Statement by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres regarding the presence of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases on Guam
We know we have received news about the three confirmed positive COVID-19 cases on Guam.
While the CNMI remains without a confirmed case, we continue our ongoing surveillance measures, which we started since January, at the airport, hospital, and around Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
In consultation with the presiding officers of the Legislature and the COVID-19 Task Force, Lt. Gov, Palacios and I are hereby shutting down all government offices and all non-essential government functions. All non-essential employees of the Commonwealth’s departments and agencies are asked to stay home until further notice. We will provide additional updates on the government tomorrow. Please stay tuned to media partners and your department and agency heads for updates.
Now, we understand that there are questions and concerns about banning United flights from Guam to Saipan. As I have stated in February, I have no authority as Governor to stop the flights from Guam, nor do I have the authority to stop any flights to the CNMI for that matter. That is a decision for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the US Department of Transportation. Just like we did in January with the China flights, I will be directing the Commonwealth Ports Authority to consult with the FAA on the Guam United flights, and we will notify you once we receive an update.
I will be meeting with CHCC CEO Esther Muna, her leadership team, and our COVID-19 Task Force tomorrow to push forward the next steps of our COVID-19 pandemic plan. This is exactly why we created the task force.
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.
We will be asking individuals, regardless of travel history, who were off-island for work or travel to self-quarantine themselves for at least 14 days. We will be working with department heads and private sector partners in implementing this immediately.
We will begin implementing social distancing protocols within our community. Our manamko 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. We will formalize these protocols tomorrow.
This afternoon, the Marianas Visitors Authority Board of Directors has officially postponed the Tagaman triathlon this Saturday. We are thankful that our Saipan Marathon was successful and that there were no cases. The Marianas March Against Cancer (MMAC) Steering Committee has just announced that the annual event is postponed. The Flame Tree Arts Festival will be postponed. Our Man’amko Centers on all three islands will be closed until further notice. Our Garapan Street Market will be closed until further notice.
The Public School System has informed me that they will be suspending classes from Monday to Wednesday, which is their next Board of Education meeting. From there, they will then make a board decision on class schedules moving forward.
The Northern Marianas College is suspending all face-to-face classes through March 17, 2020. Transition of a majority of face-to-face courses to online platforms will occur on Wednesday March 18, 2020 while the remaining classes will transition by March 23, 2020. A complete schedule will be provided tomorrow. NMC classes which are conducted entirely online will continue as scheduled.
Let me be clear. We know this is getting serious now more than ever. As Governor, I will continue to do everything I can, beside the good leaders in our islands, to protect you and your families. We were the first state or territory in the country to implement surveillance measures and health screening of all inbound passengers.
Information will continue to change, and we ask that you get your information from CHCC, the World Health Organization (WHO), or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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. When it comes to this, we have no time for politics or grandstanding. My administration and I will work with our health experts. Now is the time for vigilance, not fear or panic. Let’s work together to stay informed and help each other out.
Remember, we will continue to be Marianas Strong.
Ralph DLG Torres (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Ralph DLG Torres is the 9th governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the youngest governor in the United States.