Dededo resident Janella Cruz testified before Superior Court of Guam Judge Elyze Iriarte on Thursday that she had been told at least three times by local health officials that she would be able to take her two teenage sons home to quarantine prior to their flight from Saipan on Sept. 8.
"I called 311," said Cruz, who was not a passenger on the flight. "I was told I would be able to receive my children, but that I need to be aware that Public Health would be inspecting while they quarantine at home. We got the house prepared for home quarantine and inspection."
Instead, Cruz along with her boys, ages 14 and 16, have spent the past 11 days at the government quarantine facility at the Dusit Beach Resort Guam in Tumon.
"They are not sleeping. My kids have expressed anger and they feel very guilty for coming home. That's what is painful for me, because why do my kids have to feel it's their fault for coming home?" she said. "No children should ever feel guilty. ... My kids were just coming home because they have to go to school."
During the virtual hearing, Cruz said she had reassured her children that it's not their fault.
"We have been crying together," she said. "We've cried many nights."
Cruz's petition was filed by attorney Rachel Taimanao-Ayuyu on Tuesday, just several days after Judge Iriarte ruled in a separate case that the Department of Public Health and Social Services should not leave travelers in the dark about their right to petition the court if they feel they're being held in quarantine against their will.
Passengers at the government site have since received a directive for temporary quarantine from DPHSS since the court's decision, but the document does not clearly inform them of their due process rights.
'We were being rushed to sign and go'
Cruz spoke about the day she and her husband went to pick up their children at the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport, expecting to take them in their personal car to quarantine at home.
"We were approached by airport police at the waiting area," she said. "They asked if I was the parent for the minors and I said yes, and he said, 'Follow me,' and we followed. My husband and I followed him into the arrival/baggage claim area. He said the kids need to be quarantined."
Cruz said they were rushed at the airport to sign the voluntary quarantine forms and get on the transport bus by a Frank Taitano.
"Mr. Taitano said, straight up, either one of us go with them or they would be placed with strangers. So we had no choice." she said. "We weren't given an opportunity to decide. We were being rushed to sign and go."
She said her children were puzzled.
"My kids were shocked and pleading, 'Mom, what happened? I said, 'Son, I don't know. Let's get on the bus and probably there is another Public Health official who could tell us what's happening.' We were scared, wondering why were we on the bus," she said, as she feared she would face criminal charges or have to pay a fine. "I didn't arrive with the passengers. I was trying to find out why I was (there)."
Both of her children had tested negative for COVID-19 prior to their flight to Guam.
Assistant Attorney General James Canto, who represents DPHSS, called infectious disease control expert Chima Mbakwem to testify about the quarantine procedures.
At least two other passengers being held in the quarantine sites have also taken the government to court, and their cases are expected to be heard today.