- By Johanna Salinas
Governor reminds Guam residents: 'It's not business as usual'
With 1,619 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 15 deaths and a government hospital at surge capacity, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said reopening the economy is not likely to happen any time soon.
“You turn around and you know more people that’s positive than you did four-five months ago,” she said at Friday's press conference. “It's all over. It's very rampant in the community. That's a very serious thing. This virus kills"
The governor has extended the stay-at-home order and PCOR1 for another week.
" Yes, the economy is concerning to me. We can bring back the economy, we can’t bring back the loss of life. We can prevent the loss of life, but we cannot bring them back. Ask the families of the loss of their loved ones,” se said.
Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio said the administration’s decisions in reopening and returning to a lockdown are balanced. “With bars and dine-ins the governor took a very strategic risk. It was a risk to slowly and structurally reopen,” he said. “I wanted to stress and emphasize to members of the business community that I understand. I know you’re struggling, and your employees are scared and worried about their jobs. The sooner we get our numbers down and we recover the health of the people, the more normal we’ll be to able to try pursue the new normal."
Compared to other jurisdictions, Tenorio said the governor has been making a structured and balance decision.
"She took a risk and because of the risk in the U.S. and travelers that came in, especially for funerals, that ended up passing it on and killing their relatives,” Tenorio said.
Leon Guerrero expressed her frustration with some residents who have not been taking the virus seriously.
“I'm really disappointed that people are still out there milling around like it’s business as usual. Because it isn’t business as usual not when you have numbers in the 40s, 70s in new cases or that you’ve increased your deaths for over more than 59 percent of in a period of less than a week,” she said.
“It's not business as usual. I'm disappointed people out there are taking this seriously. I'd love to open businesses, but my main priority now is to decrease this spread of this Covid and to decrease deaths and decrease sick people. Opening other businesses that are not essential won’t happen this week. In the past we were slowly opening businesses as we saw the numbers where we felt we contained and controlled this Covid. That's the same thing we’ll be doing.”
Leon Guerrero acknowledged protestors who claim that Guam should reopen so the population can gain herd immunity.
However, the governor does not want to jeopardize overwhelming GMH.
“People are saying maybe we become a big virus place. I don’t want to risk that,” she said. “I don’t want more people to get sick and more people die. That’s the bottom line. This virus kills people. We've seen it. There are arguments out there about the flu—that this can’t be worse than the flu. This coronavirus is a cold virus—it's not the cold. It’s not the flu.”
The governor promises that the island will reopen soon as the data reflects that it is safe.
“It’ll be driven by our number of new cases. It'll be driven by the ability of our hospital healthcare system to provide the quality of care for treatment of those who need it as a result of Covid- 19,” said Leon Guerrero.
“What I see is that, again a gradual and slow lifting of restrictions like we did the last time and to continue looking and monitoring what the results are as consequence of lifting restrictions. I'll gradually open those activities, those businesses that is not a high-risk exposure environment.”
To ensure enforcement of the stay-at-home order, the governor said law enforcement officers including those from the Department of Public Health and Social Services will patrol public places that are closed.
“They would enforce and ask people to leave and use whatever rational, common sense to ask people to stay home. The enforcement is going to be more our responsibility. We'll be using law enforcement to enforce those areas that are closed and ask people to leave and they’ll be cited if it violates the legal mandate," the governor said.
DPHSS Director Art San Agustin said some businesses found violating the department's guidance have been closed.
“We want to work with the business. In line with saying that they are ensuring the compliance to the executive order and the public health guidance,” San Agustin said.
Leon Guerrero said she is aware of some business patrons who are not following social distancing. “People have sent me pictures where public places aren’t socially distanced. That's a concern,” she said.
“Everybody—private sector, public sector—needs to enforce those directives. If you’re in a public facility and you're getting your essential service, I expect the manager or supervisor of that public facility to enforce the social distancing. Everyone is responsible to make us win this battle.”
Despite extending the lockdown, the governor is optimistic about Dr. Felix Cabrera’s data presented during the conference.
“If you see Dr. Cabrera’s numbers, we’re starting to maybe make a little small turn. We can’t lose any of that advantage we have today,” she said.
“In order to make sure we continue with that turn and that decrease we need to stay the course. I know sometimes we think it’s not working, but we have to be patient and see the results of this. It's mitigation efforts that other places have done and it worked. I know that it will work because we were there before when we first started this pandemic," the governor said.
Leon Guerrero is hopeful that Guam will also soon receive vaccines.
“My discussions go beyond CDC,” she said. “My discussions go beyond DPHSS. My discussions went as far as Secretary Mark Esper of the DOD, who is the chair of the committee of the coronavirus taskforce that deals with vaccines. He's informed me, and you’ll hear this from the leaders in the White House that there's a strong possibly that there’s a vaccine at the end of the year. My request was that we be on the list of distribution. And he assures me that list of distribution. I'm assured by the highest person in the DOD and who is very involved in the work of the vaccine. I’ll hold him to his word.”
Science is still figuring out whether or not those who had been affected with Covid-19 are eligible for the virus.
“I ask the people to please be more patient,” Leon Guerrero said. “I know its hard. It’s a struggle. At the end, I know we will contain this virus. The whole world, the global picture—there's over 25 million people who have this positive case throughout the whole world. It's not just Guam. It's the whole world facing this pandemic.”