Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said Monday she might authorize the reopening of in-person learning as soon as next week for private schools and two weeks from now for public schools but that's contingent on the easing of COVID-19 cases.
The governor said she's been in consultations with the Guam Department of Education and the management of private schools islandwide.
While there is a tentative goal to allow the reopening of face-to-face learning, the governor said plans will change to further delay the schedule if COVID-19 cases continue to remain high.
The governor said it's important to be "very flexible and to adjust and to make quick decisions and actions."
"And so if the numbers are not stabilizing and we still see an increasing rise of numbers," she said, then the reopening could be pushed back further.
Last week, the island saw cases spike, with nearly 200 to more than 300 cases in a day on certain days from a handful just a few months ago.
On Sept. 8, four deaths were confirmed at Naval Hospital Guam. There were a total of eight deaths over the weekend and a ninth death that occurred earlier this month, according to the governor's office.
Adding to the heightened concern is the incidence of COVID-19 patients being transported to island hospitals and declared dead on arrival. There's a COVID-19 phenomenon called "silent hypoxia," according to local medical officials.
"Despite experiencing dangerously low levels of oxygen, many people infected with severe cases of COVID-19 sometimes show no symptoms of shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Hypoxia’s ability to quietly inflict damage is why it’s been coined 'silent,'" according to a study by Boston University biomedical engineers, as reported by the university.
Local officials recommended households get a gadget called pulse oximeter to know if a person's oxygen level falls below 95. If the gadget is not within reach, people are advised to get medical help immediately or call 911.
Schools can gauge their readiness
And even when the governor gives face-to-face learning the green light, she said it will ultimately be up to the schools to decide if they are ready to reopen or need more time to ensure safeguards and safety protocols can be followed on campuses.
"If they feel that they need more time to get their protocols and get their preventive measures all in place, they are allowed to have more time," the governor said.
At the Guam Department of Education, she said it's up to Superintendent Jon Fernandez and the school-based administrators, but she has authorized a two-week delay for public schools.