As COVID-19 infections surge, mayors  shift to online meeting for first time

MAYORS: Jesse Alig, mayor of Piti and president of the Mayor's Council of Guam, speaks at a monthly meeting at the Sinajana Mayor's Office on Aug. 4. Mayors and vice mayors will hold their first MCOG meeting via Zoom today as new COVID-19 cases continue to surge. Kevin Milan/The Guam Daily Post

Talofofo Mayor Vicente Taitague, 80, said he looks forward to a Zoom meeting with his fellow mayors and vice mayors.

"No problem with that," he said of the online meeting platform that he said he's been familiar with because it's been commonly used during the pandemic. "I'm 80, but I'm young at heart."

Today marks the very first time that the Mayors' Council of Guam will meet online, via Zoom, as COVID-19 cases surge.

This is the monthly meeting in which mayors and vice mayors discuss pressing issues in their villages or common concerns such as illegal dumping, collection of abandoned vehicles, stray dogs and pigs, issuance of mayor's verifications, and distribution of commodities during the pandemic.

Government agencies doing official functions are exempt from the social gathering limits of 25 persons, but the MCOG leadership recognized that some members have apprehensions about continuing to meeting in person.

"Yes, we are ready," MCOG President Jesse Alig, mayor of Piti, said on the eve of the Zoom meeting. "I am aware that some of our members may not be comfortable gathering even with the exception granted."

Record numbers of new cases have been recorded daily in the past few weeks, and hospitalizations and deaths have been on the uptick. 

At least 16 mayors and vice mayors are needed to constitute a quorum.

Most GovGuam boards and commissions have been meeting via online platforms such as Zoom and ToGo for most of the pandemic, but mayors have been meeting in person.

MCOG Vice President Robert Hofmann, mayor of Sinajana, believes mayors will be meeting via Zoom until COVID-19 cases go down.

There are at least three guest speakers in today's MCOG meeting, plus standing committees and MCOG Executive Director Angel Sablan will provide their status reports. Mayors will also discuss foster care and cancer awareness initiatives.

Merizo Mayor Ernest Chargualaf said he will try to make it to the Zoom, but he said his office continues to distribute food commodities throughout the village and this could take precedence over the Zoom meeting.

"I can also just ask my colleagues who are able to attend, to share the important parts of the meeting," he said.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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