By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Bars must be temporarily shut down, the former chair of the governor’s physician advisory group said, noting that drinking establishments are a breeding ground for Covid-19 infections.
“As long as bars are open 100 percent, it will be hard for us to control the surge. I would highly recommend that they temporarily close until the surge is over,” said Dr. Hoa Nguyen.
“People in bars drink, socialize and dance without wearing masks. It doesn’t make sense that schools have been shut down while the bars remain open,” he added.
Nguyen resigned from the advisory group last over a disagreement with Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s policy barring the unvaccinated from dining at restaurants, drinking at bars and using public facilities.
Nguyen said empirical data have shown that drinking establishments contribute to community transmissions.
“When Tokyo and Korea saw a decline in their Covid cases, they reopened the bars and Covid cases immediately surged back up,” he said.
Nguyen said bar owners tend to be “uncooperative” when it comes to the contact-tracing process.
“When people go to restaurants, they don’t mind signing the entrance sheets. But most people do not want it to be known when they go out drinking in bars,” Nguyen said.
“Bar owners protect the privacy of their patrons. They won’t volunteer to give out the names of their customers. So contact-tracing becomes difficult,” he added.
Nguyen endorses the Guam Chamber of Commerce and Guam Hotel and Restaurants’ recommendation to limit business occupancy at 50 percent capacity. "I commend them for being pro-active," he said.
Under the current government policy, businesses are allowed to fully operate, provided they require guests and patrons to show proof of vaccination.
Over the past weeks, Guam has been seeing triple-digit Covid-19 positive results and hospitals began logging coronavirus-related deaths again.
Hospital admissions have gone up to 45 as of Wednesday.
The Department of Public Health and Social Services on Wednesday reported 181 new positive cases out of 1,567 tests performed on Aug. 31. Of this number 91, cases were identified through contact tracing.
Nguyen said the public health department also needs to expedite the release of test results.
Currently, people wait for their test results within 24 to 36 hours.
“That’s too long. That makes it impossible to control the spread of infections,” Nguyen said.
“You can tell people to stay home after their tests. But we do not live in a perfect society. People still go around and if they are positive they transmit the virus to others.”
Nguyen also reiterated his recommendation to impose limits on large gatherings such as weddings and funerals.
“Most of the clusters come from these types of social gatherings,” he added.
Instead of blaming the people, Nguyen said, DPHSS must adjust its system by immediately releasing test results, possibly within three hours after the test.
To date there have been a total of 10,740 officially reported cases of Covid-19 with 150 deaths, 1,595 cases in active isolation and 8,995 not in active isolation. The CAR Score is 44.