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  • By Pacific island Times News Staff

Covid clusters prompt construction moratorium on Guam

Core Tech reports 31 positive cases; Defense projects on pause

The Department of Public Health and Social Services today ordered the suspension of all construction activities on Guam on the heels of a new Covid-19 cluster found in another construction company.

The moratorium affects a number of defense projects being undertaken by local construction companies.

The department warned that businesses found violating the new directive "may be subject to fines and/or the termination of business licenses, as well as any other penalties as may be available under Guam law."

Mass testing began at Core Tech International after 31 of its employees tested positive for Covid-19. The company said the Covid-stricken employees are currently in isolation, being closely monitored and receiving daily medical treatment.

CTI said it has approximately 1,300 workers who will be tested in the next few days.

“We would like to thank the Department of Public Health and Social Services for their assistance with our positive cases and facilitating mass testing for our entire workforce,” said Conchita Bathan, Core Tech International chief executive officer. “We remain committed to providing a safe working environment for our employees and helping them get back to full health. We also want to express our gratitude for the assistance of the local medical community in helping us care for our affected workers.”

DPHSS said all construction projects will be under moratorioum beginning at close of business on Saturday, Nov. 14 until further notice.

"DPHSS shall enforce this directive with the assistance of the Guam Police Department, the Guam Fire Department, and other regulatory agencies of the Government of Guam, including the Department of Labor," the department stated in a press release.

Core Tech's Covid-19 cases were identified on Nov. 9, four days after a cluster at one of Black Construction's barracks was discovered.

Mass testing at Black Construction yielded 312 positive cases as of Nov. 10. Results from the subsequent days' testing were not currently available.

Because of the significance of the identified spread thus far, employees of all businesses affected by this directive are instructed to quarantine themselves at their places of residence for the duration of this suspension period.

DPHSS noted that Guam’s construction industry relies heavily on foreign labor and a significant portion of the construction workforce is housed in temporary workforce housing.

Projects sites are scatterred throughout the island. Core Tech and Black Construction are undertaking projects for the military, government of Guam projects, and local private sector.

"Several construction companies work together on projects. The emergence of this cluster and the threat presented by the substantial additional cases pose a significant danger to the public health of the construction workforce, industries associated with these projects, and the larger community. Immediate action is necessary to protect against further spread," DPHSS said in a press release.

Black Construction, a subsidiary of Tutor Perini Corp., currently has three major contracts with the Navy. These are the $75-million P-715 Live Firing Range ($75 million); P-250 MALS & P-260 Corrosion Control Hangar ($82 million); and Andersen Replace Housing Project ($178 million).

Earlier this year, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific awarded Core Tech-Hawaiian Dredging LLC a $42.88 million for the design and construction of munitions storage igloos phase three at Andersen Air Force Base. Work is expected to be completed by June 2023.

Last year, Core Tech and Black Construction were among the five companies awarded a combined $990 million contract for construction work at Andersen Air Force Base.

"The application of this directive to military-affiliated construction activities shall be coordinated between DPHSS and Department of Defense public health authorities," DPHSS said. "Affected businesses will be contacted directly by DPHSS and/or Department of Defense public health authorities."

DPHSS said it will evaluate all operational plans and inspect all workers barracks to ensure applicable guidance memoranda are complied with and to safeguard the health of the construction sector’s workforce.

"The DPHSS recognizes that construction is an important component of our island’s infrastructure and the suspension of construction activities is intended to be as limited in duration as possible," the department said. "To this end, all affected companies are advised that cooperation with DPHSS in this mandatory review and inspection process will permit the process to move expeditiously so that affected activities can resume as soon as possible."

While construction activities are on pause, the goverment will allow plumbers, electricians, exterminators, HVAC technicians, landscapers, and other service providers to continue operating "for the limited purpose of providing services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and operation of residences and authorized businesses."

Meanwhile, Core Tech said deep cleaning of all work areas, common spaces, and barracks facilities has been conducted and is routinely performed for the safety of our employees.

"Core Tech International has been fully committed to complying with all Centers for Disease Control and Department of Public Health and Social Services mandates to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among our work force and at our job sites," the company said. "The health, safety and well-being of our employees and our community is paramount, and we have remained vigilant in mandating the use of masks, proper sanitization, and social distancing."


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