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NMI government to reopen in phases

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THE administration believes it is now appropriate to initiate the reopening process for the government, according to a memorandum signed Thursday by the special assistant for Homeland Security & Emergency Management, Gerald J. Deleon Guerrero, and the chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., Esther Muna, with the concurrence of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.

“The reopening process will be conducted in a phased manner,” the memo stated.  “Starting May 18, 2020, most government offices will be open for a half day. This will provide government offices an opportunity to get social distancing systems and handwashing, and wearing of face masks in place, and running in a safe and efficient manner.  The next week, that starting on May 24, government offices will open for the regular hours maintained by the office prior to the shutdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  At that point, the government will be fully open to the public.  We stress that at all times the government offices and the public using those offices will need to practice proper social distancing, handwashing, and wearing of face masks.  In that way, the government employees and the public using the government offices will stay safe.”

The memo stated that “reopening the government will enable the government to once again provide services to the public.  By providing services the government will enable the rest of the community, especially the business community, to begin their reopening process.

Pursuant to the governor’s Directive 7 implemented in March, all government offices and all non-essential government functions were shut down until further notice.  Further, all non-essential government personnel were asked to stay home until further notice.

“Such actions were necessitated by the need to stop large gatherings of people and promote social distancing,” the memo stated.  “This would decrease the amount of points of interaction and contact government workers and people who visit government offices would have with each other.  In this way, a person with Covid-19 would have fewer chances of infecting others.”

According to the memo, “It appears that Directive 7 has been successful in its goal.  Through Directive 7 and the other social distancing enhancing measures contained in the emergency directives, Covid-19 infections have been low and it appears that the large scale spread of Covid-19 has been prevented in the CNMI.  Due to this apparent success, the administration believes it is now appropriate to initiate the reopening process for the government.”

Directive 7 is amended to read as follows:

“All government offices will reopen to conduct regular government business. For the week of May 17 through May 23, government offices will be open four hours from 8 a.m. to 12 pm.  All non-essential government employees are directed to report to their work stations pursuant to the schedules provided by their supervisors.  Non-essential employees will continue to be on administrative leave for the remaining daily hours that the government is not open. However, all non-essential government employees shall continue to have Fridays off according to prior issued work-hour reductions.  All essential government workers are directed to maintain the current hours and schedules provided by their supervisors.  Supervisors shall ensure that proper social distancing practices are maintained in their respective offices.

“Effective May 24, 2020, government offices will be open for the regular hours maintained by the office prior to the shutdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  All government employees are directed to report to their work stations pursuant to the schedules provided by their supervisors. All government employees subject to work hour reductions will continue to observe those work hour reductions in the manner provided by their supervisor.  Supervisors shall ensure that proper social distancing practices are maintained in their respective offices. Please note that May 25, 2020 is a legal holiday, Memorial Day.”

This amendment will become effective on May 17, 2020.

Deleon Guerrero and Muna also “wish to extend our appreciation to our government employees for their compliance to the government shutdown.  We also wish to extend our appreciation to the community for their understanding and patience in enduring the government shutdown and its disruption of government services.”

This amendment, they added, “in no way means that there is no longer a threat to the CNMI community. In absence of treatments and vaccines proven to be safe and effective, please continue to turn to social distancing, handwashing, and wearing of face masks to avoid a spike in serious illness and deaths that could overwhelm our healthcare system.”

They said CHCC and the Covid-19 Task Force will “continue to frequently provide the island residents with health information and guidance to practice effective prevention measures to keep our community safe.  In the meantime, CHCC will continue to investigate all suspects and cases and identify contacts to ensure that transmission of Covid-19 is contained.”

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