Saturday's mass testing at Core Tech confirms 140 Covid positive cases
(Updated: Nov. 14, 2020/8:12 p.m)
With deadlines to meet, the U.S. Navy is struggling to strike a balance between continued progress on the $8-billion military buildup on Guam and shielding workers from exposure to coronavirus amid the still raging pandemic.
Guam is a component of the Department of Defense's Indo-Pacific strategy, thus resuming military construction is critical to preserving the military's ability to defend the island and the rest of the region, according to the Joint Region Marianas.
"We want to ensure an expeditious, but deliberate return to DoD construction projects while minimizing risk to DoD and contractor employees and protecting the community from the further spread of Covid-19," said Rick Moore, public affairs officer for JRM.
Along with local construction, defense projects are affected by the Department of Public Health and Social Services' recent directive suspending all construction work throughout the island. The directive, which takes effect today, was prompted by Covid-19 clusters found at Black Construction and Core Tech International's workers barracks.
Both companies are undertaking major DoD projects related to the relocation of marines from Okinawa to Guam.
"Joint Region Marianas is committed to working with our government of Guam and public health partners to implement effective solutions for resumption of essential military construction projects following the current suspension directive," Moore said in an email to Pacific Island Times.
In an announcement today, DPHSS said construction companies and contractors on Guam can resume operations provided they meet minimum requirements in the contractor clearance checklist.
"For those companies or contractors that meet the minimum requirements outlined in the Contractor Clearance Checklist, and have not had any projects with Black Construction or Core Tech International, DPHSS will make an assessment and if found to meet the minimum requirements, will be cleared to resume operations," said Janela Carrrera, communications director at DPHSS.
"We understand that the construction industry plays a critical role in our economy and there are many companies that may not be affected by the recent outbreak within the two larger construction companies," she added.
DPHSS today conducted a mass testing at Core Tech's Ukudu housing complex in Harmon. Of the 420 employees tested, 140 were confirmed positive.
"The company has isolated the positive employees in compliance with Centers for Disease Control recommendations and Public Health mandates. CTI continues to work closely with medical officials to monitor the health of its employees and support efforts to help them recover," Core Tech said in a statement. "Mass testing of the rest of the workforce will continue over the next few days in coordination with DPHSS."
Earlier this week, contact tracing and testing at Black Construction yielded 312 Covid positive results as of Nov. 10. Results of the most recent tests were not currently available.
Construction on Guam was first briefly disrupted in mid-September, following the discovery of Covid-clusters in three unidentified construction companies. DPHSS suspended all construction on Sept. 11, but lifted the directive four days later, allowing companies to send their workers back to the job sites.
The new suspension order threatens to delay defense projects on Guam.
In the last fiscal year, DOD spent $210.2 million worth of projects out of the $309.3 million obligated to the Guam military buildup.
Current plans expect 5,000 marines from Okinawa to start relocating to Marine Corps Camp Blaz in Dededo beginning in 2025. On Sept. 9, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific awarded a $36 million contract to Pacific Rim Constructors Inc. for the construction of utilities and site improvements phase II main and commercial gates at Camp Blaz.
Black Construction, a subsidiary of Tutor Perini Corp., currently has three major contracts with the Navy. These are the $75-million P-715 Live Firing Range ($75 million); P-250 MALS & P-260 Corrosion Control Hangar ($82 million); and Andersen Replace Housing Project ($178 million).
Earlier this year, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific awarded Core Tech-Hawaiian Dredging LLC a $42.88 million for the design and construction of munitions storage igloos phase three at Andersen Air Force Base. Work is expected to be completed by June 2023.
Last year, Core Tech and Black Construction were among the five companies awarded a combined $990 million contract for construction work at Andersen Air Force Base.