Adelup complains about CDC labeling Guam as ‘high-risk’ for COVID-19

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero (PNC file photo)

Adelup has sent a letter to Robert R. Redfield, MD, the director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, complaining about CDC’s latest advisory designating Guam as “high-risk” for COVID-19 and thinking that Guam is a foreign country and not part of the United States.

In its advisory, dated Aug. 6, CDC recommended that travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Guam, which CDC says has a high COVID-19 risk.

“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,” the governor stated.

Though others can be forgiven for not understanding the complex history of the United States and its unincorporated territories, Leon Guerrero pointed out that the CDC should know that “we do not have a foreign ministry of health or a foreign designee at the U.S. State Department.” She said Guam’s sons and daughters carry this nation’s flag into battle and too often lay under that flag in eternal rest—that sacrifice will not be ignored.

“The CDC has been an exemplary partner throughout this crisis. That is why I believe its latest advisory must provide greater clarity than a mere headline can communicate. Namely, what fact-based metric places every U.S. territory on the same “high-level risk” even when some of those territories have zero new cases? Moreover, Guam’s test positivity rate is well below 2%—better than the following states which are closer to the national average of 8%: South Dakota, Indiana, Tennessee, and Nebraska. Our COVID-19 hospitalization rate remains stable with an average of 2-3 per day. We are also prepared for any surge in hospitalization with 83 COVID designated hospital beds (with a capacity to increase beds 200 or more) and 75 ventilators,” Leon Guerrero said.

The governor cited a recent study aired by National Public Radio (NPR) which concluded that Guam was one of the few places in the nation implementing robust contact tracing.

“While we are currently exceeding Guam’s estimated need for contact tracers based on the Contact Tracing Workforce Estimator with 56 contact tracers, we are in the process of enhancing that capacity even more. Our robust contact and tracing efforts have allowed us to detect potential clusters and test them, resulting in our number of increased cases. Through these efforts, I have adopted policies to specifically address the root causes of these clusters in a proactive way. Though no policy can eradicate COVID-19 entirely, we continually monitor our data and revise our mitigation efforts on what that data tells us,” Leon Guerrero said.

Furthermore, based on data from GovGuam’s contact investigators, the governor said most of Guam’s confirmed cases are travel-related and were identified in quarantine.

“This shows that our current mitigation strategies are effective and have prevented further community transmission. These are facts the CDC criteria does not seem to adequately weigh in their assessment,” Leon Guerrero said.

Despite the success of the U.S. territories’ response to COVID-19, Leon Guerrero said they 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. I want to close by acknowledging the great support the CDC has been throughout this crisis, but I know that we are all committed to improving where we can,” the governor concluded.