SAIPAN, 24 AUGUST 2020 (MARIANAS VARIETY)—Effective today, Monday, amendments made to the CNMI Covid-19 emergency directives on in-person social gatherings, curfew, and business hours will be reimplemented until 06 September.

“It is critically important that the people of the Commonwealth continue to remain vigilant and take personal responsibility to protect ourselves, our families, our friends, our manamko’, and our loved ones with pre-existing illnesses from Covid-19 community spread. This is our number one priority right now,” said Governor Ralph DLG Torres.

He added, “We’ve always treated this pandemic as high risk, even when we had zero positive cases on-island… We knew that it was going to hurt us economically, but that would never waver our priority.”

The governor emphasised that despite public scrutiny, his administration continues to calculate the risks and make drastic changes based on health recommendations.

“We’ve all done well together. We’re all fighting this [Covid-19 pandemic] together,” he said.

Curfew hours are now 10 pm to 4am with the exception of first responders while in performance of their official duties and displaying a Covid-19 Task Force-issued badge; any person lawfully employed during the curfew or is on direct route of going to or returning from their place of employment; any person going to or returning from admission to the CHCC hospital or completion of treatment such as hemodialysis.

Torres said that part of the rationale behind the amended curfew is to allow for subsistence fishing.

Penalties for violating curfew mandates include a US$200 fine for first-time offenders, US$500 for second-time offenders, and US$700 for further offenders found in public, including individuals found driving on a public road, outside of the curfew.

Each passenger in a vehicle found driving on a public road outside of the curfew will be subject to a US$100 fine for a first offence, US$200 for a second offence, and $300 for three or more offenses.

Per the amendments, gatherings of more than 10 people in a single room or space are prohibited at the same time for social activities, including, but not limited to, community, civic, public leisure, or sporting events, parades, concerts, festivals, fiestas, conventions, fundraisers, and similar activities.

Worship services must limit attendance to 50 percent of allowed occupancy and maintain social distancing and sanitation guidelines.

Social gatherings at public parks, public pathways, and public beaches are prohibited.

All public parks, public pathways, and public beaches are open from 4 am to 9 pm only for outdoor recreation for physical and mental exercise and wellness, as well as for shoreline subsistence fishing, such as talaya, rod and reel, and commercial fishing activities, subject to social distancing requirements.

Although the Grotto remains closed, Managaha remains open to the public solely for outdoor recreation, as long as social distancing requirements are implemented for both transport vessels and on-island activities.

Transport vessels must be subject to constant and consistent disinfection, and will be enforced by the Department of Public Lands.

All businesses that have facilities open to the general public are allowed to be open to the public from 4 am to 9 pm at 50% occupancy limit, in accordance with supplemental regulatory guidance set by the Department of Public Works Building Code.

The governors stressed that businesses closing an hour before curfew, at the latest, is intended to allow at least one hour for patrons to return home before the 10 pm curfew.

Restaurants and bars must continue to serve dine-in customers under social distancing parameters at also 50% of the initial occupancy limit.

They must conduct temperature screening of all employees and patrons prior to entering the establishment, and document names and phone numbers of patrons in a log, which must be accessible to CNMI officials.

Employees are required to wear facial coverings when providing service to patrons, and are included in the 50percent occupancy limit.

Patrons are also required to wear face masks whether dining inside or outside.

All businesses engaged in gaming, including the casino, video poker establishments, and e-gaming facilities are closed to the public, except if authorised to operate under an approved reopening plan by the governor’s Covid-19 task force and CHCC.

Torres said, “Eventually, we want all of our businesses to be up and running… That’s how you get a full economy [of] scale.”

“Because of the recent cases, it is imperative that both public health [and] our task force look at what safety measures need to be implemented for our schools in order to safeguard our students,” Torres said.

To preserve the health and safety of students, families, teachers, administrators, and staff, all public and private schools will remain closed for in-person instruction and activities until further notice.

School buildings, including administrative offices, will be closed to the public, except for employees or contractors necessary to conduct operations, facilitate instruction, distribute materials and equipment, or perform other necessary in-person administrative or maintenance functions.

To provide continuity of learning, all schools are allowed to facilitate alternative modes of education, such as distance learning through online means.

The Public School System, through its Special Education Programme, may be allowed to allow in-person instruction for students with special needs subject to review and approval of operational plans and site assessment by the Covid-19 task force, DPW, and CHCC.

Upon reopening in the future, all schools will also be subject to review and approval of reopening plans and site assessment by the Covid-19 task force, DPW, and CHCC.

“Once we are able to sustain and know exactly where we’re at with the current cases, that is the only way for us to open up our schools,” Torres said.

The Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force, in coordination with and assisted by the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Commerce Alcohol Beverage & Tobacco Control Division, the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, and any other necessary Commonwealth agency, will enforce business hours and social distancing requirements.

Torres said the government will ensure that the community understands the seriousness of protecting public health.

“The government has three responsibilities: to protect our public safety, education, and health… We are obligated [and] mandated to do what we believe and understand that we need to do to protect public health,” he noted.

Furthermore, he said, “Let us not start fighting against each other… Let’s support each other and fight [Covid-19] together.”

On 14 August, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation identified the 50th case of Covid-19 in the CNMI through a mandatory preoperative screening for a scheduled surgical operation at the CHCC hospital.

CHCC initiated contact tracing for case #50, which led to the early identification of the 54th case of Covid-19 on island, which suggests community transmission.

The Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force and CHCC continue to urge individuals to practice the Three W’s: wash your hands, watch your distance, and wear a face covering…. PACNEWS

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