Two returning Guam residents, who are quarantined in a Guam hotel after they arrived Thursday, are pleading for the government of Guam to allow them to take a test to show whether they have the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Just give us the test,” said Matthew Murphy.
He said he’s been told there’s neither a shortage of tests on island nor a shortage of nurses to administer the test. He said there are two nurses who take the quarantined travelers' temperature every morning: “Can’t they give us the test?”
He’s told, however, that he has to wait 10 days after his arrival date to get the test.
“That makes no sense to me,” he told The Guam Daily Post. He said another passenger who was with them at Bayview Hotel had the test conducted and left the facility within days of their arrival. “I can’t even get any information on what my options are,” he said.
Murphy is among a group of passengers who were bused from the airport to the Bayview Hotel for a mandatory quarantine. There were about 60 of them on the plane, he said, and they had various points of origin. About half of them, by his estimate, were brought to Bayview for quarantine.
Grace Bordallo, of the Department of Public Health and Social Services, said that’s the protocol the island adopted on July 1. She said there has been some discussion on revising procedures specifically for returning residents, particularly those with medical needs. But nothing has been finalized. The governor, during a Monday briefing on COVID-19, said she’s not certain when the public health emergency will be lifted.
Guam has been in a state of emergency for 120 days.
Murphy, of Tamuning, asked if he could have a private clinic conduct the test. “At first they said no … but then they changed their tune.” He said he was told to reach out to Guam Regional Medical City.
GRMC representatives said they require him to go to the hospital. “But if I leave here I’m going to get arrested,” he said.
Additionally, he’s required to get a referral from a local doctor in order to get the test taken. To do that, he needs to go see a doctor.
Murphy, a local businessman, said he needed to return to Guam to take care of taxes, which are due this week, and address ongoing projects he’s working on with the local government and the military.
“All of that is going by the wayside right now,” he said.
Fellow quarantined passenger Laura Farley, 61, said she’s more than willing to quarantine at home in Santa Rita, where it's just her and her husband. “It’s easy to quarantine there. There aren’t a lot of people around us; we have a few neighbors.”
She said prior to leaving El Paso, Texas, she called to get more information on what’s necessary.
The trouble she ran into was out of all the clinics and hospitals she called, only one was able to take her. However, the test results wouldn’t have been ready for five to seven days. “That’s beyond the 72-hour requirement that I was told,” she said.
All of the other clinics she tried weren’t testing people without symptoms or weren’t taking new patients. After numerous calls to local officials, she said, she and her husband were told she’d be able to quarantine at home.
Upon arrival, however, she was told she’d have to quarantine at the hotel. The Bayview Hotel is one of a few sites that were selected by the government of Guam as quarantine facilities, and is an affiliate of The Guam Daily Post.
“Everything says voluntary on the paperwork, but it’s not voluntary at all. I did not have a choice,” she said, her voice breaking. Farley has medical issues and acknowledged that the government is trying to accommodate her in some ways, such as ensuring her daily meals include vegetables and fruit. Even then, she’s unable to get any exercise and the whole situation is wreaking havoc on her mental health, she said.
“I’m a cancer survivor, and I have to be careful about a lot of things, (including) how I eat,” she said. “It’s depressing. And it’s not conducive, for any of us, for our health.”
Early release from quarantine
Governor's director of communications Janela Carrera said all travelers coming into Guam have to quarantine.
"The reason the 10th day was chosen ... (was) because that presents the least risk for the higher-risk passengers from higher-risk areas without a negative PCR test," she said, adding that at Day 10, anyone with the virus wouldn't be as infectious.
She noted people also have the opportunity to test out of the quarantine after seven days. "Day 7 is for those who either came from a low-risk area and are under home quarantine or came from a high-risk area but have a negative PCR test."