HAGATNA, 06 APRIL 2020 (THE GUAM DAILY POST) —Six senators on Guam have introduced legislation that would impose a maximum fine of US$5,000, up to one year in prison, or both for people who don’t follow the governor’s orders to stay at home, keep a distance from others and avoid congregating as a way to stem the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
The senators who co-sponsored the bill are: Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes, and Senators Jose “Pedo” Terlaje, Amanda Shelton, Régine Biscoe Lee, Kelly Marsh and Joe San Agustin.
Governor Lou Leon Guerrero on Sunday held a press briefing to provide an update on COVID-19 but she didn’t lay out the details of her previously announced plan to deploy Guam Police Department officers and Guam National Guard troops to man checkpoints on the island’s roads.
The governor is holding off on her plan to install the checkpoints – pending clarification on the legality of such a move.
She also wants the Legislature to specifically authorise her to put extreme measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. Without extreme measures, Guam could lose 700 residents or more in five months, according to the governor’s medical advisory group.
“I don’t have the authority to stop people and ask where they’re going. That has to be legislative,” the governor said.
She also said senators must enact legislation to put road checkpoints and a curfew that applies to everybody rather than just underage children.
The governor announced:
- The public health emergency has been extended to 05 May. It was supposed to end on 13 April 13.
- Rules on social distancing and public congregating will be fully enforced.
- The military is providing 30 ventilators to Guam
- GovGuam is working on providing differential pay to front-line COVID-19 workers
- Retailers such as Kmart are being told to cordon off shelves for goods that are not essential items.
To help health care workers, Vice Speaker Telena Cruz Nelson wrote to the governor on Sunday requesting that the administration provide temporary lodging accommodations for all government employees working directly with coronavirus patients and those who face direct exposure in providing essential services.
The measure being sponsored by the six senators doesn’t mention establishing a curfew for all Guamanians or allowing law enforcement to stop people to ensure they’re on the road for essential purposes.
It gives the governor blanket authority to enforce penalties for anyone “found to be in violation of an executive order” the governor has issued during a declared emergency to health or safety.
From 13 March to 05 April, Public Health laboratories tested 604 samples and 112 came back positive. There have been four deaths.
In her letter to the speaker, the governor states severe action is needed to “respond to those on our island that have been unwilling to follow public health guidance in the shadow of this deadly virus.”
She said, “other nations, using extraordinary powers, have had some progress in curtailing the spread of COVID-19, those jurisdictions do not recognize the same strong fundamental rights afforded to Guam’s people by the Constitution.
“As governor, I must take strong measures to defeat COVID-19 while recognizing the rights of individuals grounded in the Organic Act,” she stated, adding that “additional enforcement powers … can only be granted by the Legislature.”
Leon Guerrero notes that she is prepared to call a special session of the Legislature and urged senators to “act as quickly as your responsible judgment will allow.”
Meanwhile, Nearly half of the sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt have been tested for COVID-19 and more than 1,500 who have tested negative have been moved into Guam hotels for a 14-day quarantine.
According to the Navy, 44% of the crew has been tested.
The number of sailors who have tested positive has increased to 155 from 114 two days ago, but none of the sailors remained hospitalised. The number of sailors infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 is not included in the Guam tally.
As testing continues, the ship will continue to keep enough sailors on board to sustain essential services and sanitise the ship that is docked at the mouth of Apra Harbour.
Sailors who tested negative have been moved into the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort in Tamuning and the Dusit Thani Guam Resort, Hyatt Regency Guam and other hotels in Tumon…..PACNEWS