Shoppers fill their carts with emergency supplies at Cost -U-Less in Tamuning. Photo by Emmanuel Munar III
(Updated: Matson says shipping operations continue uninterrupted)
Some are nervous while others remain calm as Guam faces uncertainty over the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit home. But making plans and preparations for any contingency is something Guam residents do with a casual attitude rather than apocalyptic hysteria.
Constantly facing threats of super typhoons and nuclear attack from North Korea, Guam has had several emergency drills, bringing residents to a perpetual state of readiness for any catastrophe.
The government of Guam has confirmed three cases of Covid-19 on island, prompting Gov. Lourdes Leon Guerrero to shut down public offices for two weeks. She banned social gatherings and ordered a 14-day quarantine for any visitor coming to Guam from affected areas in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Around the world, the pandemic has reached a surreal magnitude, killing 6,400 people.
Estrella Devera, a teacher, has been preparing since January, when the early news of coronavirus epidemic in China first surfaced.
“I have slowly purchased most of my necessities and don't have much of a need to rush anywhere. I will venture out for groceries but otherwise, I'm set up,” Devera said. “I purchased water, cleaning and laundry supplies, antibacterial everything, and I can't forget the rice. I have most of the items to last me a few months.”
She bought the supplies over a span of three months “so I didn't break the bank. However, I have noticed the increase in prices since then,” she said.
Just the same, Devera is “100 percent worried” about Covid-19. Her son is in the military. He is stationed in Japan, one of the affected countries, with his family.
Both her parents are over 60 and one of them is on dialysis. “So I am extremely worried for their health and safety as they are the ones most susceptible to the virus,” Devera said. “Like all teachers will be, I am worried about my students and their welfare. I may not be in a state of panic, buy I am extremely worried.”
Some are worried about possible disruption of supply to Guam.
Matson, however, gave assurance that its operations continue uninterrupted.
"Matson intends to maintain all service schedules as normal with weekly service to Guam from the U.S. West Coast and Honolulu," the company said in a statement. "Matson is committed to taking all appropriate steps to ensure the continuation of services, including the deployment of reserve vessels if necessary to continue meeting the needs of our customers."
Matson said it is "monitoring developments closely and ensuring compliance with all United States Coast Guard and local, federal and international government reporting and prevention directives for maritime operations. Matson also has frequent and regular communication with the United States Coast Guard and the Port of Guam Authority regarding commercial port operations."
Cindy Quinata, a mother of nine, has a cabinet filled with emergency supplies, which she purchased long before the coronavirus outbreak. Her emergency cabinet contains water, peroxide, alcohol, hand soap, bleach, Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, Vicks, paper towels and cleaners among others.
“I haven't gone out to get anything since the news of coronavirus,” Quinata said, “but I had these already stocked because of storms and I’m a just-in-case hoarder. I haven't bought anything after virus surfaced”
But, of course the virus outbreak worries her, she said.
“I’m tempted to give in to the ‘kitty litter theory.’ Kitty litter is known to kill and fight off viruses and bacteria. Spread that around the house and windows. Not sure how effective it is but with the amount of deaths from Covid19, I’m trying anything and everything.”
Gabby Prelosky, 20, a student, shrugs the virus off. “No, I’m not worried,” h said. “Novel coronavirus, although a new strand, has symptoms just like the regular flu,” he said. “I’m concerned for the health of those immunocompromised, and for those with pre-existing health conditions as well as the elderly.”
Prelosky is not jostling against the crowd of panic-buyers. “Panic buying is hyping the virus up to be more than it actually is, and is taking items away from those who may actually need them,” he said.
While not panicking, Prelosky abides by health experts’ advice. “Again, corona has symptoms of the flu, so all I need to do is continue keeping up with my hygiene, staying hydrated and staying home If I feel sick,” he said.
Julius Cantara, 25, freelance writer/artist, spares himself from the outbreak stress.
“I'm not that worried given what I've read about the virus, the symptoms, and who are more vulnerable to it. However, it is a concern so you can't be too careful,” Cantara said.
He is not rushing to the store either. “I have not been panic buying. However, my family does have a lot of hand sanitizer. And I have a mask of my own. I feel like I am prepared,” Cantara said.
“So long as I eat right and stay healthy, I can reduce the likelihood of catching it. Honestly, I'm not panicking as much as everyone else but I do understand it and see it as a legitimate concern. Everyone should be careful considering there are now confirmed cases.”
Masako E. Cruz, 25, a municipal clerk, said she does not feel the need to panic-buy. “We are stocking up mostly on pampers and canned foods because everyone else seems to be panic buying and the products are running out quickly,” she said.
For Bay T, 32, who works in the medical field, said “payday is too far away” to fill the supply cabinet. “Worried. Maybe, like 60 percent,” he said. “Prepared? Nope, not even.”
Val Senior, a supervisor at Flame Tree Freedom Center’s cleaning and maintenance service, has stocked up on food supply. “I’m not worried about toilet paper because I use tabu (water scoop),” he said.
Senior heads a team that provides cleaning and maintenance services at iLearn Charter School in Dededo. Since news of the coronavirus outbreak began, Senior said, “We have increased using bleach and sanitizing the bathrooms, wall to wall and door knobs— just about everything that kids will touch."
Roma Kohn, a real estate broker who lives in Tamuning, bought a supply of dry goods and medicines.
Is she confident that Guam can handle a massive outbreak? “Lol,” Kohn replied, “Not, if GovGuam’s plan to handle this is to give themselves a paid two-week vacation.”