Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero is requesting the Supreme Court of Guam to uphold the Department of Public Health and Social Services' authority to implement a quarantine policy that is tailored for Guam without being locked into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance.
"Guidelines issued by the CDC for the quarantine of individuals are not mandates imposed on the local government, but rather serve as recommendations that must be considered in the totality of the circumstances," the governor said in a petition for declaratory judgment filed on Christmas eve.
The governor filed the petition on the heels of CDC's new recommendation to cut the quarantine period from 14 to seven days. Individuals can end their quarantine after seven days if they receive a negative test, or 10 days without getting tested, according to CDC.
In her petition, the governor is asking that the high court to back up the DPHSS' statutory authority "to implement quarantine conditions that are more restrictive than CDC guidelines where local conditions, including the availability of medical resources and personnel and the comorbidities of the population warrant."
The government of Guam's quarantine policy has been challenged in the Superior Court. On Oct. 27, Superior Court Judge Elyze Iriarte ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, arguing that incoming travelers represent "statistically insignificant" portion of cases.
"We are seeking declaratory relief from the Supreme Court of Guam because the judgment of a single Superior Court judge should not be substituted for the expert opinion of the healthcare professionals who fight Covid-19 on Guam every day," the governor said in a statement. "As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has repeatedly noted, CDC guidelines are advisory and meant to be in harmony with the unique needs of local communities."
The governor argued that quarantine is one of the most effective tools against Covid-19.
"We ask the high court to recognize that fact," the governor said. "Every time the lower court shortens quarantine against the advice of physicians and scientists, our community is at risk. We are an island and preventing a third wave of Covid-19 requires that Guam have the legal authority to implement a quarantine policy that works for Guam."
In seeking a summary judgment, the governor said the health department's quarantine policy is based on "emerging science and data" related to Guam's response to Covid-19.
"The characterization of the Covid-19 positive travelers as "statistically insignificant," even in the context of the broader spread within the community at present time, does not fairly account for the true impact these positive cases have had on the island," the petition states. "Covid-19 is not endemic to Guam. It was imported and transmitted within the community by individuals who brought it in from other countries and jurisdictions."
When the Superior Court issued a decision in October, less than one percent of positive Covid-19 cases in Guam had been traced to quarantine. But data have since changed, the governor's petition pointed out.
"As of the time of this filing, 268 individuals who have tested positive for Covid-19 have been identified in quarantine. This number represents 3.723 percent of the total number of positive cases that have been identified in Guam."