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  • By Johanna Salinas

Officials say sailors will be isolated from civilian community

USS Theodore Roosevelt

Only sailors who tested negative for Covid-19 will be transferred to hotels, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said Wednesday, justifying her decision to accommodate the Navy’s request to provide a quarantine site for USS Theodore Roosevelt crew.

“I promised each of you that I will take any action necessary to keep people of Guam safe. For this reason, I’ve agreed to have the restricted housing for sailors who have tested negative for Covid-19,” Leon Guerrero said.

The number of sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who tested positive for Covid-19, has hit almost 200, according to the ship's commander who is making a desperate plea for his entire crew to be isolated.

In a four-page letter to the Department of Navy, the Captain Brett Crozier asked that 4,000 sailors be transferred to an off-ship quarantine site. More than 20 sailors on the ship are from Guam.

The fourth-class Nimitz carrier has 5,000 sailors, who are in quarantine aboard the ship, which Crozier said is conducive to virus transmission. The ship has a large number of sailors, who are confined in a space, share restroom facilities, work stations and computers and eat meals provided by personnel exposed to the coronavirus.

“In partnership with the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association, Public Health Officials, and representatives of the Navy, only sailors tested negative for Covid 19 will be housed in the vacant Guam hotel rooms subject to a 14 day quarantine period enforceable under the uniform code of military justice,” Leon Guerrero said.

Some sailors will have to stay on board to man the daily operations of USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Leon Guerrero said the sailors in Tumon will be limited to where they can be and who they can interact with.

Officials declined to identify the hotels that have been selected as quarantine sites.

“There will be daily medical checkups of all sailors. Military security will be on every floor and at all points of entry,” she said. “Our beaches are off limits and PPE will be provided to by the military to any hotel worker who is apart of this operation. We have an interest in protecting our community and stopping the spread as Covid 19, just as much as the military has an obligation to return the USS Roosevelt to the open ocean to protect Guam and the region.”

The governor reminded the local community to be civil toward the USS Roosevelt, since some of the sailors are from Guam. “Now is not the time of us versus them. While there are sailors on board that ship from every corner of the nation, some of those sailors call Guam home,” Leon Guerrero said.

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Rear Adm. John Menoni, commander of the Joint Region Marianas, has not given a definite date as to when sailors will be moving from USS Roosevelt to Tumon hotels.

“The Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association are working very closely with the military and our leadership to identify the need and the capacity,” said Menoni, who joined the governor and other local officials at the daily media briefing.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero with Rear Adm. John Menoni at a video conference wit reporters on Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

“We’d like to start this as soon as we can. We’re not going to start this without a good process and procedures in place to protect the people of Guam. We have to work through this together with the Government of Guam, Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association, and the planners of the Joint Region as well as 7th Fleet and Theodore Roosevelt to ensure this is a no fail system.”

The military looks forward to bringing in other professional help to combat their Covid 19 patients. “We will have approximately 40 professionals from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force medical battalion arriving on island within the next 24 to 48 hours,” Menoni said. “Those folks aren’t only here to help the sailors on Theodore Roosevelt, but also to help build capacity at Naval Hospital but backstop capacity within GovGuam.”

Despite the governor’s reassurance that only sailors with clean bills of health will stay in Tumon, many locals are wary about the situation.

“There is a concern of potential exposure and as much as we can anticipate it, we are addressing it,” Leon Guerrero said. “[The military] are going to have their own resources also at the hotels and we will minimize the contact of the hotel workers to almost no contact. They’re not going in to change linens or work in direct contact with these individuals.”

Menoni explained that the sailors will have limited contact with locals. “These sailors will be under direct supervision of U.S. Naval personnel, both potentially Naval Security Forces, Marine Security Forces, and then potentially local security forces to make sure they comply to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period,” he said.

“All of these sailors transported off Naval Base Guam out of the quarantine areas, and into Tumon will have a negative Covid test. No one is allowed off the base unless they’ve been tested negative for Covid 19.”

Menoni gave further details on quarantine protocols and restrictions. “There’s a strict no-touch, no-contact policy at this time. Even though these sailors have tested negative, we’re going to put in a buffer of local sailors and marines that are going to essentially be the forward-facing element of the hotel,” he said. “So the staff will be working in the background running the hotel. Any interactions with the sailors who will be housed in these hotels will be appropriate with CDC guidelines and it will be military to military, not with the staff.”

The logistics are still under works, from how to transport sailors to Tumon and which hotel or hotels they will be lodging. “We are developing the plan right now, but it will be in manageable groups. It will be transported and controlled by military personnel only,” Menoni said.

“The intention right now is to put a maximum of two sailors per room that have tested negative for Covid 19, but depends on what we can work out with the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association because I don’t know the configuration of each individual room at this time.”

Menoni affirmed that the sailors who are Covid 19 positive are in isolation on base, not in the carrier.

“Those sailors are immediately treated in accordance to CDC guidelines at Naval Hospital Medical Center or on Theodore Roosevelt by their medical personnel. They’re evaluated at that time and if they don’t require medical intervention they’re immediately put into isolation—single rooms with their own private bathroom,” Menoni said. “They’re given medical checks daily to make sure their health and wellbeing continues to improve. There’s no contact at any time whether it is between medical professionals who do these evaluations or even the folks that come by to drop off food for them. There’s no interaction, no contact.”

Since there are some Guamanians aboard the infected ship, Menoni reminded locals about the importance of sacrifice when joining the military. “There’s no higher calling than doing our nations work and leading the men and women that decide to serve in the United States military. We take it as a solemn obligation to protect those sailors as best as possibly can be given the environment we’re asked to work in sometimes,” Menoni said.

When asked about other Navy ships coming with Covid 19 patients, Menoni stated, “Guam is in a strategic location and has a wonderful deep-water port. That is a wonderful asset for all of us. I’m not going to comment on the fleet movements. I don’t have any knowledge of who has what on what ship. That’s not my role.”

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