Senator: 'I waited until the vaccine's already available to many'

VACCINATION CLINIC: Residents 16 and older fill the Mongmong-Toto-Maite Mayor's Office early Tuesday morning. The village center held a clinic offering the Pfizer vaccine. Haruo Simion/The Guam Daily Post

Guam marked its 137th COVID-19-related death on Monday, the same day the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised the island's travel risk rating back to "high" over new clusters.

This could further delay Guam's May 15 tourism reopening plan and easing of post-travel quarantine.

A "high" or level 3 category rating from the CDC means "travelers should avoid all nonessential travel to Guam."

And if one must travel to Guam, that person should get fully vaccinated before travel, the CDC said. All travelers must also wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid crowds and wash their hands.

This comes only about a month after Guam's CDC risk rating improved, going from "high" to "moderate" or level 2. 

For a population of 200,000 or less such as Guam, a "high" risk rating means there are 51 to 100 new cases over 28 days. The island was stuck in a "very high" or the highest level 4 COVID-19 risk category for months.

59-year-old male

The 137th COVID-19 related fatality occurred at Guam Regional Medical City around 5:37 a.m. on Monday, the Joint Information Center said Tuesday.

The patient was a 59-year-old man with underlying health conditions, JIC said. He was admitted to GRMC on the same day and tested positive on arrival.

"Today, we mourn the loss of another soul to COVID-19. To those who loved him, Josh, Jeff and I send our most heartfelt condolences and sympathies," Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said in a statement Tuesday night.

Impact on tourism reopening

The governor delayed the May 1 reopening and easing of post-travel quarantine by two weeks because of the recent COVID-19 clusters that started at private gatherings.

With the CDC's altered risk rating of Guam, Adelup said it's too soon to say how the CDC designation will impact the reopening plans for tourism.

"We continue to monitor our situation locally and globally and we will adjust accordingly," according to Krystal Paco-San Agustin, the governor's director of communications.

Adelup continues to encourage residents to get fully vaccinated so Guam may achieve Operation Liberate Guam or 80% herd immunity by July 21.

Guam Visitors Bureau Vice President Gerry Perez, when asked about the CDC's new risk rating, said Guam has made significant progress with the governor's push to get more island residents vaccinated.

"We will continue to focus on encouraging vaccination efforts as it is part of the key to the revitalization of our tourism industry," he said. "We encourage everyone to continue to do their part to keep each other safe and healthy. We must take care of our people first before we are ready to welcome back our visitors."

Sen. Amanda Shelton, chairperson of the legislative tourism committee, said she's certainly concerned about the uptick in positive cases and the CDC's decision to raise Guam's risk level, which she said only urges the community to continue vaccination efforts and safety measures.

Shelton said the committee on tourism will hold an informational hearing on May 14 "to discuss our recovery plans amid this constantly evolving landscape."

15 new COVID-19 cases

Of the 572 tests performed Monday, 15 new cases of COVID-19 were identified, JIC said. 

One case reported recent travel history and was identified in quarantine, while five were identified through contact tracing.

This brings to 8,004 the number of reported COVID-19 cases on Guam since March 2020. The COVID-19 Area Risk Score went up to 1.1.

As of Monday, there were six hospitalizations. Of the three in the intensive care unit, two were on ventilators to support breathing.

The Department of Public Health and Social Services also said the CDC testing showed that the U.K. variant of COVID-19 already reached Guam. The U.K. variant is considered a more highly transmissible variant. The California variant was earlier reported to reach Guam.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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