Quarantined residents express frustration, seek solutions

BAGGAGE: Suitcases and boxes brought by passengers on the Philippine Airlines flight from Metro Manila to Guam are shown Thursday outside the Wyndham Garden Hotel on Ypao Road in Tamuning. The hotel is one of the designated quarantine areas for travelers from the Philippines. John O'Connor/The Guam Daily Post

Passengers who arrived on Guam early Thursday morning on Philippine Airlines Flight 110 are now in day 3 of a 14-day mandated quarantine at two local hotels the government is using to house arriving passengers who enter Guam from countries with COVID-19 outbreaks.

There is growing frustration from many of the island residents who were quarantined. They are hoping government officials will listen to their concerns and begin to address the issues that they say are causing a risk to others.

They also questioned the inconsistency between the government's earlier decision that allowed confirmed COVID-19 patients to stay home, rather than in placed in isolation at the Skilled Nursing Unit facility, while recent travelers are being quarantined in a hotel.

“If positively tested patients are being sent home by the hospital, why the quarantine?” asked one woman who is being quarantined with her husband and child. “There has been so much cross-contamination and cross exposure from the start.”

The woman and her family had returned to Guam and had already planned to self-quarantine because they were arriving from the Philippines, but when they landed Thursday morning and saw government school buses parked on the tarmac, they knew something more was happening.

It wasn’t until they went through immigration and Customs that they were told they would be quarantined for the next 14 days.

“It seemed like they were making it up as they went along,” said one woman who asked to remain anonymous. “They used cell phones to take pictures of our passports and then we were directed to a waiting area. We were wondering if they were allowed to do that.”

They were led to a holding area where there were some chairs and a coffee and water station.

“If we were being quarantined, there was so much cross exposure; we were handed pieces of paper that we touched, they touched. Some were wearing masks and gloves, others didn’t,” she said.

Passengers were then instructed to board school buses that would take them to designated hotels that were going to be used for the mandatory quarantine.

“We felt like we were inmates, like cattle,” a passenger said.

They arrived at the hotel and were told to go to their hotel rooms with no instruction or guidance on what they could do and what they couldn’t. Later they saw people, not wearing gloves, handling their luggage that had been delivered on a flatbed truck.

“They didn’t decontaminate our luggage,” said a retired federal firefighter who was appalled at the lack of proper procedure for a true quarantine. “It’s just so negligent. They are supposed to be mitigating this at the highest levels.”

Another passenger remarked, “If they were so worried about us possibly having something forcing us to quarantine, they didn’t seem worried about coming into contact with anything we touched.”

On Friday morning, a health professional took their temperature – having each passenger put a thermometer in their mouth.

“They did not change their gloves between passengers,” said the retired firefighter.

Having returned from the Philippines for various reasons, the residents are now worried about the growing pile of laundry that sits in their hotel rooms. They were told it will be bagged and laundered on Tuesday. They have yet to get answers on where it will be laundered, what assurances they have that their clothes won’t be mixed with others and that the laundry facility meets standards to deal with this kind of an issue.

“We don’t have a problem with the quarantine, but just do it right. Otherwise, it’s completely useless,” said one quarantined resident. “We are more worried now – here in this quarantine – than we were even traveling throughout the PI that seemed to take more precautions than here on Guam.”

The passengers shared their stories saying they’ve tried to reach out to government officials for help and to air their concerns, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

“The media is the only outlet that we have to get our voices out there so that people know what is truly happening in this whole quarantine and how it has failed. The government put their own people at risk in trying to implement this quarantine,” one woman said.

Several people within the group have tried to speak to government officials in hopes to start providing solutions to the concerns and to ensure the quarantine is done properly.

“I want to be part of the solution,” said the retired firefighter. “I’m not here to belittle anyone. Let’s quit the dog and pony show and let’s fix the problem. Turn on the TV and look at what they’re wearing! If you’re not concerned about your own safety, then at least be concerned about ours and our family.”

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