Guam gov takes issue with CDC label

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Posted on Aug 10 2020

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Guam’s Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero is taking exception to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent designation of Guam as a “high risk” area for COVID-19. At the very least, she said, the CDC should have known that Guam is considered a part of the United States and is not a “foreign country.”

In a letter to CDC director Dr. Robert R. Redfield last Aug. 8, Leon Guerrero said that CDC “should understand that Guam is American soil with approximately 4 million U.S. citizens that live in Guam and its ‘sister territories.’”

Despite the success of the U.S. territories in its response to COVID-19 and should have been cited as examples for states to follow, Guam was, instead, included in a high level risk list, said Leon Guerrero. To prevent more confusion, she recommends that CDC provide separate risk assessments for U.S. territories to provide a better understanding for the COVID-19 risk of each jurisdiction.

To date, there have been a total of 412 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Guam, with five deaths.

CDC also designated the CNMI as a Level 3 “high-risk” area. All areas under that designation means CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the destination. It recommends that U.S. citizens go to the “foreign ministry of health” or a foreign designee at the U.S. State Department if they feel sick when visiting Guam or the CNMI.

“While I respect the CDC’s fundamental role in protecting the nation and its people throughout this pandemic, every U.S. territory is included in the high-level risk list despite the fact that most U.S. territories have done a better job of containing COVID-19 than many states. At the very least, the CDC should understand that Guam is American soil and that approximately 4 million U.S. citizens live in Guam and its sister territories,” her letter states. “Though others can be forgiven for not understanding the complex history of the United States and its unincorporated territories, the CDC should know that…Guam’s sons and daughters carry this nation’s flag into battle and too often lay [sic] under that flag in eternal rest—that sacrifice will not be ignored.”

Leon Guerrero added that most confirmed cases in Guam are travel-related and were identified in quarantine, which shows that their “mitigation strategies are effective,” and have prevented further community transmission.

“Despite the success of the U.S. territories in our response to COVID-19, we have been included in a High Level Risk list rather than used as examples for states to follow. We recommend providing separate risk assessments for the territories to provide a better understanding for the COVID-19 risk of each jurisdiction,” said Leon Guerrero.

Over the second week of August, has had 53 new COVID-19 cases that prompted the CDC advisory and recommendation to all travelers to avoid all nonessential travel to the U.S. territory. According to the official CDC website, their page on “COVID-19 on Guam” tells travelers that they are “at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” and should consider postponing all travel, including essential travel, to Guam.

Leon Guerrero pointed out that most confirmed cases in Guam are travel-related and were identified in quarantine, which shows that their “mitigation strategies are effective,” and have prevented further community transmission.

She added that their positive rate is below 2% which is more acceptable than the national average of 8% in South Dakota, Indiana, Tennessee, and Nebraska. She also stated that Guam’s hospitalization rate remains at an average of two to three per day.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.

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