Video game enthusiasts stand in line at the GameStop shop in Micronesia Mall during the mall's reopening on May 10, 2020. Photo by Mar-Vic Cagurangan
A quick trip to Micronesia Mall on May 11 —the second day of the much anticipated PCOR 2—yielded an encouraging scene depicting the official first steps toward “re-opening” in action on Guam.
After almost two months of closure, the doors to one of the island’s popular shopping malls are open for business once again for better or worse. Many familiar restaurants and boutiques are lit up and ready to accept patrons for their various services although it is apparent that fear of coronavirus still lingers ominously keeping many a potential customer at home.
Despite obvious setbacks, shop owners welcomed the return of shoppers who took the risk to come out and support local businesses whether it was out of a desire to return to normalcy or just for a change of pace now that a few social restrictions have been lifted.
Many share a sense of relief and even joy at the loosening grip of the coronavirus’ coils on the community. Of particular note are the young adults who are finding their old-newfound freedoms to be a source of great enjoyment.
Tamuning resident Angelina Sobredo, 20, said the past couple of days have provided her an opportunity to meet with a few companions to greet a friend who just arrived on Guam after surviving the pandemic while studying in the mainland U.S.
The party of five gathered in a parking lot and waved at their long-awaited acquaintance, who is currently waiting out a two-week period of isolation in a continued effort to flatten the curve.
Even with heart-warming stories similar to that mentioned beforehand it is all too important to take these advances toward the complete restoration of life here on Guam with a grain of salt.
Eight weeks is no short period of time, and there are a few who warn that the sudden shift to leniency could have adverse effects on the community’s efforts thus far to eliminate the continued spread of Covid-19.
So terrifying is an invisible foe that targets the weak and is able to infect individuals sometimes without showing any symptoms that cities and nations across the globe were forced to simultaneously shut down and wait out the storm that swept the world.
While Guam is still in PCOR 2, many residents believe it is too early to relax. As of May 15, Guam had 154 Covid-19 cases, with five deaths and 124 recoveries.
Gary Palacios and Matthew Makepeace both agree that now is the time to be cautious more than ever.
“I feel that people will act cautiously, whether social distancing restrictions are lifted or not,” said Palacios, 22, of Barrigada. “It’s virtually a non-factor with the exception being the people engaged have a close relationship. My opinion is that social distancing requirements and the like should be enforced for a longer period because it promotes public safety over all.”
PCOR 2 is the level with moderate restrictions and is intended to signal a positive movement toward normalcy. During this condition level, residents are still required to wear face shields and social gatherings are limited at 10. According to the governor's office, PCOR 2 is aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 while being able to gradually re-open certain business, non-governmental organization, government and individual activities.
After getting a haircut on May 10, Makepeace found that although he had missed the comforts of modern society, it is too soon to let his guard down.
“On one hand, companies and their employees can start functioning again, but on the other if there are any undocumented cases that we are unaware of, then we run a great risk,” said Makepeace, 21, of Mangilao.
At the Guam Premier Outlets in Tamuning, the building management has adopted social distancing protocols, which “will make the shopping experience very interesting,” according to Monte Mesa, GPO’s general manager.
Besides requiring customers to maintain a safe distance from each other, Mesa said the new protocols are designed to ensure a smooth flow of one-way customer traffic with roundabouts to minimize customers crisscrossing each other in the common areas.
“I believe that we can begin to reopen business in phases accordingly as long as we can continue to have less and less positive Covid-19 cases results with mass testing being conducted daily,” Mesa said.
“We all need to start preparing our respective businesses and adjust our operations to adapt to the new visitor profiles being more in tune with social media communication. This is where new opportunities will be discovered,” he added.