Editor’s Note: The following is a transcript of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s special address to the public that she delivered yesterday, Oct. 14, 2020.
For seven months, we have confronted the largest public health crisis in the world.
The facts are clear: Dozens of our neighbors have been lost to COVID-19. Fifty-five of these deaths occurred in the last three months alone.
Since August, we have seen more than 2,500 cases of new infection; and our public hospital is seeing more COVID-19 patients than it ever has before.
Though no one knew a great deal about COVID-19 at the start of this pandemic, our mission was to save as many lives as possible and prevent a time when the number of people infected grew so large so quickly [that] we no longer had enough doctors, nurses, and ventilators to treat them.
Our enemy is faceless and bipartisan.
It doesn’t care about our age, race, or religion—it preys on the vulnerable but it is more than capable of taking the strong.
Despite these facts, your choices—your willingness to live under restrictions, social distance, and wear masks stood down COVID-19 before.
But, as we modified quarantine requirements and began to reopen our economy, the embers of this pandemic sparked a second flame we are now struggling to control.
Under our first Stay-At-Home order, the movement of residents islandwide dropped 75% and the number of new [COVID-19] infections plummeted along with it.
The second Stay-At-Home order has been less effective—limiting islandwide movement to just 25% compared to baseline.
This time, numbers continue to rise and the demands placed on this community are profound. Thousands of families worry about the jobs they’ve lost or the businesses they’ve closed. They worry about the impact this virus will have on their futures and the futures of their children. These fears are justified.
We all have had enough, and each of us—every single one of us—wants to go back to our lives before this pandemic started.
To get there, we have to know what steps our government is taking to win and what we can do to help.
Daily testing has increased from an average of 27-a-day in March to nearly 500-a-day in October—a per capita testing rate that, according to Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the State of Hawaii’s.
We have partnered with private clinics and diagnostic labs to deliver results faster and provided them with the equipment and reagents to meet this demand.
To date, we’ve conducted over 55,000 tests—roughly about a third of our population. And, we’ve turned a small, specialized unit of six contact tracers in March to 46 right now.
Knowing that even more contact tracing help is needed, a partnership with the University of Guam and the University of California, San Francisco allowed us to train nearly 100 more personnel to join the contact tracing fight.
And, despite a worldwide shortage of medical personnel and nurses, our COVID-19 bed capacity is 122, we have 61 negative pressure beds and we can expand capacity if the need arises.
But winning the war on COVID-19 requires that we fight the battle at its source. Data tells us that multi-generational homes, especially in the north, are most vulnerable to infection. For this reason, Public Health is executing enhanced community testing—prioritizing communities and regions that have the highest frequency of positive cases.
Additionally, we are working with the mayors and leaders of these communities—with their elders and churches to help keep themselves and their families safe from COVID-19.
The steps taken have increased bed capacity, increased testing, expanded contact tracing exponentially, and touched our most vulnerable where they live.
Every resource we have is working to contain COVID-19—to slow and stop its deadly spread—but you are the solution: your choices; your commitment; and your tireless vigilance are the only way this will end.
We can wear our masks, socially distance, and stay safer at home, or we can remain where we are now—sick, and frustrated, too far apart from our family and friends.
Government can do many things, but the fight against COVID-19 will be won or lost by the decisions we make as individuals.
Guam has stood down the darkness in this world before, and we will do so again.
We do this not for ourselves or our politics—but for our children—and the hope that what we sacrifice today will win them a safer, healthier, better Guam tomorrow.
For a video of the special address, go to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QjM9T3sWqk&pbjreload=101
Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero is the governor of Guam.