Is the 14-day mandatory quarantine for all incoming travelers at a government facility the least restrictive measure that the Department of Public Health and Social Services has available? This was the focus of ongoing COVID-19 petitions before the Superior Court of Guam.
One of the questions before the court is whether or not the mandatory quarantining protocols are the least restrictive measures available to stem the spread of the infection.
The government has stated that the quarantining of all incoming travelers at a quarantine hotel is the best plan to fight the spread, asserting that COVID-19 was brought into Guam by a traveler.
Public Health’s head of infection control has also gone on record stating that data from the period when travelers were allowed to home quarantine upon arrival was also the highest rate of non-compliance. Chima Mbakwem, in charge of Public Health’s Infection Control, previously stated that “now we are paying for it.”
Called to testify in the Superior Court of Guam, the Governor’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Felix Cabrera, stood by the quarantining measures in place, reiterating that this is the best plan the government has. Cabrera compared Guam to Hawaii, telling the court that Hawaii’s traveler restrictions are more relaxed because they have more resources than our island.
He broke down the resources the Government of Guam has available to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and treat patients requiring hospitalization. As of this morning, there are 27 COVID positive patients at the Guam Memorial Hospital, with 10 on ventilators. Cabrera told the court that this is beyond the normal capacity of the ICU unit.
Cabrera, who is part of the governor’s Physician Advisory Group, says there is a growing concern that the overall capacity at GMH and GRMC will not be able to handle COVID-19 patients and non-COVID-19 patients should there be a dramatic increase in those needing hospitalization.
Cabrera says they are making efforts to increase capacity. He mentioned the recent arrival of traveling nurses, the procurement of medical tents, and the possibility of alternative sites like the UOG field house and a hotel ballroom to respond to this type of scenario.
However, overtime the use of alternative sites, according to Cabrera, is not sustainable for more than a month or two. He pointed out that typhoon season must also be taken into account.
Cabrera firmly believes that the measures in place — such as COVID testing on travelers on the 6th day of quarantine and sending those who are negative home to ride out the remainder of their quarantine — is the least restrictive and the most beneficial in ensuring that our medical facilities to reach critical overload.