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  • By Johanna Salinas

The Covid-19 transmission: From traveling to social gathering

Members of the National Guard stop motorists on Route 8 in Barrigada, one of the road clusters temporarily closed by the government to limit the residents' movement as part of the effort to curtail the spread of Covid-19. Photo by Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Four Guam residents traveled to the Philippines to attend a social gathering in Manila, where they were presumed to have acquired Covid-19 infection. When they came back to Guam, they unwittingly began a chain that spread the coronavirus to dozens of people who, in turn, infected several other people.

Public Health Director Linda Unpingco DeNorcey said the four travelers were two sisters, a cousin and a brother.

"There also was a couple who went to the Philippines and it resulted in that couple infecting two other people—one being their son, the other their son’s friend. Another was a golfer in the Philippines,” she said.

The number of Covid-19 positive cases on Guam has climbed to 133 since the first three cases were detected on March 15. The government reported Guam's fifth coronavirus-related death on Saturday.

During a press briefing on April 9, DeNorcey said 17 people who have traveled had tested positive for Covid-19. “Of the 17 three traveled to multiple countries,” she said.

The coronavirus, which was unwittingly imported by travellers, has since been locally transmitted with the contagion accelerating at 33 percent.

The community looks to local hospitals for salvation, but these sites do seem safe from the coronavirus either. DeNorcey said 19 positive cases are "healthcare contacts and of that six are contacts as patients, and 13 are contacts as healthcare workers.”

A major challenge to the containment Covid-9 transmission is social distancing. In a small community -- where it’s normal for neighbors to drop by unannounced, where people make time for friends on weekends, and people practice man nginge‘ (kissing elders' hands) and kissing elders -- slowing down the Covid-19 transmission requires a disruption to many cultural traditions. DeNorcey said 108 cases have no travel history, which means their infection were locally acquired.

Of the 108 cases, DeNorcey said., “31 is household contacts. Eleven are community contacts.” Three positive cases from Hafa Adai Bingo, and three from a fundraising activity.

DeNorcey said, “There was a family gathering, a birthday party, at one of the hotels. And that resulted in five being Covid positive.”

Places of worship are no safe either nowadays. The health department found 11 positive cases from Iglesia Ni Cristo. This number is expected to increase as contact tracing continues.

On Saturday, the government began implementing the 12-hour road closures plan, which drew mixed reactions from the community.

Roads are closed from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the members of the National Guard and Guam Police Department manning the roadblocks.

"It doesn't make any sense. The governor always tells us to keep a 6-foot social distance but when I was stopped on the road on my way to work, the Guard stood less than a foot from me, his face right next to mine," said a Barrigada resident, who requested that he be identified only as Jorge C. "How do we know that the people standing by the roadblocks are not infected. How do they know that the drivers they are stopping are not infected?"

(With additional reports from Mar-Vic Cagurangan)

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