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  • By Johanna Salinas

Leon Guerrero defends request for broader powers

Gov Lou Leon Guerrero

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on Monday defended her request for the legislature to grant her broader enforcement power to restrict the residents’ mobility in an effort to decelerate the spread of Covid-19.

“Failing to adhere to an executive order during a public health emergency is a misdemeanor in states like Hawaii, California, New York, Texas, Mississippi and South Carolina, as well as territories such as Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Leon Guerrero said at her Monday’s press briefing.

“I know that Guam loves freedom as much as those other places. I know that our sons and daughters have paid the price for that freedom equal to or greater than any other place in this nation. So why should Guam be the only without the tools to keep up safe in a public health emergency. I didn’t ask for this authority because I wanted more power. I asked merely for the power to save lives.”

Guam senators have yet to act on Bill 334-35, which would impose jail time and fine of $5,000 on those who violate the governor’s social distancing mandate. Democratic senator introduced the bill in response to the governor’s request.

“The legislation I need is to enforce my mandates and enforce my executive orders and legislation to allow to extend curfews to all residents of Guam,” the governor said. “My request for enforcement power is just so that I can at least tie something to a penalty if you are not following the mandate or if you’re not adhering to the curfews, by the way which has not been passed. Nor has my enforcement request have been passed. The enforcement gives it more teeth to people, so they might stay home.”

Leon Guerrero said the enforcement power strengthens the mandate to stay home. “I gave the example of how people don’t follow speed limits. When they do the speed traps, everybody the next day is going to follow the speed limit. Once the speed traps aren’t there, they don’t follow it anymore,” she added.

The roadblocks, which are established on certain road clusters in northern and central parts of Guam, began Saturday and will continue, Leon Guerrero said. “Commercial vehicles and essential people will be waived on and I think they’ll have a separate lane. That's already been decided and it should be happening now,” she added.

However, there are concerns about how the roadblocks affect people who need to turn in documents for public health assistance. “I've already instructed my staff that we’re going to make it a lot easier, so we don’t have any crowding at any of our sites at the Public Health facilities. How are we going to do that—we're asking them, we’re calling them, everything is done by phone,” Public Health director Linda Unpingco-DeNorcey said.

“If they need to drop off any documents, we’re not going to have them come into any of these facilities. Send it electronically or if that doesn’t work you can mail it out. We work with all the mayors so if they need a mayor’s verification—we list all of the names of those individuals that need mayor’s verification. We send the listing to mayors and mayors respond back and give us the verification. That smoothens a lot of things, so we don’t have to worry about going into the mayor’s office.”

As for test kits, DeNorcey said the health department is expecting to receive more. “We have 315 test kits left to test 315 samples of the nasopharyngeal swabs. We’re also expecting from FEMA two additional tests, which is the new Abbot ID NOW and also the machines,” DeNorcey said. “We have two machines arriving and also 200 cartridges. In addition to that, we are also expecting a gene expert machine. We already have it in our lab, but what we’re expecting is the actual test kits. We have about 460 tests and each of those have about 10, so that’s an additional 4,600 test kits that will be arriving. That's from a special grant through the Pacific Island Health Officer Association. In line with that, we’re going to continue our efforts with commercial testing.”

Another topic of discussion was whether or not Public Health would reveal the places that have clusters of Covid-19 cases. “The fact they don’t know where these (places are) doesn’t really impact what needs to be done in terms of treatment and in terms of measure,” the governor said. “Public health has the information. They know where it's at. They do contact tracing. They've identified people and so forth. They are in control and they are doing everything within the guidelines and standards.”

In her video message posted on Facebook, the governor noted that test results in the past few days showed smaller number of positive cases, implying that the curve is flattening.

“We haven’t yet seen the surge,” she clarified. “The way it is now is where I'd like it to be. I'd prefer that in this point in time we’d have 100 percent recovery. This doesn’t mean that in any way we let our guards down.”

The governor said the community must continue to work as hard as seriously to continue the low trajectory.

“I think once we let our guard down, we’ll be seeing more infection rate, much more positive Covid cases. The fact that we have instituted these measures early on as we could possibly have predicted, we did it very early on—we did progressive measures very early on, we stayed the course, we were out there pleading with the community to stay home, and was a little bit slow in staying home, but I think we are getting to where we are only traveling for essential business and activity,” Leon Guerrero said.

“I'm only reporting what I'm seeing in terms of numbers. For me it is, a light at the end of the tunnel, but it isn’t a go and lift restrictions right now. The worst thing that could happen is restrictions are lifted and we start getting re-infected, we’d have to rebuild everything we’ve done so far in terms of barriers and slowing the spread. What we’ve actually done is slow the spread down. We must continue one that course.”

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