‘I think public health is doing a great job, but there’s always room for improvement'
\20 questions for Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero in 2020
Now in its ninth month, the Covid-19 fatigue is setting in while Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero continues to navigate the pandemic’s challenging landscape. Guam started with the lowest infections in the world, a trend that changed when we all became complacent. We now rank among the highest in the world in the number of infections per 100,000 residents.
Making daily announcements about Covid-19 related death has become a horrendous routine for the governor. And amid fighting the public health crisis, the governor also has to confront jabs from all directions. How is she holding up? How is she managing behind the scenes? How does she assess her performance?
For this issue, CJ Urquico posed 20 questions to the governor.
CJ Urquico: How are you and your family doing? Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero: We’re doing fine and we are adjusting to the changes in behavior that this pandemic has imposed on all of us.
What are your plans for the holidays? We hope to have a CAR Score low enough to warrant a lift in restrictions soon. If I am able to enjoy the holidays, we usually have Thanksgiving at my house and that is now uncertain but I’m looking forward--and will fight really hard--to contain this virus so we can enjoy our holidays. For Christmas, we usually have a family get together at my mom’s house.
What is your favorite Christmas carol? My favorite Christmas carol is “Silent Night.”
What’s your favorite Christmas childhood memory? My favorite Christmas childhood memory is waking up and being with my parents in our pajamas and opening our presents. What’s your favorite present? My favorite present was my doll. It was a doll that walked that I really wanted and it was pretty expensive at that time and my mom and dad couldn’t afford it but my uncle bought it for me.
What do you miss the most about pre-Covid Guam? Being able to hug people when I see them. That’s really what I miss the most and getting to hug and kiss my mom.
Where do you wish you could go, if you could travel? If I could travel, I would go to see my very best friend in Los Angeles, California. My very best friend is Nancy King. We’ve been friends since 1968, and she and I shared a lot of memories together. We were together during our college years, traveled Europe together, and lived together. She’s like family.
Have you seen the Netflix movie “Operation Christmas Drop?” How did you like it? Yes. I thought it was OK. I related to it because I experienced it, about four or five years ago. I remember everyone on the plane feeling sick because the plane really does go low to make the deliveries. And it’s true. All the people are there waiting, some have boats in the water. And although we don’t have a Mayor Sampson, everything they said about Bruce Best is true!
What is your favorite book? Author? My favorite book is Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming.” My favorite author is Barbara Kingsolver. You’ve been a CEO, senator, nurse and please share what I might have missed. Which one was your favorite?
My favorite is being a nurse, absolutely. As a nurse, you can see what you’ve done; how it’s helped somebody heal or save a life. Although all the other careers have also been very gratifying. How do you keep it together when times are most stressful? I just take a breath and sit back and think back on what the purpose is and always remind myself that the purpose is to make a difference in people’s lives and to provide a better life for our people and that always refocuses my outlook.
What was the worst part about catching Covid-19? The worst part is being afraid. Fearful that tomorrow I may not be here. The fear and the anxiety that this virus would seriously affect me and that I'll die tomorrow.
How does it feel, as the governor, when a person passes away from Covid-19? Oh my gosh! I feel so sad. My heart breaks for them. It does, especially knowing it was a preventable death. What are your thoughts on the performance of DPHSS and other agencies in the fight against Covid? I think public health is doing a great job in spite of its limitations, in spite of this rapid increase of positives. But of course, there’s always room for improvement. I think the best thing is that if people have any ideas to improve, let’s work together to make those improvements happen.
How would you grade your performance in handling the pandemic? I think as a nurse, and my background in healthcare has really helped in my performance in dealing with this. That I was there right away, made the right decisions, and worked with all the advisors and gave recommendations and ideas a fair chance. I feel that I'm doing the best I can to contain the virus.
What would you do differently? I would’ve been much more strict in allowing travelers coming into Guam.
What was your best moment in 2020? Paying the war reparations and ahead of its target date. We were creative, with an out of the box idea. Working in cooperation with the legislature, we saw that idea materialize. The best day was giving out our very first checks, the first to get hers was Felicita Tedpahago Naputi.
What was your worst moment in 2020? When I learned of the first three Covid-19 cases locally.
Are you optimistic about the future of Guam’s tourism industry? Yes, I am very optimistic.
How do you feel about working with President-elect Biden and VP-elect Harris? I am looking forward to working with our new president and VP-elect.
What is your Christmas message to the people of Guam? Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Watch your distance. And Merry Christmas!