CNMI adopts extreme social distancing; some businesses ordered to close at 1 pm

CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres (file photo)

The CNMI government has ordered the enforcement of extreme social distancing measures to protect the community from the spread of COVID-19.

CNMI Governor Ralph DLG Torres issued the directive this week, adding the provision to amended Executive Order 2020-04 which declared a continued state of significant emergency and public health emergency in the Commonwealth.

The purpose of the new “Enhanced Social Distancing Directive” is to limit public gatherings of people and to prevent potential public exposure of residents to the virus.

Among its extreme provisions is the limiting of operations of some businesses in the CNMI from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Businesses that are open to the general public are covered by this directive.

“After 1:00 p.m., business owners and employers have the discretion to allow their employees to continue working behind closed doors, away from public interaction,” according to the CNMI Governor’s office.

What is covered by the directive?

According to a release from the CNMI Governor’s Office, the following businesses will operate on limited hours per day:

  • Grocery stores, retail stores, farmers’ markets, convenience stores, produce stands;
  • Hardware stores;
  • Banks and financial institutions;
  • Entertainment facilities, movie theaters, skating rinks, children play areas, arcades;
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers. After 1 p.m., these businesses may offer drop-off/pick-up services;
  • Hair and nail salons;
  • Auto-supply, tire shops, auto repair facilities and related services;
  • Car dealerships;
  • Insurance firms;
  • Businesses engaged in gaming such as casinos, video poker establishments, e-gaming facilities.

Businesses that do now have high public interaction such as garbage collection, sanitation services, mailing and delivery services, and other related businesses, are not covered by the directive.

Restaurants, bars, and other eating establishments can only serve customers through drive-thru, take-out, curb-side pick-up, and delivery options. However, their business hours are not affected by the time restrictions set in the new directive.

All public parks are also closed to the public.

Torres, this week, urged the community to practice social distancing.

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“We encourage everyone in the Marianas to please stay home and avoid unnecessary travel as much as possible. Work, or school work from home, whenever possible and reasonable. Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10,” Torres said.

Meanwhile, the CNMI public school system also announced on Monday, March 23 that all public schools in the Commonwealth will be closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.

Student instruction will be performed online through the public school distance learning program.