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Leon Guerrero says senators don't understand the public health process

Updated: Mar 31



By Aurora Kohn


Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on Wednesday said she would not lift the public health emergency until she is certain that the Guam community is ready and equipped with the things it needs to weather another Covid surge or another epidemic.


“I want to make sure that we have the capacity, we have the supplies, we have the processes, we have the operations in place and ready to go should there be a surge. I want to make sure about that," she said.


The governor also said there was confusion about lifting restrictions and ending a public health emergency.


“You don’t have to be out of a public emergency in order to lift restrictions," she said.


She questioned the wisdom of Resolution 291, introduced by Minority Leader Chris Duenas, that calls for the termination of the public health emergency.


“If you read the resolution, I don’t see any justification like we have to continue the public health emergency," the governor said. "I don’t see anything in their resolution that says that 'oh we understand that as a result of this public health emergency ending, that we have to provide $2.3 million a month for those recipients of SNAP.”


Besides losing the SNAP emergency allotments, the governor added that ending the state of public health emergency will result in Guam losing FEMA benefits that have enabled the government to meet the medical needs of the Guam community as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.


She said once the health emergency is lifted, all the medical personnel who are filling in for the personnel shortfalls at the hospital and clinics will no longer be available because Guam will lose the funding to pay for their services. This will also be the case for medical personnel who have been assisting the vulnerable groups among Guam’s populace, the governor added.


She emphasized that it is her duty as the governor to ensure that the community understands the consequences of terminating the public health emergency. This duty is what prompted her to list these consequences in her latest executive order.


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When asked why she preferred to keep Guam under a public health emergency rather terminate it and declare another public health emergency if there is another surge, she responded that the legislature “does not have an understanding of the complicated processes to again get those resources back. It will take time and when you are in an emergency and you are fearing for peoples’ lives, time is very valuable.”


The governor acknowledged that her handling of the pandemic will definitely be a topic for the elections, but she added, "The senators’ actions on this resolution, they should think about that in their election. Because people are going to ask them. . . because this is now putting people’s lives in jeopardy.”


Dr. Annette David, senior epidemiologist for the State Epidemiological Outcome Working Group, confirmed that the Department of Public Health and Social Services has been working on Guam’s pandemic preparedness plan for several weeks now.


Chima Mbakwem of DPHSS also explained that pandemics and endemics require different plans. Guam has structures and protocols already in place when Guam enters the endemic stage, he added.


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Following is the transcript of the governor's remarks at the press briefing on March 30, 2022.


Declaring a public health Emergency allows our island to receive critical resources for preventative and responsive action. It continues to build and strengthen our ability to effectively address a range of health threats, including infectious diseases.


I was a member of the 26th Guam Legislature that passed the Emergency Health Powers Act, and I can tell you, none of us could have anticipated the full scope of the pandemic response it called for.


I am the first governor who has had the duty to fully implement it. It has provided our island the tools we need to contain the virus. It has provided us with the mechanism to take actions rooted in law, guided by democracy, and implemented by a coordinated team of experts, planners, and medical personnel.


Maintaining the public health emergency is not a personal choice, but a reflection of the reality of our situation. Ending the public health emergency, without an organized transition plan, would only hurt our island and our people.

It would mean a cease to the stream of resources that have helped us prepare for, withstand, and recover from the pandemic. It means that technical assistance, critical funding, and manpower capability we have come to rely on goes away.


We would stand to lose over 2-million dollars in monthly SNAP allotments that ensured local food stability when many were furloughed or lost their jobs.

Today, emergency allotments affect over 15,000 households on our island. We also would lose resources that support individuals and families, businesses and industries, and the delicate recovery of our entire island.


Because of the resources granted to our island during this state of emergency, and through the tireless work of front line responders and our entire community, we braved the worst and beat the odds.


Two years later, we are recovering, but we are still in a state of emergency. Closing our eyes to this reality will not make it any less true.


I want to make it clear: lifting restrictions is not the same as ending the public health emergency. Our progress has meant schools stay open, businesses can rebuild, and social gatherings and larger public events can resume.


We are balancing our road to recovery with our continued emergency response.We must continue to address the lingering health needs of our people.

We cannot and will not simply decide to end the emergency because we are tired, because we have false confidence. This is not who we are as a people.


I want to make it clear: lifting restrictions is not the same as ending the public health emergency. Our progress has meant schools stay open, businesses can rebuild, and social gatherings and larger public events can resume.


We are balancing our road to recovery with our continued emergency response. We must continue to address the lingering health needs of our people.


We cannot and will not simply decide to end the emergency because we are tired, because we have false confidence. This is not who we are as a people.



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