Despite AAFB outbreak, plan to reopen Guam to tourism still on

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Despite the outbreak of 35 COVID-19 cases amongst an unnamed military unit at Andersen Air Force Base, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero this afternoon said she does not expect that outbreak to delay her plans to reopen the island to tourists from South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan on July 1.

The airmen were initially lodged at the Reef Hotel in Tumon and Department of Public Health and Social Services Director Linda DeNorcey has acknowledged that some of them violated their restricted movement orders and left the hotel to patronize some businesses in Tumon.

36th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Gentry Boswell said an investigation has been launched and those who violated orders will be disciplined.

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“At this time I have initiated a command investigation into this matter to determine the facts. All military members are subject to the established public health emergency protocols. If the ensuing investigation determines that members did not follow these directives in a disciplined manner, I can assure you they will be held accountable for their actions under the uniformed code of military justice,” Boswell said.

The unit arrived at Andersen Air Force Base on May 25 but it was not until June 11, 17 days after their arrival, before the first airmen showed signs and tested positive. During much of that time, the unit, including the 35 who subsequently tested positive was at the Guam Reef hotel.

DeNorcey said all 74 employees at the Reef have been offered free testing and seven of them are considered to be at high risk

“We launched a complete investigation with the Reef. We started there and there are seven high-risk contacts that we identified out of the 74 employees. All employees have been offered testing and as mentioned earlier they are undergoing the testing. We’ll provide some more information as soon as we get the results and that would be in 24 to 48 hours,” DeNorcey said.

In addition, DeNorcey acknowledged that contact tracing is being done at various businesses in Tumon that members of the unit, in violation of orders, may have patronized while they were at the Reef Hotel. But she could not, at this time, say what establishments the wayward airmen might have visited.

“In regard to their whereabouts and your question within the community that again is under investigation through our staff doing their due diligence in regards to close contacts and any other exposure potentially if there is in the community. So I don’t have that information yet, it’s still under investigation but we will let the public know,” DeNorcey said.

She added: “When we had the first case, we put everyone on restriction and once we had the positive on two cases within 24 hours, we moved everyone onto Andersen Air Force Base under medical quarantine just to be safe.”

Citing operational security concerns, Brig. General Boswell declined to name the unit, where the unit came from, what’s its purpose here is, or the total number of members in the unit.

However, all 35 positive cases remain in isolation. They’re being medically monitored and none of them have medical complications.

The incident raises questions about the governor’s plans to re-open the island to visitors from the so-called low-risk countries of South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan on July 1

“The plans to open tourism on July 1 remain. We’ll see what happens in the next two weeks. Because if those metrics that I just said change to be alarming then, yes, plans will change, but right now we are moving forward with opening tourism on July 1st,” the governor said.

The governor also acknowledged that there is still some debate in her administration about whether to require arriving tourists to be tested. She said if a quick and efficient method could be found to do that then yes, arriving tourists would be tested.

But such a method is not yet available and as of now she said no testing and no quarantine will be required for passengers arriving from South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan as of July 1.

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