A number of businesses that had just reopened – after having been shuttered for months – and schools that have just opened are readjusting to the government of Guam decision to restore the island to the highest level of restriction under Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1.
Guam went under PCOR1 in March when COVID-19 cases started to spread. This highest level of readiness will last for two weeks, at a minimum, effective 12:01 a.m. Sunday, the governor stated in a press briefing Friday.
Most nonessential businesses will be prohibited from operating. Retailers will be allowed curbside service; grocery stores can continue selling; all public gatherings will be banned; and beaches and parks will be closed, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said. Only distance learning will be allowed for schools.
Guam will return to PCOR1 because the island's response to some of the safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been worse than when the crisis started, Leon Guerrero said.
The governor and Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio, both of whom recently tested positive, are two of the island's 152 cases in active isolation.
Both have said they have moderate symptoms of the respiratory disease that have allowed them to work remotely from home while remaining in isolation.
“Right now, we're not recovering; we are now responding now to a crisis ... that's even worse than when we started this pandemic and so to have comprehensive and complete restrictions – again – is what is necessary to just stem and curtail and cut off these exposures to our people," the governor said.
A slow, piecemeal process of response is not going to work this time, the governor said, as the number of COVID-19 cases this week alone has resulted in a positive rate of 3.13% over the last seven days. Currently, the island’s overall positivity rate since March is 1.9%, a slight increase because of the surge.
There have been more than 100 cases over the past seven days alone, numbers from the Joint Information Center show.
For Guam to return to near normal, the governor said, she'd like to see a rate of one or two COVID-19 cases a day, if not zero.
"I want people to understand the seriousness of this virus and I want them to get on board and do everything they can to fight this virus," Leon Guerrero said.
"I have been in restaurants – and I'm not going to say which ones – ... they don't even put their masks on when they're not eating. I have been to a restaurant that had a bar and that whole bar was not wearing their masks. I have been to funerals where they're not wearing their masks. I have been to funerals where people are outside smoking and socializing and not wearing their masks."
"And these positive cases were traced back to funeral homes and they were traced back to bars and they were traced back to restaurants, so this is serious business and I want to make that message and impress that on our people," she said.
Increase in testing
The last two days have shown the highest number of positive cases as testing has ramped up because of increased numbers of infections in the community and among travelers.
Based on Joint Information Center data, the following have been recorded over the past week:
• Friday: 25 cases
• Thursday: 28 cases
• Wednesday: 15 cases
• Tuesday: 16 cases
• Monday: 6 cases
• Saturday, Aug. 8: 1 case
• Friday, Aug. 7: 12 cases
Eighteen of the cases counted on Aug. 14 were confirmed through the Naval Health Research Center or through Naval Hospital Guam. A total of 416 people were tested Friday. Since March, 26,594 samples have been tested.
Even with the surge in cases, Guam's overall positive rate is 1.82%.
To date, on Guam there have been a total of 502 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 5 deaths, 345 released from isolation, and 152 active cases, JIC reported Friday. Of those cases, 443 are classified as civilians and 59 are military service members.
PCOR1 could extend beyond 2 weeks
If the COVID-19 numbers remain high, the two-week time frame could be extended, the governor acknowledged.
“This decision was not made lightly. I have implemented this to keep you safe,” Leon Guerrero stated, adding that 65% of recent cases are affecting Guam's youth.
These numbers, according to the governor, haven’t been “seen since the beginning of this pandemic” in March.
“The increase is very alarming and a cause for concern,” the governor said.
Eight COVID-19 patients are hospitalized at Guam Memorial Hospital with one in the ICU and another needing breathing support with a ventilator.
The governor said she has asked the military for medical support in the event local hospitals become overwhelmed.
The traffic checkpoints that were in place early on in the pandemic will not be reimplemented, the governor said.