Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said she might lift some restrictions that have been put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she vowed to take it slow.
“We will not rush, because rushing could be deadly,” Leon Guerrero said.
Since declaring a public health emergency for the island on March 14, Leon Guerrero has mandated social isolation, banned large gatherings and closed non-essential businesses. She’s required incoming travelers to quarantine for 14 days and implemented road closure traffic flow to discourage non-essential trips.
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“I must stress that these actions must be gradual and must not happen all at once. I will not be comfortable lifting restrictions until we know the capacity of our hospital can sustain our health care needs and we are able to expand our testing capacities,” Leon Guerrero said.
Countries like Singapore, Japan and South Korea lifted restrictions and now are battling new waves of COVID-19 cases, she said.
The upcoming recovery plan for Guam will be based on science, data and evidence, Leon Guerrero said.
“Our recovery plan will be ready when that day comes. We have come too far and lost too many and we have given too much to be lifting restrictions recklessly,” she said. “The effects of these measures, the results of our work, will be in vain if we do not remain committed to the social isolation directive.”
On Wednesday and Thursday, the government logged zero new positive cases. Known positive COVID-19 cases remained at 135 for two days in a row.
Relief checks mailed
Meanwhile, hundreds of low-income residents should be getting relief checks soon.
“You should be getting it in the mail by Monday or Tuesday next week,” the governor said in a Friday morning video address.
The government of Guam is using $11 million from the General Fund to send checks of up to $1,200 to adults and $500 per child. The money will be paid to those who reported earning $10,000 or less in 2018. GovGuam eventually will be reimbursed by the federal government.
The administration previously said the $11 million will cover 6,800 tax filers.
The Internal Revenue Service is giving Guam a total of $134.8 million for economic impact payments related to the coronavirus pandemic. While low-income residents are getting checks now, other eligible Guam taxpayers must wait several more weeks.
Recovery panel of advisers
Leon Guerrero tapped a handful of people to be on a recovery panel and counsel her on lifting pandemic-related restrictions.
“My criteria was experts who could help me with good advice,” she said of choosing the group.
The lead person is Guam Economic Development Authority Deputy Director Ricky Hernandez. Others on the recovery panel are:
- Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio
- Governor’s Chief of Staff Tony Babauta
- GEDA Board Chairman David John, president of ASC Trust
- Bank of Guam President Joaquin Cook, the governor’s son
- Bank of Guam Chief Economist Joe Bradley
- Guam Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Christine Baleto
- Guam Visitors Bureau President Pilar Laguaña
- State Surgeon Dr. Mike Cruz
- Epidemiologist Thane Hancock
- Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce’s Holly Rustick
The panel’s job is to draft policy to safely and incrementally lift restrictions, Leon Guerrero said.
Leon Guerrero said she’s also consulting President Donald Trump’s Opening Up America Again guidelines.
Disappointed with senator’s vote
Leon Guerrero wrote to Speaker Tina Muna Barnes on April 5 asking her to work with the other senators to pass legislation that would allow the governor to limit movement and impose fines and penalties for violating executive orders.
Barnes and other senators introduced a measure that would make violating an executive order during an emergency a misdemeanor punishable by jail time or a $5,00 fine or both. That bill was sent back to committee.
Another bill, Bill 335-35 emerged, which proposed allowing the governor, via executive order, to set a curfew for 15 days for all residents in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency and issue a shelter-in-place directive in response to COVID-19.
That bill failed to pass.
Leon Guerrero said she was disappointed they didn’t pass the curfew legislation.
“I was very disappointed, but that’s not going to stop me in making sure the measures that we put in are measures that’s going to monitor people’s movements and access to roadways,” she said.