Island residents and businesses still are figuring out what qualifies as a “social gathering,” limited by Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero in response to the current surge in numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
These events are capped at 10 vaccinated people indoors, and 25 vaccinated people outdoors, inclusive of attendees, staff, vendors and entertainment.
At least one concert has been postponed indefinitely due to the mandate to downsize social gatherings. Tickets were sold for “Euphoria,” a planned event hosted by a group of neighboring bars in Tumon that featured on- and off-island DJs. Attendance already was limited to vaccinated residents only.
“Due to the governor’s declaration of the new mandate, COVID-19 cases rising, and Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention) urging people not to visit Guam, it is impossible for us to carry on this event in a positive light,” MGH Productions, the company planning the event, announced via social media. “There is no higher priority to us (than) everyone’s health, safety and well-being.”
Full refunds will be given to customers who purchased tickets. The decision was made following a determination that the concert counted as a social gathering, according to company owner Maria Hizon, who said the event had been announced before gatherings were limited by the governor.
According to the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services, bar fundraisers, charity galas, birthday parties, concerts and wedding receptions, regardless of where they are held, are subject to the governor’s social gathering attendance caps.
“I recommend businesses and families planning these events to reach out to Public Health, just so they can get clarification on what the restrictions are, and to what extent they can conduct these events,” said Remiliza Oriondo, an environmental public health officer who conducts COVID-19 and other health-related inspections.
Guidance released by DPHSS defines a social gathering as, "a meeting for a common and singular purpose of more than one person where the individuals are not members of an immediate family unit or single household unit."
Funeral services and official business meetings held at an office are exempted from the cap, according to the guidance.
The mandatory decrease in attendance caps has been met with an increased number of site visits by Public Health officials.
DPHSS inspected an outdoor wedding held last week, when enforcement of the gathering limitation and other pandemic restrictions on unvaccinated residents took effect. No violations of Public Health guidelines were found at the wedding, according to information shared by the department.
Janela Carrera, DPHSS spokesperson, confirmed that police officers were present for the unannounced check, and that officers should be expected when social gatherings are being inspected.
“When doing an inspection for a congregation, large gathering or social event, we typically seek the assistance of (the Guam Police Department) to prepare for any scenario. Additionally, because it is a social gathering, potential citations could be issued to multiple individuals as opposed to an establishment with one responsible party,” she said.
GPD officers are authorized to issue citations when they witness residents or businesses not complying with pandemic restrictions.
Planned gatherings can get on the department’s radar in a number of ways, including by bringing them directly to the department's attention. Oriondo said inspectors have even been asked to visit an event site by residents who are actually in attendance at the event.
“They want to be there, but they want to make sure that they’re in compliance. First of all, they don’t want to get sick and bring it home. Second of all, they don’t want to get cited as an individual,” she said.
Suspected violations, concerns and questions can be directed to the DPHSS Division of Environmental Health at 671-300-9579.