77 new Covid-19 cases and 27 hospitalization against the backdrop of Tumon protest opposing lockdown
The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services reported a total of 77 new Covid-19 positive cases, inundating the Guam Memorial Hospital with a new total of 27 coronavirus-infected patients.
To date, there have been a total of 984 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Guam, with seven deaths, 429 not in isolation and 548 cases in active isolation. Of those cases, 823 are classified as civilians and 161 are military service members.
Of the 77 newly confirmed cases, 20 cases were identified through contact tracing and one case reported recent travel from the United States and was identified in quarantine.
The Guam Police Department has reported two police officers who had tested positive for Covid-19. Currently in home isolation, the two officers are assigned to GPD’s specialized units and have minimal contact to the greater community. One of the officers who tested positive is temporarily assigned to GPD from another Government of Guam law enforcement agency, according to the Joint Information Center.
GPD now has a total of 11 positive cases and contact tracing is ongoing.
"GPD assures the community that all mitigation efforts are being done to prevent further spread of Covid-19 within the department. All GPD personnel who have been identified as close contacts with all confirmed positive cases are in home quarantine and await Covid-19 test results," JIC said.
The Guam Department of Education has reported another school hit by the coronavirus. An employee at
Harry S. Truman Elementary School tested positive for Covid-19 and contact tracing efforts are ongoing. JIC said close contacts of the confirmed case will be contacted directly by DPHSS.
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"Areas of the Harry S. Truman Elementary campus have been identified for cleaning and disinfecting. Under the current executive order, GDOE employees are teleworking and will not have access to campuses until cleaning has been completed," JIC said.
The A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority also reported one confirmed case of Covid-19, the second since Aug. 13.
"GIAA is undertaking sanitization of work and office areas and temporary closure of GIAA spaces to ensure the safety and protection of all at the airport," JIC said in a press release.
"GIAA continues to effectuate measures to ensure the protection of the community by limiting entry into the terminal exclusively to GIAA-authorized employees, passengers and those providing GIAA-approved essential services. Along with mandatory face mask requirements, social distancing practices and good hygiene, GIAA is committed to maintaining a safe environment and will extend every effort to ensure the health and safety of the airport community. Airport operations remain unaffected."
The skyrocketing number of Covid cases on Guam has prompted Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to place the island back in Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1, which entailed the stay-at-home order and the closure of businesses and public facilities.
Earlier in the afternoon, dozens of people staged a rally in Tumon protesting the governor's lockdown order, saying the closure of businesses will hurt the island's economy
“Moving out of PCOR 1 doesn’t even mean that certain businesses can be open,” said Thomas Peinhopf, owner of Livehouse bar in Tumon. “It really needs a complete lifting of restrictions. Understandably, it would be gradually, but we need to bring it back carefully. It needs to come back.”
Peinhopf said GovGuam should be doing more to support small businesses. “What the government can do is pay for the expenses that had been occurred—like rents, other fixed costs like permits and licenses. Even the electricity bills are still there even though the businesses aren’t operating,” he said. “A variable cost becomes a fixed cost. At the end of the day the business owner has to pay a daily share of somewhere we may never get back. One recovery measure would be to reimburse for those expenses during that very long lockdown. We’re in day 155 now.”
Despite the hard times, Peinhopf remains hopeful. “When you have a small business and you’re used to going through the waves, but it’s been incredibly hard so far. You should know you’re not alone out there and you can see with a these couple of hundred of people here protesting,” he claimed.
Approximately 50 people joined the protest.
“They’re all cautious and attentive and following the guidelines. It’s a great turn out. We have to hang in there. What else can we do? What else should I have done? Do I just leave the door of my business open and throw the keys and say whoever wants it can have it? We have pride in what we do and care about what we do. We try to hang in there.”
Based on social media posts, the protest did not seem to draw a popular support. Some say the action ignored the sacrifices of doctors, nurses and other frontliners.
Peinhopf said he is aware of the risk of Covid exposure. “People see us here and think it’s irresponsible, but we do care about the safety of our employees and our families. We also have to pay our bills,” he said.
Lucia Wood, one of the protesters, said small businesses are the crux of Guam’s essential economy. "If you don’t let people go to work, they don’t have money,” said Wood. “What does that do? That means we can’t have an economy and an island that is so beautiful. That is why I moved here. To sit around and let people stay home doesn’t help people get immunity to this.”
It is even harder for Wood to stay positive with the closure of parks and beaches. “Right now I work out all the time and come home. When I’m typically able to de-stress and go for a walk or go dive or paddleboard, but we can’t do that now,” she said. “We’re being caged in our own homes. I get where she’s trying to make Covid stop, but we can’t do that by locking people in their own homes. The only way to go about it is by letting people go and get their own immunity.”
Pirate Jeff Pleadwell, owner of Jeff’s Pirates Cove, said the government needs to open up now so the airlines can start coming back.
"They need better ways of controlling and testing people that doesn’t tie them to quarantine for two weeks,” said Pleadwell. “They need to give some of that tax money to businesses instead of spending it on GovGuam employees. They need to open Guam so people can go back to work. They need to make decisions that think of the whole community, not just the political community. We broader decisions and open the parks and let people exercise and ride their bikes and paddleboarding and normal things we came to Guam to do. We need kids to go to school. We need to build up our immunity to this thing and quit being scared of it.”