By Bea Cabrera
Free shots of drinks per two shots of vaccine
Saipan businesses offer incentives to encourage residents to get vaccinated
Saipan—In the Northern Mariana Islands, anyone getting a Covid vaccine could get free drinks from Naked Fish, a restaurant bar in Garapan. Other local businesses have been offering different incentives to encourage residents to get the vaccine.
Since the start of the year, the CNMI has successfully ramped up its vaccine campaign. As of last month, the CNMI was close to reaching more than 50 percent of its population vaccinated.
Like every other community, the CNMI is eyeing herd immunity, which has come to signify the endgame—the point when 80 percent to 90 percent of the population are protected from Covid-19. The end goal is to reclaim normalcy and achieve economic recovery.
Hence, the CNMI Covid-19 Task Force is not slowing down. Now, more stakeholders including the business sector are jumping in to do their part to accelerate the process toward normalcy.
“As a small business, I felt compelled to thank those who have been brave and received this important vaccination. More importantly, I aim to build awareness about vaccination and its benefits by providing this incentive,” said Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Joe Guerrero, who also owns Naked Fish.
Once the CNMI achieves herd immunity, “we will be able to safely reopen our tourism market which is our only source of revenue to pay for public health, public safety, education, etc. Our entire community needs to help each other by getting vaccinated,” he added.
To encourage the community, Guerrero’s establishment offers free drinks on certain brands to those who can present their vaccination cards.
“It is important for Naked Fish to help with Covid-19 prevention and mitigation because I have a total of nine staff who rely on their work at Naked Fish to provide for their families’ needs. We also started by mandating that all employees and new hires be vaccinated,” he said.
The CNMI, designated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as a level 1 jurisdiction, has one of the lowest Covid-19 positive rates in the United States. But that is no reason to be complacent, according to Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther Muna.
“CNMI’s low cases are the reason for much reliance on vaccination rates versus prior infections. There are also new variants and the vaccines are more effective against them,” she said. “Achieving herd immunity means more freedom to do more and come close to doing everything we did pre-Covid.”
In mid-May, the CDC released new guidelines giving fully vaccinated people a go-signal to stop wearing their masks and observe social distancing with some exceptions. “We have been slowly lifting restrictions in the CNMI and most recently, also with the new travel quarantine protocols,” Muna said.
CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres noted the cooperation of private partners.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic in March last year, businesses were always cooperative with the mandates and regulations and collaborating on how to prevent and mitigate the Covid19 virus in our islands,” he said.
“They followed every step from the color of coding, social distancing, limited operating hours, limited number people allowed in business establishments, curfew. They have always been there even though it was also hard for them financially," the governor added.
The governor is confident the CNMI will eventually achieve herd immunity. “If we reach at least 80 percent vaccination, we will be lifting a lot of restrictions and it is going to be a normal day for all of us because it took each and one of us to achieve it,” he added.
This was echoed by acting CNMI Commerce secretary Edward M. DeLeon Guerrero.
“The only way we can go back to our old norm is to get everyone vaccinated and for travelers to look at our islands as a safe destination," Leon Guerrero said.
"The administration, healthcare, business sector and the community never ceased to come together through this pandemic and as a result, the CNMI is probably one of the safest destinations in the U.S.,” he added.
Muna said the CNMI has about 11,000 people in the process of getting fully vaccinated and less than 10,000 more people to initiate. “When we reach that immunity, there will likely be more restrictions lifted and more adjustments to quarantine protocols,” she said. “Is it life pre-pandemic? We will come very close to it.”