated a reason to get vaccinated. “Have we been looking into giving out incentives? The answer is yes. We have been thinking of giving out incentives, what kind and to also reach out to some of our private business partners. …The incentives will qualify the ones that have gotten the vaccine and encourage those people who have not gotten the shots,” he said. “Some businesses are already doing it, wherein you just present your vaccination card [and] you get a free drink or food, but we are looking for a bigger one where the government and private partners are involved.”
At the Tourism Resumption Investment Plan launch last Tuesday, it included talks about opening the CNMI to tourists from South Korea in July and why this is good for the economy and the manner and procedure of how this will work while keeping the health and safety of the community a priority.
Task force chair Kimberly King-Hinds said they chose July because that is the peak of vacation season in South Korea. The rest of the Tourism Resumption Task Force also hopes that, by that time, more people in the community would be vaccinated before opening to tourists.
“One thing we do know about this situation is that it’s constantly changing. It can be all good today and then somebody comes in with a different variant that doesn’t test positive on the fifth day but then subsequently on the seventh or eighth day turns out positive and then now you have pocket infection or clusters. So the best thing that the community can do to keep ourselves safe is by getting vaccinated,” she said.
“This pilot program is basically a stopgap measure to get us to that level where we’re comfortable and open up as the whole world is opening. It’s unsustainable to keep basically shuffling people through these quarantine facilities everywhere else., …So, what we have right now is not self-sustainable and we have to kind of look beyond. …We should all do our part and get vaccinated and then we can actually start removing some of the protocols…and start taking the funds used for quarantine sites and facilities and invest them somewhere else where the people really need it—our retirees, health care, development, etc.,” she added.
To reach heard immunity in the CNMI, the goal of the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force is 85% and up. Herd immunity will give the community a bigger chance to go back to activities done before the pandemic.
Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Joe Guerrero encouraged members to get their staff and employees vaccinated during their general membership meeting last Wednesday. “We hope you will encourage your staff to get vaccinated. …If you haven’t mandated it, I strongly suggest you do because, without a higher rate of vaccination, we may not reach the goal of safely opening now. We are opening up but we really need to do it safely,” he said.