Updated: Aug 23
Pressure is building up. Will Lou Leon Guerrero cave in?
The Guam Chamber of Commerce has joined a growing call for Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to rescind her executive order restricting the movement of the unvaccinated, a policy that critics say promotes segregation.
In a statement, the chamber said singling out the unvaccinated population "puts a burden on a select group of businesses to police the vaccination status of individuals, and has created unintended consequences for our community."
A loose group of individuals opposed to the governor's vaccine push will hold a rally on Tuesday afternoon in front of the governor's office in Adelup to protest the new directive announced Friday.
The new policy requires residents to show proof of vaccination when entering business establishments and public facilities. The new requirement, which followed a previous mandate for all executive branch employees to get vaccinated, is part of the government's campaign to ramp up vaccination amid the spike in Covid-19 cases on Guam.
While the new policy is effective today, its implementation will begin on Sept. 6. However, the announcement of the actual date of implementation caused confusion among some businesses.
Some restaurants in Micronesia Mall, for example, have started asking customers for their vaccine cards or any proof of vaccination
The chamber warned that imposing new restrictions would further stagnate Guam's economic recovery.
"Small businesses throughout our island continue to struggle with staying afloat as well as hiring and retaining staff," the chamber said in a statement. "Their business operations may be compromised if their employees choose not to comply and cannot work, as well as forcing businesses to potentially let employees go."
The chamber also said the new restriction will further compromise the island's fragile tourism industry, which is hoped to jumpstart recovery through the Air V&V initiative.
"Visitors who come to the island unvaccinated, then choose to be vaccinated, cannot frequent our restaurants and bars unless they receive their second shot two weeks after that. By then, they will likely be leaving the island." the chamber said.
In a separate statement issued in the morning, the Republican Party of Guam criticized the new vaccine rule as a divisive policy.
"Segregation is never a healthy decision," the Republican Party of Guam said.
"This latest (executive order) divides our community between the 'haves and have nots' as it mandates different treatment for those with proof of vaccination vs. those without – and additionally for a different treatment for people who are employed by the GovGuam and everyone else," the Republican Party said in a statement.
The Republicans warned that the new policy would impose a heavy burden on the private sector.
"For example, if employees of specific private industries don’t get vaccinated by next month, they can face termination, or their employer can face financial fines by continuing their employment," the statement read.
"Why would the governor create a special class of citizen, specifically those employed by GovGuam? While there is a directive for vaccinations for government employees, they are also provided the option of electing weekly testing," the Republican Party said. "Why does the governor not allow for providing private-sector employees with the same testing option, also paid for at government expense?"
The Republicans asked the governor what "rational, medical, or scientific basis" she used to impose a policy that "treat these groups of citizens differently."
While questioning the governor's new directive, the Republican Party said it supports good and balanced policies designed to keep island residents safe from the global pandemic.
"We advocate that people avail of the vaccine to avoid the most acute symptoms associated with covid-19 infection and protect against hospitalization," they said. "And while we affirm the positive treatment and respect afforded to GovGuam employees, we also support the principle that those outside of the GovGuam payroll should also have the same respect afforded to them."
The Republican Party noted that some individuals have reservations about the vaccine for different reasons.
"We also must respect the realities that many parents, students, employers, pregnant women, nursing mothers and other informed citizens still have reservations with this medical procedure. The governor’s latest EO criminalizes and penalizes them," the statement read.
In a separate statement, Sen. James Moylan agreed with his party's stance that the government must respect the decision of those who elect not to get vaccinated.
"The governor’s message is very inconsistent, 'an unvaccinated adult is not allowed to eat in a restaurant, but an unvaccinated 14-year-old is allowed to eat in a high school cafeteria,'" Moylan said.
"As a leader, the governor must unify and not divide the island through her leadership, and most importantly, she must listen to her constituency," Moylan said.
Sen. Tony Ada, also a Republican, urged the governor "to reconsider her actions and amend her executive order to provide for more reasonable mandates."
"We know much more now about Covid-19, its vaccines, and what works and what doesn’t. With the governor disregarding the recommendations of her medical advisors, we now know that she is acting outside of the scientific evidence upon which medical professionals develop their recommendations. Ada said.
"This latest attempt by the governor to extend her authoritarian rule over our lives must not go unanswered and unopposed. The right of our people to determine whether or not they get vaccinated must be respected and protected," he added.