Armed with more vaccines and approval to inoculate children ages 12 to 15, the local government and its partners have set up a series of clinics this weekend and next week.
These efforts fall in line with reopening schools as fully as possible to Guam’s children and reopening the island to tourists, and getting the island’s economy back up and running. In short, a life beyond the pandemic.
The clinics will be located at the University of Guam, the northern and southern Public Health clinics, Hyatt Regency Guam, Yigo gym, John F. Kennedy High School, Governor Joseph Flores Memorial Park and other locations around the island. This is on top of private clinics and pharmacies that also continue to offer the COVID-19 vaccines.
The number of clinics and their locations are all aimed to make it easier for students, the homeless population, hotel and service industry workers, residents within villages, and the community at large to get vaccinated.
This is part of the larger effort to achieve herd immunity. It’s unclear as of Thursday afternoon whether the total number necessary to achieve herd immunity is still 100,000 now that adolescents and younger teens are also eligible for the vaccine.
Officials continue to urge residents, however, to follow public safety measures, including wearing masks, washing hands frequently and continuing to practice social distancing.
As of Wednesday night, there were 71,460 people fully vaccinated and 74,102 people who’ve had at least their first dose. No doubt those numbers would have increased by today as Guamanians continue to make their way to clinics.
Many of those who will be newly vaccinated are children whose parents are looking forward to the new school year. Many parents have been concerned that returning to school would put their children at risk.
On Wednesday, the Joint Information Center reported that three Guam Department of Education students had tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. The students attend B.P. Carbullido Elementary School, Jose Rios Middle School and J.Q. San Miguel Elementary School.
Thankfully, GDOE has a system set up and, working with Public Health officials, has notified all close contacts, and the three campuses have been cleaned to ensure the safety of others. That system will likely come in handy when traditional face-to-face classes resume in August and more students are on campus.
Ensuring that as many people are vaccinated and protected as much as possible against the virus, is a large part of reopening the island’s tourism industry, which is the main economic engine for the island.
Technically, the island never really closed, but tourism officials have said requiring people to quarantine for 14 days makes it harder to attract visitors. Historically, tourists from Guam’s primary markets in Asia visit the island for anywhere from three days to a week.
The quarantine restrictions were supposed to be eased somewhat by May 1 but with three COVID-19 clusters that popped up in April, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero opted to err on the side of caution.
And while many were disappointed, she couldn't be faulted for wanting to ensure the new clusters were contained and perhaps even confirm that the vaccines available to us work against the new variants that we're seeing coming to Guam, which thankfully, doctors and scientists have confirmed they do.
The governor said the new target date is May 15 to ease quarantine restrictions.
The number of new COVID-19 cases looks like it's hit a plateau, and fewer people are in the hospitals – both of which are indicators, the governor has said, to whether she’d be inclined to change the current requirements.
As the island community is met with the flurry of clinics in the upcoming days, there is, at the very least, a sense of hope that we’re marching forward. And while COVID-19 is a new reality, perhaps we’re also on our way to figuring out how to live with it.