GDOE to start COVID testing of employees; student testing will be voluntary

Guam Department of Education (PNC file photo)

The Guam Department of Education plans to start the COVID testing of its unvaccinated employees next Monday as required by the governor’s executive order.

GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said notices have already gone out to the employees who are required to test, and this includes those who may have received only the first dose of vaccination.

“We are also inviting those employees who have said that they won’t vaccinate or test at all. We’re going to go in and give them an opportunity to comply. All in all, the updated list that we have is about 350 employees who are required to be tested, spread out across the schools, and division offices,” Fernandez said during a media briefing Wednesday.

He described the GDOE employee testing as “a rather large operation” but said they did get all the necessary authorizations from Public Health.

“Earlier this week, we met with administrators to make sure they were clear on procedures and responsibilities and how often they need to be reporting compliance to our human resources office. The notices were sent out to employees today so they understand that testing will commence,” Fernandez said.

With regard to the controversial random student testing plan, Fernandez said there isn’t a mandate that says that if a student refuses to test, there’s going to be some kind of consequence.

“It just means that we have to find a way as a department to find willing students with the consent of their parents to submit to testing. So it is voluntary. I don’t see any consequences for any students or those whose parents refuse their children to be tested,” Fernandez said.

He added that the 10 percent of a school’s population required by Public Health for testing is really just to capture enough samples of students to give administrators a sense of whether there are undetected positive cases in GDOE schools.

“So really, employee testing and student testing are two very different things and we hope to provide more information and more education to our community about what screening and testing are supposed to be and what it’s supposed to accomplish and if we end up doing it. We’re looking for volunteers, because I don’t think we’re going to be in any position to force students to test without consent, nor do I think we will be in a position to deny a student their education,” Fernandez said.