Today, April 29, 2020, marks 45 days since the CNMI went into a quasi-lockdown, with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres ordered the closure of all government offices and all non-essential government functions starting March 15, immediately following the report of positive coronavirus cases in Guam.
The shutdown, made as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 threat, also resulted in the suspension of all classes in public schools and was soon followed by many businesses closing shop, all international flights suspending flights to the CNMI, many being furloughed or let go from their jobs, and upending the CNMI economy.
Here, Saipan Tribune looks at where we are now, 45 days later.
COVID-19 in the CNMI
• Twelve individuals who have tested positive for coronavirus in the CNMI are now all recovered and released from the Alternative Care Site at Kanoa Resort in Susupe.
• There has been a total of 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases so far in the CNMI, with two deaths and 12 recoveries. There is no person under investigation at the moment.
• Mass testing is now in full effect at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport.
• As of April 25, the CNMI received 70 ventilators and thousands of personal protective equipment that includes 48,900 masks, 217,000 gloves, 12,725 isolation gowns, face shields and hazmat suits for doctors, nurses, and first responders.
• The temporary hospital at the upper parking lot of the Commonwealth Health Center, called the Medical Care and Treatment Site, is now ready for use.
• The Alternative Care Site at Kanoa Resort is still being built and will soon be ready for use in early May.
• According to Esther Muña, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer, a Territorial Action Plan is now being finalized. CHCC has already come up with an Emergency Plan for Disasters and any public health emergency. Overall, Muña said preparedness is key to responding. (Justine Nauta)
• The CNMI remains under a State of Public Health Emergency and a State of Significant Emergency, with directives in place, and strictly implemented throughout the CNMI.
• Government offices remain close, with the shutdown of all government offices and all non-essential government functions yet to be lifted.
• Outside essential personnel, all employees of the Commonwealth’s departments and agencies are asked to stay home until further notice. About 400 employees were furloughed, and from the recently-concluded Fiscal Response Summit, 200 more are yet to be furloughed.
• The Office of the Governor, along with the Department of Finance and the Department of Labor, are working on ensuring that stimulus checks, as well as the pandemic employment assistance, reach the affected employees, with mid-May as targeted date of distribution.
• While on shutdown, both the Senate and the House of Representatives have had full sessions.
• A COVID-19 Task Force is created to provide direction and implement all COVID-19 related measures. (Iva Maurin)
• The Public School System has furloughed nearly 800 of its employees, majority of whom are teachers. PSS administrative and federally funded personnel were exempted.
• PSS has applied for an over $3 million loan with the Marianas Public Land Trust to pay off missed employee payrolls.
• PSS has missed three pay periods since the government shutdown.
• Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada also signed the injunction against the central government that is set to be heard in June. Board of Education members, however, decided that they would revisit the injunction after negotiating a way to pay teachers their owed salary.
• PSS students were finally given enhancement packets starting April 15.
• Graduation and promotion ceremonies were cancelled.
• PSS continues to distribute meals under the Child Nutrition Program and serves over 10,000 individuals daily. (Kimberly A. Bautista)
US District Court for the NMI
• Civil, criminal, and bankruptcy hearings are being conducted by telephone or videoconference as determined by the presiding judge.
• Physical access to the District Court, including the Clerk’s Office and the Office of Pretrial and Probation, have been temporarily closed to the public until May 15, 2002.
• Court employees are available by telephone and email from 8am to 5pm on Monday through Friday, other than legal holidays, while they are teleworking during this courthouse closure.
• All bail hearings are now conducted in the CNMI Supreme Court at the House of Justice Building or Guma’ Hustisia in Susupe. Hearings are limited to the Supreme Court courtroom for now.
• Effective April 4 through June 5, 2020, judiciary facilities are closed to the public, except for the House of Justice building, Kotten Tinian on Tinian, and Centron Hustisia on Rota. The Judiciary alternate sites are the Marianas Business Plaza in Susupe, Drug Court in Chalan Kanoa, Office of Adult Probation Supervision satellite office in Susupe, and Law Revision Commission in Susupe.
Commonwealth Ports Authority
• Still no direct international flights arriving into the CNMI. Skymark Airlines Inc. has extended the suspension of all flight operations between Narita and Saipan until May 31, 2020.
• The CPA board of directors approved the waiving and giving discounts in the total amount of $1.22 million in leases for six months to their tenants at the airports and seaports.
• Starting April 3, Star Marianas Air temporarily suspended its flight services between the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
• United Airlines suspended all its flights into and out of the CNMI from Guam from April 6 to 30, 2020.
• Essential personnel report for work. Other department staff go in as needed. Others work at home.
Commonwealth Utilities Corp.
• The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. is offering a payment deferment or due date extension to allow residential customers up to a one-month utility bill payment to be delayed over a three-month period. Essential employees have been reporting to work. Payment Center in Dandan remains open.
Commonwealth Casino Commission
• The Commonwealth Casino Commission office in Gualo Rai remains closed until further notice. The commissioners will hold a meeting tomorrow, Thursday. The meeting will be held via video conference. (Ferdie de la Torre)