There are now six COVID-19 hospitalizations and the number of new positive cases continues to climb, bringing Guam's risk score to its highest this year and threatening a return to restrictions should the situation worsen, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said.

Guam still has more than 31,000 individuals to either convince or mandate to get vaccinated, based on government data. They are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine because they are at least 12 years old.

"Should our situation escalate, I will not hesitate to reinstate restrictions to continue protecting our island," the governor said in a Saturday night video message urging more people to get vaccinated and to continue wearing masks, watching their distance and washing their hands frequently.

Except for the mask mandate, most pandemic restrictions were lifted July 30 or a day after at least 80% of adults 18 years and older had been fully vaccinated.

The governor said "the delta variant and its mutations remain a real and imminent threat" to the island, and "the COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be our greatest defense."

The Department of Public Health and Social Services, along with the Guam National Guard and other partner agencies, announced expanded free vaccination clinics and testing as Guam's COVID Area Risk score reached 5.4.

Five of the six hospital admissions as of Saturday involved patients who are not fully vaccinated, the governor said.

This was up from four Thursday, with one unvaccinated patient in the intensive care unit. For several weeks, Guam saw only zero to two hospitalizations.

"Based on the information provided by Public Health, we are experiencing an increase in COVID-19 transmission throughout our community, especially among our unvaccinated," the governor said.

The increases in new cases involved the military and civilian communities. Current hospitalization is at civilian hospitals.

Restaurants, retail stores, churches and all other establishments can operate now at 100% capacity, and there is no longer a cap on social gatherings. Social distancing of at least 6 feet no longer is mandated.

Tourism, meanwhile, is still off to a slow start.

Hesitancy, misinformation

Officials said the number of hospitalizations and the severity of symptoms would have been worse were it not for the vaccine.

"The vaccine's success is not to be defined by preventing infection but is demonstrated through low hospitalizations and the decrease of the severity of the illness," the governor said.

As of Saturday, 104,447, or nearly 77% of Guam's vaccine-eligible residents, were fully vaccinated. That number still leaves 31,846 eligible individuals who are not vaccinated fully.

Guam's total estimated population is 168,322, data from DPHSS shows, and about 32,000 are mainly not of age to be vaccinated.

The governor said others remain unvaccinated because of "vaccine hesitancy or misinformation."

"As science has proven, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death," the governor said. "Protect yourself. Protect the ones you love. Protect our community."

Full vaccination among those 12 to 17 years old remains below 50%, even as in-person classes resumed last week for private schools and will resume Thursday for public schools.

GovGuam vaccination

DPHSS will operate a vaccination clinic for GovGuam employees and their families today and tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Micronesia Mall, on the second floor above the Center Court.

GovGuam employees are encouraged to set an appointment through tinyurl.com/CovidStopsWithMe.

The governor mandated COVID-19 vaccination for all GovGuam workers under the executive branch.

The governor gave the employees until Sept. 24 to become fully vaccinated, or they will be required to submit themselves to weekly testing. 

Nonexempt employees who refuse to get fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing could face disciplinary action.

The executive branch has some 7,000 employees, the bulk of GovGuam workers. No similar orders have come down for the judicial or legislative branches or autonomous agencies, with nearly 4,700 employees combined.

Vaccination at home, other places

People can request vaccination at their own homes, especially those with disabilities and other limitations, by calling 311, option 2, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, to schedule an appointment.

For others, here are this week's scheduled clinics:

  • Monday, 9 a.m. to noon, DPHSS Northern Region Community Health Center in Dededo.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to noon, DPHSS Southern Region Community Health Center in Inalåhan.
  • Wednesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Micronesia Mall, second floor above Center Court.

Testing continues

DPHSS continues to provide free COVID-19 testing this week, on a first-come, first-served basis from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday to Saturday, at the old carnival grounds at Tiyan, Barrigada. No symptoms are needed to qualify for free testing.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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