Guam has become a coronavirus hotspot—and the governor says the island is ‘sick’

covid-19 in guam
Photo via Kazuhisa OTSUBO/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

After months of keeping COVID-19 cases contained, Guam has become the latest hotspot in the pandemic. The small U.S. island territory in Micronesia has reported more than 300 new infections in a one-week span at the end of August, according to the Atlantic’s COVID-19 tracker, accounting for more than 21% of the island’s total cases in 2020. Cases of COVID-19 in Guam continue to rise, and it’s caused the governor to say the island is ill.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say Guam is at a level 3 warning. The CDC noted that COVID-19 risk in Guam is high and recommended people avoid all non-essential travel to the territory. 

“Although COVID-19 risk in Guam is high, it remains lower than in many of the 50 United States,” the CDC said in its travel notice. “CDC recommends limiting travel to Guam to essential travel such as humanitarian aid work, medical reasons, or family emergencies.” 

Pacific Daily News reported that the virus has even spread to government officials. On Aug. 29, Asan-Maina Mayor Frankie Salas was the latest official to test positive for COVID-19. Sen. Wil Castro, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, and Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio also tested positive for the virus in August. 

Leon Guerrero announced a one-week extension of the Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1 lockdown on Aug. 28. According to the Guam Daily Post, she also extended the public health emergency for Guam until Sept. 30. 

“Our island right now is sick,” Leon Guerrero said during the briefing. 

She also stressed the need for residents to follow basic safety precautions to curb the virus’ spread. 

“We live in a free society. We have rights. We also have responsibilities. Every time we willfully violate a public health order; every time we refuse to wear a mask. Every time we downplay the danger of COVID-19, we dishonor and disrespect those who sacrifice for us every day,” Leon Guerrero said. “Make no mistake, you are our best tool against this virus. If we each do our part, if we each protect each other with social distancing and mask wearing, again we will prevail.”

The main concern for cases of COVID-19 on the island is the growing hospitalization rate. The island has just four hospitals, and by mid-August, the Guam Daily Post reported that 80% of ICU beds were occupied.  

“As we operate on Guam with our fragile healthcare system, this is it being stressed to the limit, which we’ve never seen in modern times,” Dr. Felix Cabrera, a member of the governor’s physicians’ advisory group, said. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

With a population of roughly 165,000 people, Guam has reported more than 1,500 COVID-19 infections and more than 10 subsequent deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Sources: The Atlantic, CDC, Pacific Daily News, Guam Daily Post

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