Hafa Adai and Tirow Marianas!
I hope you all are healthy and safe.
It has been a long last couple of months for us, and I know it’s been hard for everyone. This virus has taken a toll on our islands both physically with our health, economically with our budget shortfall, and emotionally with our lives.
Our islands and the whole world have been devastated. No one could have predicted we would be in a situation like this.
We are living in unprecedented times, as we combat two crises: a global pandemic and an economic downturn, but there are a lot of good people, our own people and around the world, working tirelessly during our COVID-19 response.
To CHCC CEO Esther Muña, our Task Force Chairman Warren Villagomez, my Authorized Representative to FEMA Patrick Guerrero, our doctors, our nurses, medical workers at CHCC, and our first responders at DFEMS, DPS, DOC, DCCA, Homeland Security, and our government departments, thank you for your service and your sacrifices.
Over the last several weeks, our COVID-19 Task Force and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation have been hard at work increasing our healthcare capacity through our new field hospital and Alternate Care Site at Kanoa Resort, upgrading our CHCC Laboratory, and finalizing our plans for Community-Based Testing with the testing platforms we received from South Korea and the US.
We have had several direct charter flights from California, South Korea, and other parts of Asia bringing in 40,000 test kits of the 60,000 that we have purchased from South Korea, 70 additional ventilators, medical equipment, as well as thousands of PPEs, including 48,900 masks, 217,000 gloves, 12,725 isolation gowns, face shields, and hazmat suits, as well as hundreds of thousands on the way for our doctors, nurses, and first responders.
Through our strong partnership with FEMA, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Defense (DoD), our 40-bed Medical Care and Treatment Facility (MCAT) outside of CHCC will be opened on Monday, while our Alternate Care Site at Kanoa Resort is scheduled to be operational in mid-May.
Again, I hope we never get to use this facility, but we will continue to be proactive by preparing the worst-case scenario, should our cases increase.
Plans for our community-based testing are being finalized. Our Task Force has been doing a walkthrough to ensure we are able to test based off the HHS and CHCC’s priorities. Our goal is to test everybody, but we know that our most critical priorities are:
· Hospitalized patients and healthcare facility workers, our nurses, and our doctors
· Our man’amko and our people with underlying medical conditions
· Our first responders
· Our government employees providing federal assistance
· And essential workers at stores and other critical services
We are working to create a scheduling and registration process to ensure that we can carry out this goal, and we want to do it soon. Please continue to follow our updates.
Our government is doing everything it can to contain this virus by working with the White House, our federal partners, and our health officials.
I will continue to ensure that federal assistance, such as the stimulus checks, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and the SBA Paycheck Protection Program, and economic injury loans, get to our people as soon as possible.
The IRS has informed us that stimulus checks will be out by mid-May. It’s beyond our control, but we continue to expedite this. Unemployment assistance is on its way, and the CNMI Department of Labor continues to work with USDOL.
SBA loan applications will be reopened soon. So far, 56 small businesses in the CNMI successfully applied for $12.62 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans. President Trump just signed legislation to increase funding, so that we can give more businesses the help they need to pay their employees.
We also continue to work hard to address our economic crisis. As you saw in our recent fiscal response summit, we will be doing the necessary, but difficult decision to right the direction of the Commonwealth’s finances after an accumulation of obligations, expenses, and practices that have been left unchecked since the Trust Territory government, which we came from.
I will continue to work with everyone from all three branches of government, majority and minority, public and private sectors on solutions.
Right now, health takes precedence over anything else. We have made decisions based only on what we believe is right. This pandemic is filled with unknowns, but what is known is the aggressive response efforts we are taking to flatten the curve more than the rest of the world. And as CHCC and our team continue to strategize mass testing for our community, we must keep our guards up until we defeat this disease. Continue to practice good hygiene and maintain social distancing.
Let’s continue to support our brave doctors and nurses, health care workers, first responders, their families, local and federal government employees, and private sector partners by staying home as much as you can.
People all over the Marianas are making sacrifices to protect our loved ones and our islands. This is what makes our islands special. We look out for each other.
We will overcome this.
Together, we are Marianas Strong.
Stay safe, stay strong.
Thank you, Si Yu’us Ma’ase, and Ghilisow.
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