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Governor declares ‘state of significant emergency’

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DUE to the imminent threat of the novel coronavirus or nCoV from China, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on Wednesday issued Executive Order 2020-01 declaring a “state of significant emergency.”

Rafael Deleon Guerrero Torres

His EO also aims to “strengthen ongoing emergency protocols and quarantine measures at the ports” of entry.

The Commonwealth Ports Authority, for its part, is holding an emergency meeting at 9 a.m., today, Thursday, CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds told Variety.

The only item on the agenda is the governor’s significant emergency declaration.

House Committee on Health & Welfare Chairman Jose Itibus, who met with the governor and Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. officials on Wednesday morning, said he is advising members of the community to get updates from the proper authorities only — CHCC or the administration.

In a separate interview, Sen. Paul A. Manglona said he has asked the governor to temporarily halt travels to and from China.

In a letter, the senator told the governor that “due to the uncertainty about the virus, its fast-spreading nature, the lack of a vaccine, and the growing evidence that asymptomatic people may carry the virus, it is absolutely imperative that we protect our people from a possible outbreak in our islands.”

Manglona said “it is essential that we closely work with [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to ensure that our Commonwealth is included in the recently reported plan to boost staff at 20 U.S. airports that have quarantine facilities. We should have the same capability as these 20 mainland airports to screen all passengers traveling from China. Further, I am respectfully requesting that we have travel restrictions in place to temporarily halt travel to and from China for a few weeks or until such time that this virus is studied and under control.”

Travelers

In a statement, the governor said his executive order directed CPA to “seek to suspend travelers from mainland China arriving directly and indirectly into the CNMI.”

He said “this process will be done in collaboration with the airlines, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Under federal regulations, the CNMI does not have the authority to stop travelers from China from flying to the CNMI without federal consent.”

The governor said his declaration will “strengthen” CHCC’s “ongoing public health emergency protocols, quarantine measures, and other increased monitoring and controls at all CNMI ports of entry in collaboration with CPA and the CNMI Division of Customs.”

As of Jan. 29, 2020, the governor added, “there are no suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases in the CNMI.”

He said the CNMI has been coordinating interagency response through CHCC, CPA, Customs, the Marianas Visitors Authority, the Department of Finance as well as local and federal first responders.

“Public health is our priority, as the safety and security of our people will take precedence over anything else,” the governor added.

He said his administration “remains confident that the precautionary measures implemented by CNMI government agencies will ensure proper screening for the coronavirus,” adding that this decision to issue an executive order is a precautionary measure.

“I am issuing the emergency declaration out of an abundance of caution to ensure that the CNMI stays safe and that we minimize the potential exposure of our people to this highly communicable virus. I ask that our industry partners collaborate and cooperate with the CNMI to protect the health and well-being of our people,” he added.

Because of the potential loss of tourists, the governor said he has directed the Department of Finance and the Office of Management and Budget to undertake an immediate cost-impact analysis and make recommendations for adjustments to the FY 2020 budget. This analysis will be given to the Legislature for consideration and consultation as needed, he added.

“Economies across the Asia-Pacific region are already bracing for reduced tourist arrivals from China due to this outbreak, and as a government, we have to adapt and make adjustments with our Legislature,” the governor said.

“Finance and OMB have already started making their assessments, and we will look at making a determination with the Legislature on the potential impact on the FY 2020 budget, as well as projections for the FY 2021 budget.

“As I mentioned in Tuesday’s MVA meeting, this administration committed itself to diversifying our economy by revitalizing our Japanese tourism market through Skymark Airlines. This was a big win for the Marianas, and I, along with MVA will continue to aggressively market the Marianas as a featured, coronavirus-free tourist destination.”

He said the administration will continue to “monitor the outbreak and receive updates, and maintain constant engagement with global health partners such as the World Health Organization and federal partners such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the containment of the virus.”

“As we continue to monitor this situation,” he added, “we encourage our visitors from our other Asian source markets to come and enjoy our beautiful islands and our warm hospitality.”

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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