Guam ends public health emergency
By Gina T. Reilly
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero finally lifted the three-year-old Covid-related public health emergency effective midnight, calling it "a major milestone in our island’s history."
"As we begin this New Year, we recognize that we are at the dawn of a new era of our island’s recovery from the challenges of the last three years. I could not be more grateful," the governor said in a video message today.
"Our administration has been hard at work to ensure that the few remaining measures from our public health emergency that our community continues to rely on today will be addressed," she added.
Guam is among the last eight U.S. jurisdictions that remained under public health emergency since the onset of Covid-19. The governor issued the emergency declaration on March 15, 2020 following the detection of the first cases of Covid-19 on island.
"These years may have tested us as a people, but through it all — we remained vigilant, we never lost hope, and we united as a community to fight the spread of this virus. Together, we kept our people safe and we kept our island strong," the governor said.
Leon Guerrero said Guam has achieved a level of pandemic readiness and response.
"We all can be confident and our island can manage the spread and treatment of remaining Covid-19 cases, and any periodic fluctuations in our case count," she said.
Critics denounced the prolonged extension of Guam's emergency status. In justifying her policy, however, the governor maintained that the public health emergency was necessary for Guam to keep its Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program allotment.
"We are working with our federal partners to ensure that measures are in place to continue the provision of the emergency allotment for SNAP households to address the food insecurity experienced by these families. Consistent with the advice of the administering federal agency, I will be issuing a separate emergency declaration for this limited purpose," the governor said.
Despite the lifting of the public health emergency, Leon Guerrero said the Guam National Guardsmen will continue to assist "in limited response efforts" such as vaccinations.
"The milestone we achieved today is a testament to the courage and character of our people. It reflects what we all already know is true: when we work together as a people, we can achieve great things," the governor said.
The federal public health emergency, which has been in place since Jan. 27, 2020, is scheduled to expire on Jan. 11 but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recommended another 151-day extension.