Court asked to recognize GovGuam’s quarantine authority

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    Governor Lou Leon Guerrero has petitioned the Supreme Court of Guam to recognize her administration’s quarantine authority and has filed a request for declaratory judgment on the matter.

    Filed on Dec. 24 by Adelup legal counsels Sophia Diaz and Leslie Travis, the petition stated that it is seeking declaratory relief from the Supreme Court of Guam because the judgment of a single Superior Court Judge should not be substituted for the expert opinion of the healthcare professionals who fight COVID-19 on Guam every day.

    Superior Court Judge Elyze Iriarte has been prohibiting the Department of Public Health and Social Services to quarantine individuals and ruled recently that GovGuam quarantine is more restrictive than home quarantine.

    But according to Adelup, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly noted that CDC guidance documents are just advisory and meant to be in harmony with the unique needs of local communities.

    “Quarantine is one of our most effective tools against COVID-19, and we ask the high court to recognize that fact. Every time the lower court shortens quarantine against the advice of physicians and scientists, our community is at risk. We are an island and preventing a third wave of COVID-19 requires that Guam have the legal authority to implement a quarantine policy that works for Guam,” Adelup’s petition stated.

    The petition added that CDC guidelines are not mandates on local governments, and it is the statutory duty of the DPHSS, as the designated public health authority, to consider such guidelines in light of Guam’s actual circumstances.

    “Guam’s quarantine policy is appropriately informed by CDC guidelines, science, data, and recommendations from the medical and public health communities, but it is ultimately the purview of the executive branch to set the policy, while remaining with the parameters of the law. When Courts review DPHSS policies to ensure that it is utilizing the ‘least restrictive means’ available for quarantine, that review should include a grant of deference to the DPHSS with regard to the totality of circumstances — including the resources necessary to properly monitor individuals subject to quarantine,” Adelup argued.

    In addition, Adelup requested that when DPHSS files a petition for quarantine or isolation of an individual or group of individuals, the reviewing court’s obligation is to grant such petition where such quarantine or isolation is “reasonably necessary to prevent or limit the transmission of a contagious or possibly contagious disease to others.”

    Under 10 G.C.A. §19604, DPHSS is required to ensure that the needs of persons isolated and quarantined [are] addressed in a systematic and competent
    fashion.

    In its petition, Adelup requested the court to issue a judgment declaring the following:

    1. Guidelines issued by the CDC for the quarantine of individuals are not mandates imposed on the local government, but rather serve as recommendations that must be considered in the totality of the circumstances;

    2. DPHSS is statutorily authorized to implement quarantine conditions that are more restrictive than CDC guidelines where local conditions, including the availability of medical resources and personnel and the comorbidities of the population, warrant; and

    3. When reviewing quarantine orders issued under the Emergency Health Powers Act, the appropriate standard of review is one of rational basis and where such order bears a reasonable relationship to the public health emergency and there is no plain and clear invasion of fundamental rights, such orders should be allowed to stand.

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