- By Dr. Vince Akimoto
Bush cutting with Speedos
Nothing succeeds like success. When you win, everybody has something nice to say about you. You might be slow. You might be old. You might look more like a vegetarian nutritionist than the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But, if you win the Super Bowl, everybody thinks you look like the GOAT (Greatest of All Time).
One year into a global coronavirus pandemic that has now killed more than 2.5 million people around the world, Guam might have reason to feel victorious. Our island community faced squarely the belly of the beast in August 2020 when so many people were being sickened by coronavirus that our hospitals were filled to overflowing.
Rather than retire and run away from the terrifying sickness that literally sucked the life out of people, the majority of Guam’s healthcare workers dutifully walked into the fight of their lives armed with competence and courage. Despite the death of more than 130 Guamanians, our people held together and helped each other.
Today, Guam’s rate of Covid-19 infection appears to be controlled. Many people have wonderfully recovered from serious coronavirus infections and are now back to work. The island’s hospitals have created generous surge capacity in the event of an increase in critically ill patients. Our healthcare community remains vigilant and strong.
Most importantly, the citizens of Guam have shown uncommonly good sense in dealing with the realities of this Pandemic and the concomitant political fiascos which have colored the American experience. Washing our hands, wearing a face mask, and maintaining social distance were never considered outrageous barriers to sensible human existence to the majority of us here on Guam.
Most families, most businesses, most faith-based communities were able to avoid widespread disease by simply being themselves.
Contrary to some hurtful criticism on social media, the people in the villages of Guam were not recklessly out of control. The sensible instructions of the governor of Guam and island public health officials were successfully integrated into an island community that already had figured out tuberculosis, food safety and government malfeasance.
This pandemic taught us that Guam has a lot of really tough folks who are 75 years and older. I honestly didn’t realize that there were so many erect and robust 80- and 90-year-old Guamanians on this island. So when Public Health asked them all to stand in a long line for three to four hours out in the sun in front of Okkodo High School, our man’amko initially didn’t break a sweat.
Islandwide, the community response to coronavirus vaccinations has been overwhelming. Although wary of the vaccine’s side effects, many people made a conscious effort to get immunized as quickly as possible. People were literally lining up for miles to get their shots. Some people were even driving all the way from the northern population center of Dededo down to Inarajan Public Health Center on the bucolic southern tip of the island to get the vaccine.
Guam’s efforts to vaccinate its people has been electric with resourcefulness. Public Health nurses were supported by volunteers throughout the healthcare community to quickly organize mass immunization activities. Homebound citizens were quickly identified by village mayors and medical teams were sent to immunize them and their caregivers.
The Guam National Guard utilized its impressive logistical resources to set up an ongoing vaccination platform capable of immunizing hundreds of people every day. Guam’s efforts to quickly deploy the coronavirus vaccine has been hampered by only the local availability of the vaccine itself. With sufficient federal assistance, Guam will likely meet its goal of greater than 75 percent immunity by this summer.
Across the United States, Guam’s immunization accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. While some U.S. mainland jurisdictions struggled initially to coordinate state and federal healthcare resources, Guam was celebrated for quickly integrating the vaccine campaign into an already engaged public-private partnership. In less than a few weeks, tens of thousands of islanders were safely immunized by enthusiastic medical and nursing personnel.
International media earnestly reported that Guam had successfully launched its vaccination campaign before most countries around the world including Japan, Korea and New Zealand.
Our island’s easy and efficient availability of Covid-19 vaccine was contrasted to less effective examples across the globe. Local residents began to receive phone calls from long-lost relatives in Florida and California, who were asking to come visit Guam and get the vaccine. Anecdotal reports of busloads of international travelers attempting to obtain free Covid-19 vaccination at the University of Guam mass immunization center began to circulate.
Indeed, word of Guam’s gracious approach to mandatory hotel quarantine for international travelers appears to have quietly been monetized by some industrious travel agents. While most American communities still refrain from forced hotel quarantine due to humanitarian, fiscal and ethical concerns, Guam has succeeded in making our quarantine experience memorably opulent.
For the discerning world traveler, a choice of elegant rooms, suites and villas await guests with ultra-modern conveniences and artistic flourishes of Thai design. As one of GovGuam’s mandatory quarantine facilities, Dusit Thani Guam Resort offers a gilded, velvet prison birdcage in which to serve your Covid-19 sentence as well as spectacular mountain and ocean views.
Only on Guam does five-star luxury meet the richness of Covid-19 hospitality for up to 14 free days on majestic Tumon Bay.
Bush-cutting, like Covid-19 pandemic management, is usually best done wearing closed toed shoes and long pants. Cutting corners in regards to safety and protecting individual liberties is never recommended.
Attempting to bush-cut your yard from within the confines of your air-conditioned home office or using Zoom virtual conference technology makes as much sense as trying to pull that stunt while managing a pandemic. The people of Guam demand and expect full-bodied, hands-on leadership when dealing with an existential Public Health threat to life and civil liberties. The children are watching.
Dr. Vince Akimoto practices Family Medicine at the American Medical Clinic. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.