PSS asks students, teachers who participated in Guam competitions to self-quarantine

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EDUCATION Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada has asked the students and teachers who were on Guam recently to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.

He also announced the suspension of classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

Mount Carmel School has also suspended its classes from Monday to Wednesday.

Guam on Sunday reported three confirmed Covid-19 cases. Two traveled to Manila and returned to Guam on a Feb. 29 (not March 2) flight. One has a relative who traveled to Japan recently.

The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. said it will obtain a list of the Feb. 29 Manila-Guam-Saipan passengers, and contact them for “surveillance and possible testing.”

Ada said the suspension of classes from March 16 to 18 will allow principals to list all students who have traveled off island and to determine who among them should be monitored.

He will also meet with his PSS team on Monday to discuss the possibility of shutting down classes for the remainder of the school year and the possibility of conducting online classes.

In a separate interview, CHCC. Chief Executive Office Esther Muna said, “Anyone returning from Guam in the last 14 days will be monitored and are advised to self-quarantine.”

Two weeks ago, students from Marianas High School, Saipan Southern High School, Hopwood Middle School, Mount Carmel School, and Saipan Community School traveled to Guam to compete in the Tumon Bay Music Festival, which took place from Feb. 27 to March 7.

On March 9-10, students from Garapan Elementary School, Koblerville Elementary School, San Vicente Elementary School, Tinian Elementary School, Hopwood Middle School, Chacha Oceanview Middle School, Francisco M. Sablan Middle School, Marianas High School, and Dr. Rita Inos Jr./Sr. High School participated in the Chamorro Language & Cultural Performing Arts Competition held at the University of Guam Field House.

Muna said CHCC will work with PSS to ensure those at risk will monitor their health.

Closure of government offices

On Sunday evening, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres issued the following statement Sunday:

“In consultation with the presiding officers of the Legislature, and the Covid-19 Task Force, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and I are hereby shutting down all government offices and all non-essential government functions.

“All non-essential employees of the Commonwealth’s departments and agencies are asked to stay home until further notice.

“We will provide additional updates on the government tomorrow, Monday. Please stay tuned to media partners and your department and agency heads for updates.

“While the CNMI remains without a confirmed case, we continue our ongoing surveillance measures, which we started since January, at the airport, hospital, and around Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

“Now, we understand that there are questions and concerns about banning United flights from Guam to Saipan. As I have stated in February, I have no authority as governor to stop the flights from Guam, nor do I have the authority to stop any flights to the CNMI for that matter. That is a decision for the Federal Aviation Administration under the U.S. Department of Transportation. Just like we did in January with the China flights, I will be directing the Commonwealth Ports Authority to consult with the FAA on the Guam United flights, and we will notify you once we receive an update.

“I will be meeting with CHCC CEO Esther Muna, her leadership team, and our Covid-19 Task Force on Monday to push forward the next steps of our Covid-19 pandemic plan. This is exactly why we created the task force.

“As Covid-19 moves around the world and gets closer to our beautiful shores, your government is doing everything it can to contain this virus by working with the White House, federal partners, and global health officials.

“We will be asking individuals, regardless of travel history, who were off-island for work or travel to self-quarantine themselves for at least 14 days. We will be working with department heads and private sector partners in implementing this immediately.

“We will begin implementing social distancing protocols within our community. Our manamko’ and our loved ones with preexisting illnesses are the most vulnerable to Covid-19, and we will prioritize their safety. We ask that our family and friends who are in this group to stay home. If you feel sick, please stay home and contact your doctor or our hospital. We will formalize these protocols tomorrow.

“[On Sunday] afternoon, the Marianas Visitors Authority board of directors officially postponed the Tagaman triathlon this Saturday. We are thankful that our Saipan Marathon was successful and that there were no cases. The Marianas March Against Cancer Steering Committee has just announced that the annual event is postponed. The Flame Tree Arts Festival will be postponed. Our manamko’ centers on all three islands will be closed until further notice. Our Garapan Street Market will be closed until further notice.

“The Public School System has informed me that they will be suspending classes from Monday to Wednesday, which is their next Board of Education meeting. From there, they will then make a board decision on class schedules moving forward.

“Northern Marianas College is suspending all face-to-face classes through March 17, 2020. Transition of a majority of face-to-face courses to online platforms will occur on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 while the remaining classes will transition by March 23, 2020. A complete schedule will be provided tomorrow. NMC classes, which are conducted entirely online will continue as scheduled.

“Let me be clear. We know this is getting serious now more than ever. As governor, I will continue to do everything I can, beside the good leaders in our islands, to protect you and your families. We were the first state or territory in the country to implement surveillance measures and health screening of all inbound passengers.

“Information will continue to change, and we ask that you get your information from CHCC, the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As a strong island community, we have remained resilient in the face of the worst storms and economic downturns, and we emerged stronger because we chose to work together. When it comes to this, we have no time for politics or grandstanding. My administration and I will work with our health experts. Now is the time for vigilance, not fear or panic. Let’s work together to stay informed and help each other out.

“Remember, we will continue to be Marianas Strong.”

Self-quarantine advisories

With more countries and jurisdictions reporting confirmed cases, Muna said, CHCC continues to further elevate its surveillance process and issue self-quarantine advisories.

“In the past week, we have seen organizations, such as the Catholic Church, make policy changes to protect individuals,” she added. “We encourage all establishments to do the same.”

Bishop Ryan Jimenez consulted with Muna and other public health officials about ways to protect the island’s Catholic congregation without compromising their faith.

On Sunday, Mt. Carmel Church held its first Sunday Mass online.

“CHCC will not tell the organizations what to do, but we are asking them to work with us so we can give them guidance based on CDC recommendations,” Muna said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information, go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html

As for the Saipan Marathon held on Saturday, Muna said the event fell between “no-risk” and “low-risk” based on CDC assessment guidelines.

She noted that the Marianas Visitors Authority’s decision to push through with the event was made based on the CDC guidelines.

Muna said CHCC also provided increased support to MVA.

MVA Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo, she added, “followed the CDC guidelines and worked with us. In the case of the marathon, even though it is minimal to low risk, we maximized our surveillance and monitoring that exceeded the recommended guidance for that risk. This is why we [provided a] text messaging system for the marathon participants and a Check And Report Everyday or CARE booklet. These are tools that continuously screen individuals for symptoms.”

Surveillance team

If organizers want to hold an event, Muna encourages them to work with CHCC’s public health surveillance team.

As for vulnerable individuals, CHCC advises them to practice social distancing. Organizers, for their part, are advised to conduct an open-air event.

Although it is an individual’s decision to participate in any event, Muna reminded the public to be mindful of personal hygiene practices. These include avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth without washing hands first. “Wash your hands — and I cannot emphasize enough how critical this action is,” she added.

She also encourages individuals to get their annual flu shot and to hydrate to help improve their immune system.

Muna discourages travel at this time, adding that organizers should also consider cancelling public events.

CHCC, for its part, has implemented policy changes to protect its healthcare workers, patients, and visitors.

These include limiting visiting hours at the hospital, banning official travel, and mandating home quarantine for employees, especially if they are healthcare workers who have traveled to a CDC-level 3 area.

CHCC is also providing information on preventing the spread of any virus. Guidance and risk assessments are accessible at the websites of CHCC, CDC, and the World Health Organization.

“On those websites, you will find numerous ways to mitigate and prevent this virus from entering the CNMI,” Muna said. “We all have a responsibility, as individuals and organizations, to implement the prescribed precautionary measures, such as having access to hand sanitizers or wash areas, to protect not only yourself but especially those most vulnerable.”

DCCA advisory

In a separate advisory, the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs said beginning Monday, March 16, the following programs will be ceased until further notice:

• Manamko’ Center Congregate Services

• Garapan Street Market

• Tanapag Youth Center After School and Weekend Programs

• Kagman Community Center After School and Weekend Programs

• In addition, the annual Flame Tree Arts Festival slated for April has been postponed until further notice.

DCCA Secretary Robert Hunter said any other planned congregate activities of the department must also be postponed until further notice as he encouraged everyone to take the precautionary steps outlined by CHCC for their safety.

For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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