- By Johanna Salinas
Back to square one: Restrictions reinstated
More than a month since Guam’s economy reopened, the island is back where it started when the first three Covid-19 positive cases were reported in March.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on Friday placed the island back on Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1 beginning after midnight Saturday, Aug. 15. All non-essential businesses and all public gatherings are prohibited for two weeks. All schools will hold distance-learning classes and all parks will be closed except for fitness activities.
“As numbers start coming down, we will revisit the decision,” Leon Guerrero said at Friday’s press conference.
The decision was prompted by a new wave of Covid-19 infections, which has also hit the governor and Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio.
But if the numbers continue their current trend, the governor said, PCOR-1 may have to stay. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s where we’re at,” Leon Guerrero said.
Gov Lou Leon Guerrero
Among the essential businesses that will remain open include grocery stores, Home Depot, Kmart, curbside farmer’s market, pharmacies, banks, credit unions, and gas stations. Dine-in services at restaurants are closed, take-out orders will be allowed. The construction industry will also remain open.
Public Health Director Art San Agustin noted that Guam had seen 121 new cases during the first two weeks of August. More positive cases are expected as public testing expands further.
Because both the governor and lieutenant governor are infected with Covid-19, they were also asked if DPHSS will publicly release a list of establishments she and the lieutenant governor have attended.
“With regard to disclosing the establishments that any person positive confirmed case has visited, that actually is a question we’re discussing and we’ll be discussing with the Office of the AG,” said San Agustin. “We’re looking for legal guidance if we can disclose the name of the establishment and that’s something we have the authority to do. I recognize and it’s been raised in the past that DPHSS has issued names of establishments and today we’re not doing that.”
Exempted from restrictions: health care operations, including home health workers; essential infrastructure, including construction of housing and operation of public transportation and utilities; grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food banks, convenience stores; businesses and non-profit organizations that provide for economically disadvantaged individuals and shelter facilities; pharmacies, health care supply stores, and health care facilities; gas stations and auto repair facilities; banks and credit unions; garbage collection; and hardware stores, plumbers, electricians, and other service providers necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and other essential businesses. Non-essential retail businesses are permitted to operate, subject to DPHSS Guidance which shall include, at minimum, that customers will not be permitted to enter the physical premises but can pick up goods outside of the establishment from which they have already placed their orders.
Guam saw 90 new cases in the past week alone, the governor said. “These are numbers not seen in the beginning of the pandemic and the increase is alarming and a cause for concern,” the governor said. “Many of these cases were in social gatherings, bars, funerals, and the beaches. People were not wearing masks and practicing social distance.”
Gov Lou Leon Guerrero
Although quarantine procedures will remain the same, Leon Guerrero believes that those in quarantine need to be more serious about preventing the spread.
"I also have to mention that when you’re in self-quarantine, please stay home. We’ve found through DPHSS contact tracing that people who’re self-quarantining aren’t complying to the rules of self-quarantine,” said Leon Guerrero.
“I encourage everybody and I plead with everybody to please adhere to the self-quarantine requirements and regulations. The people we’re seeing coming in are from high-risk areas from the U.S., California and Texas. We were able to catch positive cases through quarantine, so our quarantine is working. We were also able to catch it through contact tracing these positives.”
With the island moving to PCOR 1, some are worried that the primary election will have to delay. “I have not voted early. I’m allowing the August 29 primary election to move forward,” said Leon Guerrero.
“Of course, we have to make sure we’re adhering to those measures—social distancing and wearing masks. I know (Guam Election Commission) is preparing for that. The reason the date has to be the 29, because the timing of getting the ballots out for general election.”
Tenorio hopes that GEC will not postpone Guam’s primary. “I don’t know if the election commission has made a final decision on that,” he said. “I’d ask them to review what they’re doing, including just letting people just stay in their car under the tent.”
After the press , the governor issued an executive order officially placing Guam under PCOR1 and expanding Covid-19 testing.
"Beginning on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, and through Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, all non-essential government of Guam (GovGuam) agencies shall suspend customer facing operations. GovGuam will continue to operate in a limited capacity, with some agencies completely closed. Several agencies shall remain operational with limited or no public access. Other agencies will remain fully operational, including public access. All members of the public needing government services are asked to contact agencies and departments by email or phone," the Joint Information Center stated in a press release.
In-person voting in the 2020 primary election shall proceed on Aug. 29, subject to DPHSS Guidance. Absentee voting conducted curbside shall continue by appointment. Voters should contact the Guam Election Commission with any inquiries.
Lt. Gov Joshua Tenorio
Prohibited activities include: public gatherings or congregations for purposes of public entertainment, recreation, food and beverage service, religious services, theater, bowling, fitness, and other similar activities, to include all public venues in which the serving, provision, or consumption of prepared food or beverages occurs at a table or bar, or for consumption on-premises.
All places of business or public accommodations shall close and be prohibited from on-site operations.
Tenorio is hopeful that the island can be more aggressive in preventing Covid-19. “One of the things we saw for understanding, these two funerals that had a wide number of cases associated with them,” said Tenorio.
“The evidence may be family members that came in from off island that cleared quarantine because they came in prior the escalation of the quarantine rules and pushing of the mandatory PCR test. The physicians advisory group based on their data analysis, we’ve stepped up and placed more limitations on quarantine and reduced the pathways to go to self-quarantine when it was inappropriate. That helped.”