• By Johanna Salinas

Community shutdown extended to May 5


(Updated)

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has extended the public health emergency declaration to May 5, which entails the continuation of social isolation and the prohibition of all forms of social gatherings in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The public health emergency declaration was originally scheduled to end on April 13, but the governor noted that the spread of Covid-19 has not slowed down despite the current social distancing policy.

Guam has a total of 110 Covid-19 positive cases. On the Navy side, 44 percent of the USS Theodore Roosevelt crew were tested for Covid -19, with 155 positive cases so far. A total of 1,548 sailors have moved ashore. Sailors who tested negative are quarantined in Tumon hotels.

The governor said she will ask the legislature to give her enhanced enforcement power that would authorize her to limit the people's movement within the community and impose penalties on those who violate directives related to Covid-19. The proposed policy will include extending curfew hours and setting up checkpoints.

"This pandemic is unprecedented in modern era and while other nations that are using extra ordinary powers have had some progress in curtailing the spread of Covid-19, those jurisdictions do not recognize the same strong fundamental rights accorded to Guam's people by the Constitution,"the governor said in her daily video press briefing Sunday. "As a governor, I must enforce strong measures to defeat Covid-19 while recognizing the rights of individuals granted under the Organic Act."

Leon Guerrero said her intention is to roll out a series of enhanced enforcement measures, but she was advised by Attorney General Leevin Camacho that extra enforcement authority must be granted through legislative action.

The governor said she will send a letter to Speaker Tina Muna Barnes requesting her to work with her colleagues to pass pertinent legislation granting the governor the power to restrict residents' movement.

"I will also ask the legislature to mirror other legislative bodies throughout the nation that have authorized methods of enforcement, including the issuance of significant fines and penalties to those who violate an executive order," the governor said."Some of you won't understand why I can't take enhanced stronger measures all by myself. Given this emergency, I would if I could, but democracies require balance and the attorney general made clear that extra powers must (be granted) by the legislature)."

Last week, the governor announced a plan to set up road checkpoints, which is tentatively set to begin on Tuesday.

Leon Guerrero added that the National Guard will be providing security for Guam’s quarantine facilities. They will also be helping out engineer work. The Port Police and GPD and the airport are out there being visible as they can. The National Guard will help in any way supplement any security the police might have.

Leon Guerrero said, “One of the reasons we haven't implemented that is because I need to make sure I have the legal authority to do it. That's why I'm asking the legislature to look at the policy and provide me then the authority to enforce and implement it.”

Leon Guerrero said that once the approval is given, GPD could have better monitoring of social distancing. She mentioned, “In public places that are already closed and people continue to gather, the police have the authority to remove them and to impose penalties.”

The governor also asked the Legislature to hold a session soon. “I'm asking the Legislature to introduce legislation and enact statutes so I can legally have authority to extend curfew to everyone and establish checkpoints and ask people where they're going and impose penalties and fines,” she said.

“Someone had asked me could I extend the curfew to everyone and not just what we currently have in legislation. My advice from the legal people is we cannot. It was to be through legislation. The other one was the checkpoints. I don’t have authority to stop people specifically for the purpose of finding out where they're going. I don’t have authority for any penalties in terms of enforcement. That has to be legislative.”

Leon Guerrero is hopeful that Sen. Tina Muna Barnes can call in a session to enforce stricter restrictions. “This is a very immediate situation,” the governor said. “I have not spoken personally to the speaker; I just sent the letter. Once she gets that letter, I will follow up to quickly ask for immediate legislation and immediate session to pass. They’ve been very generous in offering to meet.”

Under the governor's new executive order issued on Sunday, social gathering of any kind is prohibited. E.O 2020-09 also states that all essential employees working in essential businesses or functions will be required to wear masks during hours of operation.

All essential businesses must limit their transactions to essential items. “These items include but aren’t limited to medical supplies, pharmaceutical items that sustain lives and items that maintain the home,” Leon Guerrero said. “We've been communicating with the corporate office of Kmart and we’ve put them on notice that they need to cordon off those areas that are nonessential items. They were reminded that essential items are food, pharmaceuticals, household wares that are needed to sustain.”

Leon Guerrero said people must shop for what they need rather than take their time browsing the store. “If you go to Kmart now, they’ve been very responsive, they’ve cordoned off those places that are nonessential,” she said. “You have to look at the reason and science behind that. The more you minimize social contact the quicker you flatten the curve. I want people to get their errands in order, pick up those items and go home. Rather than mingling around the store.”

An issue of concern was whether or not schools will resume after May 5.

Leon Guerrero said, “I was talking to Superintendent Jon Fernandez and he’s going to follow my direction. He's considering just closing schools until the end of the school year. He's already gotten together in terms of what it means for credits, curriculum, and so forth. So he’s working that out.”

Leon Guerrero is uncertain whether or not there would be free internet access for students to supplement their learning at home. “I need to follow that up. I'm not too sure. I know that the education benefits may be addressing that for schools K-12 and also higher institutions of learning,” she said.

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