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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

A picture that paints a thousand words

"As a reliable compass for orienting yourself in this life, nothing is more useful than to accustom yourself to regarding this world as a place of atonement, a sort of penal colony. When you have done this, you will order your expectations of life according to the nature of things and no longer regard the calamities, sufferings, torments and miseries of life as something irregular. "— Arthur Schopenhauer

We are probably growing numb from the Covid-19 updates released daily by the Joint Information Center. Like everything else in our infected life’s new landscape, Covid deaths and widespread transmissions have become “normal.” A death-free day is an aberration that offers a bit of relief, if not a suspension of the next day’s shocker.

We were shaken out of our growing apathy by a photo —taken by a hospital employee — that shows ER beds stationed at the curbside of the Guam Memorial Hospital’s ambulance driveway behind the building. This is a makeshift receiving area for incoming patients, who can no longer be accommodated inside the standing-room only public hospital.

Powerful in its simplicity, the photo elicits a million questions that flooded the social media. Whatever happened to the medical tents? Whatever happened to the CARES Act funds? Whatever happened to the SNU facility in Barrigada Heights? Why is the GRMC not taking the patients overflow or why is it not taking the non-Covid patients as earlier announced? (Incidentally, we have been informed by GRMC that all questions must be referred to Adelup. Is there a gag order for the private hospital?)

Unfortunately, one is likely to ask more questions than get answers from the administration.

The photo, which has gone viral, speaks volumes of where we are now. Medical service on the curbside, as well? It hints of government incompetence that is compounded by the community’s stubbornness, all leading to our collective failure to stop the Covid spread.

Guam's fight against Covid-19, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said, "has gone on far longer than any of us imagined." The horrifying photo foreshadows our defeat.

With Covid-19 hospitalizations surging and daily positive cases hitting all-time highs, the coronavirus crisis is pushing the island’s fragile health care system to its limit.

The beds-on-the-curbside photo was a cry for help. “We are physically overfatigued and emotionally drained. Sometimes we lock ourselves in the bathroom to cry," a GMH nurse told us.

The photo warns us that we are doing things wrong. Unfortunately, the default response to it was, again, wrong. Instead of finding out how things can be done better, the GMH management began a witch hunt to identity the anonymous “leakers” of the photo. Instead of responding to the hospital’s needs, political leaders engaged in mudslinging.

We had over 4,600 positive cases and 79 deaths as of Nov. 1—and still counting— an epic tragedy of lives cut short. The daily census does not even include the Covid-related suicide cases and collateral deaths that were not incorporated into the statistics, such as those with non-Covid chronic ailments whose conditions became fatal due to their inability to get medical treatments.

They were not just cold numbers on a spreadsheet. They had names. They were our mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, children, coworkers, friends.

For a small island, any number of deaths is a shocking loss to consider, causing immeasurable heartaches to many families. The pain of this pandemic is further aggravated by the delays or cancellations of wakes, funerals, memorial services and other traditional practices of saying goodbye.

The whole deal of the Covid-19’s impact may not be known for some time. We are still struggling to navigate this

unchartered territory. But we all have reason to mourn and find a better way to win this battle.


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