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  • By Johanna Salinas

Governor: Tougher measures needed to curb Covid-19

Dr. Felix Cabrera speaks at a video press conference on April 3, 2020, presenting Covid-19 trajectory for Guam. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has announced tougher measures in an effort to slow down the spread of Covid-19 on Guam, which now has 84 positive cases.

Officials projected 3,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the next five months, which they said could go down to 700 if residents abide by stricter policies.

Because of the severity of Covid-9 crisis, the governor has decided to take greater control of the roadways by putting up checkpoints.

“Access to public roadways will be limited to movement for the purposes of traveling to and from essential activities which I have authorized under executive order number 2020-05,” Leon Guerrero said.

“While we are working out the details, vehicles on Guam’s roadways are required to display signs showing the essential function that

necessitates their presence of the road,” she added.

New measures are tentatively scheduled to begin Tuesday, the governor said.

During the April 3 video press conference, the governor’s medical advisors, Dr. Michael Cruz and Dr. Felix Cabrera, presented Covid-19 trajectory for Guam.

“Hospital beds needed at peak is 6,000 which will occur around the first week of June. But total deaths after five months will be about 3,000,” Cabrera said.

Addressing Cruz and Cabrera’s presentation, Leon Guerrero said, “Each of us has the power to save lives and make this model wrong.

We can act now and flatten the curb, or these predictions will become the reality.”

After sharing their slides, Dr. Hoa Nguyen, from American Medical Clinic said, “The front liner isn’t the medical community or the hospital, but the front liner is you. Every one of you need to help us fight to protect your home, protect our island. The fight is very simple. The message is very simple, abide by the order of the governor.”

Nguyen reminded the residents, “If you go outside, you need to wear a mask. If you don’t have a mask, any type of bandana to cover your face is fine.”

Leon Guerrero believes that following similar approaches done Asian countries, will lessen Covid-19 infections on island. “Looking at other places like China, Japan and South Korea, where they were very aggressively putting these measures in place, that we can, we must flatten the curve,” she said.

“I’m hoping where Dr. Cabrera was seeing the uptake of the trajectory that we continue in the low end to the trajectory. I know it’s an alarming situation. What we need to do in an alarming situation is step up and win this. It cannot be if we still see people gathering out there.”

Cabrera said the predictions he presented do not have to be the reality. “This trajectory is not our fate and it cannot be our fate,” he said. “All it is a model. It’s like the weather forecast and it can be wrong. We actually have the opportunity, not like the weather, we have the opportunity to do what we can to make it wrong.”

Although Guamanians, like most islanders, are naturally “affectionate,” Cabrera believes that that would have to change in order to decrease the virus. “This is a culture shift that we need,” he said. “Without that we are not going to beat this. In terms of what other countries have been doing to be successful, we don’t have those resources here. But what we do have is the heart to do it.”

Leon Guerrero believes GovGuam’s efforts are paying off. “If had not done anything we would have been in a worse situation,” she said.

“But the fact that we became very aggressive with our measures, we’re very proactive with our measures. That’s what’s keeping us down in our cases. There are already signs that it’s working. We just have to working even harder, so it continues.”

GovGuam is looking to making it effective Tuesday. “We’re working out the details because we want to make sure once we implement it, it’s implemented correctly,” Leon Guerrero said. “Some of the ideas is if you put a letter A and display it that would be I’m going to the grocery store. If you put a letter B—that would say I’m going to the pharmacy. We’re also looking at doing checkpoints just to make sure that people are really going to where they’re saying to go.”

Leon Guerrero doesn’t consider it a lockdown, since residents are allowed to leave their homes for essential items.

“It’s following the executive order that has already been,” she said. “The checkpoints will be finding out what’s your business on the road. We’re trying to figure out how that would best be clear to either the national guard or the police officer doing the check points.

We haven’t totally done the details. Once we do, we’ll be announcing it.”

An island-wide lockdown would be more restrictive than what is already in place. “The worst would be close all businesses,” she said. “Close the military base. No construction work. Close grocery stores. Close the pharmacy. Those are real drastic, drastic steps. I’m hoping we won’t get to that point. I know we won’t get to that point. Just follow and comply. I know it’s hard. I know it’s been three weeks but if we don’t do this it will be five months.”

Leon Guerrero said the administration has yet to decide whether or not to impose “consequences” for not following the new orders. "We’re talking to our law enforcement, the National Guard,” she added. “The Guam Police Department will enforce the restrictions on the roadways. I’ve asked the Guam Police Department and also the general to come up with a plan and they will be presenting the plan to me on Sunday. This is something that’s evolving.”

Despite the new restrictions, there will be no new curfew. “There is already a curfew for the minors but I will not be imposing a curfew on the adults,” she said.

Although traffic will be more restrictive, Leon Guerrero still encouraged people to get fresh air. “All the beaches, all the parks are closed. But if you walk through a park, that’s still okay,” she said. “You can’t come with your barbeque. You know how we are. We say it’s only going to be our family, but by the time our family gets there, all other families are there. That’s way I closed the parks and beaches.”

Leon Guerrero hopes that the new restrictions will make people be more conscious of their movements.

“I think declaring martial law is not the right way to go. People still need to eat, get groceries, go to the pharmacy, to the medical clinic,” she said. “There has to be some movement in order for you to continue on with your daily life—however normal it can be in their situation. Having the national guard doesn’t mean martial law. This just means thank you, National Guard for restricting travel on the roadways, because you’re still able to do those things. We just want to make sure that we can minimize as much the travel and contact out there in the community.”

Leon Guerrero said she is just using her authority to make sure people minimize exposure to slow down the transmission of coronavirus.

“I am now making sure and enforcing you are doing what you are supposed to be doing,” she said.

Dr. Cruz, former lieutenant governor, told Leon Guerrero during the conference that the military will try to help in the local relief.

“We’re also bringing in combat medics,” the governor said. “We have also activated some engineers that has help us with assessment with some of the case. I activated nurses. We are already activating. What title 32 says is that these expenses will be under the federal government. Also, I’m able to use some military assets.”

Dr. Cabrera believes the new restrictions would help lessen the spread of Covid 19. “It’s not necessarily hoping for the best; preparing for the worst. It is working for the best and working in preparation for the worst,” he said.

He also said Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services is working with others to test their predictions.

“Our methodologies are open and we encourage peer review. We proactively sought out peer review in terms of having independent physicians that review our models here on island and also getting input by the local CDC representatives here in terms of helping us shape the model that we’re using,” he said.

“Our greatest corroboration of the model is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Army themselves created their own independently study that we didn’t know they were doing. We’re able to see that and in their worst-case scenarios were a little worse than ours. Their methodologies and estimations, which were educated assumptions made, lined up with ours.”

The governor said she is aware that residents are looking forward to return to normalcy, but she reminded them to be patient. “The guidelines by CDC is it that the last death has to be 10 days out,” Leon Guerrero said. “If you have a death tomorrow and no deaths for 10 days, that’s a good sign and maybe we can lift some restrictions. If the hospital is having normal activities, that a good thing, too."

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