‘People need to know’: family struggles to reunite on Guam

ARRIVING: Dignitaries are led through a new and improved TSA screening area for departing passengers during a ribbon cutting ceremony and tour of the newly completed phase 1 International Arrivals Corridor at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority on Feb. 26. As the island eases quarantine restrictions, more travelers are navigating local and federal requirements to visit Guam. Dontana Keraskes/The Guam Daily Post

For nearly four hours Tuesday, Lucy Park’s husband and young daughter were left wondering why they couldn’t board their first flight on the way to Guam.

“Yesterday I was so fed up with it, I was so sad. If it was just my husband, I would be OK. My daughter, who just witnessed this is only 7. When she got to the taxi stand she just lost it and started crying.”

Park maintains homes on Guam and in Taiwan. She lives locally with a 4-year-old-child for most of the year, while her husband and their 7-year-old stay mainly in Taiwan. After seven months apart, and with Guam currently handling COVID-19 better than Taiwan, they decided to reunite on Guam.

That’s when Park began her research into what would be required of her family.

“It’s very hard to get vaccinated if you’re under 50, unless you’re in the medical field – both in Korea and Taiwan. So that wasn’t an option. And he’s also traveling with a minor,” Park told The Guam Daily Post.

Accompanying a child meant home quarantine would not be an option – something the family accepted. Next was finding out whether a COVID-19 test was needed.

“It was very hard to get the COVID-19 test done for travel in Taiwan. There’s only a handful of hospitals who would do it, but we could not book it – it would take another month. The only other option was to go to two hospitals in Taipei, where you have to line up at 7 a.m. hoping that you’d get tested, so you could fly out within the next 72 hours. But he’s working full-time, trying to finish everything up for when he comes here – he could not go somewhere 50 minutes away to wait in line with his daughter.”

Park told the Post she asked government of Guam agencies like the airport and the Department of Public Health and Social Services about the requirement. She also reached out to airlines and the Incheon Airport, where her family would be transiting through.

“Everybody said, ‘No they don’t need a COVID-19 test to come into Guam.’”

Only when waiting to check in for the Taiwan leg of their flight was Park’s husband told about the CDC requirement for a negative test result if entering a U.S. destination from a foreign country. The whole ordeal took about four hours, she said.

“People need to know because Guam talks about a Taiwan bubble travel all the time, and this is how hard it is. Not only are the tests difficult, but now the flights are so expensive,” Park said. “Only Jin Air flies out of Korea, that’s the only consistent once-a-week flight to Guam.”

She said Public Health officials reiterated to her Wednesday that a negative test isn’t needed if a traveler submits to a full quarantine, and she got a similar answer from the Guam Visitors Bureau.

“The public knowledge given to me is that you don’t need the test,” Park said. “I wish the information was in one place. I had to search everywhere to get the phone numbers.”

Josh Tyquiengco, spokesperson for the Guam Visitors Bureau, said the agency and GovGuam take steps to inform everyone about the latest local and federal travel requirements.

“We’re sorry for her family’s experience. Since Guam is part of the U.S., the island continues to follow CDC guidelines that have been in effect since Jan. 26th regarding international travel to the U.S. The GVB team has been advised of these guidelines and this has been communicated to local and international inquirers. We also advise inquirers to check their preferred airline carrier for additional requirements,” he stated to the Post.

“The DPHSS website is referenced for further guidance. GVB’s consumer site, visitguam.com, also has updated information regarding travel to Guam. Additionally, as a member of the Joint Information Center, information passed along to callers via the 311 general inquiries line is often checked and validated by members of the JIC team.”

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