With the rapid spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus, many local teens are hoping that Guam remains free from the epidemic but are concerned that even if the virus doesn't make its way to Guam its impact will be felt in other ways.
Trinity Terlaje, a junior at Harvest Christian Academy, feared that the coronavirus would transfer to Guam and was particularly concerned when she heard that it spread from China to neighboring countries. The fact that travel to and from China has been restricted or outright banned by various countries to stop the virus from spreading made her feel a little better. There are no direct flights between Guam and China but travelers from China visit Guam via Korea, Manila or other transit points.
“Trip cancellations are effective because they control the spread of the disease until further investigation on its origins and prevention methods,” Terlaje said. “I value the health of people more than the economy. The sanctity of life outweighs income when it comes to decisions, such as isolating the virus. Although the tourism industry on Guam benefits the island, the health of its natives comes first.”
The 2019-nCoV is a type of coronavirus identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients with the virus have mild to severe flu-like symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath. Doctors and scientists are still trying to determine how the virus is spread but doctors urge everyone to practice basic hygiene, including washing hands thoroughly and not touching your face or eyes with your hands.
Confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV are in 28 countries, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan and the U.S. mainland. Guam didn’t have any confirmed case of the virus as of Tuesday.
According to the 16-year-old, people on social media are overreacting to news of the virus. She urges residents to stay informed and vigilant.
Lowell Tamayo, a freshman at Father Duenas Memorial School, believes that the coronavirus is becoming a larger threat.
Guam is a hub for travel between the United States, Asia and many Pacific islands.
Tamayo said whether seasonal or permanent, travelers could unknowingly bring the coronavirus to Guam. This would mean a serious impact on tourism.
“Stocks are being affected by the coronavirus (globally). In fact, stores in China have closed, due to the virus spreading around the world; thus, I'd say tourism will definitely be affected,” Tamayo said. “If the coronavirus comes to Guam, then tourists will definitely be scared to come.”
More than 6,000 tourists have canceled their reservations to come to Guam, possibly concerned about exposure at public airports and close quarters in the planes, officials have said.
Practicing good hygiene, avoiding unnecessary air travel and staying home when sick will help to keep the virus from spreading, health officials have said.
"The community should help each other to make sure that the outbreak does not spread,” Tamayo, 15, said.
Cecilia Cesa, a junior at Academy of Our Lady of Guam, said the virus’ impact will also be felt by the local businesses. She noted that the decrease in tourists coming to Guam means “many businesses would feel the detrimental effects.”
Cesa said the government should have a plan to compensate for or give some sort of government assistance to the people affected by the loss of jobs in the tourism industry if the coronavirus ever enters Guam.
“They should work on screening people who enter Guam for the disease and prepare for possible situations regarding the virus by establishing temporary quarantine centers and training people who would need to handle these cases,” she said.
Cesa said another impact of the virus that bothers her is the racism that is embedded in the rhetoric about the disease. According to her, people should be cautious when it comes to the virus, but not to the extent that it causes them to treat others badly, and make generalizations.
“It is not right to stigmatize individuals for this incident when they did not cause it nor agree with the methods with which the virus originated from,” she said.