GAO: CNMI public debt decreased by 41%

TORRES: CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is shown during a press conference in 2020. Contributed photo

SAIPAN – The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands made the move to Community Vulnerability Level Green on Friday, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and the CNMI Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force announced.

There are four levels that correspond to the COVID risk for the commonwealth. 

Level Green indicates that “the levels of positive cases for COVID-19 and the risk to public health are low as long as Points of Entry mitigation continues as necessary and until the governor rescinds the Emergency Declaration for the Commonwealth,” the governor’s office stated.

“To date, cases are continuously detected and contained at the CNMI’s ports of entry. The CNMI’s total cases as of June 17, 2021, is 183 with an overall positivity rate of 0.1%, far below most other U.S. jurisdictions. Since the first detection of COVID-19 in the CNMI, two lives were unfortunately lost and four were hospitalized.”

Also as of June 17, 2021:

• 72.7% of the adult population received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

• 66.4% of the population 12 and older received their first dose.

• 25,435 individuals, or 60%, of the 12 and older population were fully vaccinated.

“As more people get vaccinated and risk mitigation continues at the ports of entry, the CHCC and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force see vaccination rates as a significant factor for easing restrictions ordered in the governor’s directives,” the governor’s office stated.

What Green means

With the CNMI moving to Level Green and with a 60% vaccination rate:

• Fully vaccinated people are now able to participate in outdoor and indoor activities, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

• Unvaccinated individuals should remain cautious and continue to wear face masks and practice social distancing at all times, especially when in the company of others who are not vaccinated and those whose vaccinations cannot be verified.

• All entities are permitted up to 100% occupancy if vaccination completion is verifiable, and 75% if not verifiable.

• Entities should enforce social distancing precautions and promote the wearing of face masks, when vaccinations are not verified or when customers are from a different household.

• Community events are under strict social distancing parameters and reduced occupancy if vaccinations are not verifiable.

• Indoor gatherings of less than 150 people from different households are permitted throughout the commonwealth if vaccination completion is not verifiable.

• Indoor/outdoor gatherings of 100% fully vaccinated individuals are permitted throughout the commonwealth and as long as vaccination is verifiable.

To ensure customers and staff are protected, CNMI businesses and workplaces are urged to confirm vaccine status as “fully vaccinated” before letting individuals take off masks.

“Although vaccination cards alone are not acceptable for travel into the CNMI, this form of verification on a hard copy or a smartphone can be acceptable for entities to use as a form of verification for their compliance and enforcement.

“‘Fully vaccinated’ means the entity has documentation showing that the person received, at least 14 days prior, either the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines must be FDA-approved or have an emergency use authorization from the FDA.

“Customers and staff are not required by this order to disclose their vaccine status, however, businesses and other entities have the option to enforce it. If they choose not to enforce it or they simply cannot legitimately verify vaccine status, entities should therefore follow the guidelines that limit occupancy and enforce mask-wearing."

“Note that disclosing vaccination status does not violate health privacy laws because individuals have the option of leaving their masks on and entities have the option to not increase their occupancy. While there may still be restrictions set as we reach a 60% vaccination rate, it is CNMI’s goal to achieve ‘herd immunity’ at 80% and remove most restrictions.”

Hard work

In a statement, CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said: “I want to thank all our federal and local partners, our businesses, our CHCC CEO Esther Muna, our Task Force Chairman Warren Villagomez, our first responders, and our doctors and nurses for their hard work and collaboration, as well as our entire community for their patience and support.”

“For more than a year,” he added, “the challenge of keeping everyone safe was not easy, but together we successfully made the CNMI one of the safest places in the world, and it is recognized by our federal partners, our source markets, and our regional counterparts. Let us continue to be vigilant and safe and work together as we move forward in this next step towards true normalcy.”

CHCC CEO Esther L. Muna, for her part, said: “I want everyone in our community to know that since the start of the pandemic, our priority was always to ensure everyone was protected by mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the CNMI.”

She said, with “the milestone achievements of fully vaccinated CNMI residents, I want to reassure you that our priority has not changed with this new guideline. I urge all organization leaders to continue to exercise caution with this new normal and that if you’re unsure of the vaccine status, then strengthen your safety measures to protect those who have not had their COVID-19 vaccines or who might have a health condition that makes them vulnerable to severe coronavirus infection. Let’s all strive to achieve the goal of 80% of our eligible population being fully vaccinated. CNMI can do this!”

The governor’s office also reminds the public to “watch out for misinformation and to follow updates directly from the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force and CHCC. The spread of misinformation is just as dangerous as the virus itself.”