It was a year ago today that Governor Lou Leon Guerrero announced that Guam’s first three cases of COVID-19 had been identified.
On Monday morning, the governor spoke with Newstalk K57’s Patti Arroyo to look back on the past year.
When COVID-19 finally hit Guam’s shores, the governor said she knew that a lockdown was inevitable.
“What really made me decide was this. I remember Josie O’Mallan said to me, ‘Governor, there is no vaccine for this virus. And if we don’t do anything right now, our island is going to be in a really bad health situation. And she said, ‘Lockdown is the vaccine,'” Leon Guerrero said.
The governor said that she had to make some hard choices as scientists and world leaders across the globe struggled to keep pace with the virus as they sought to understand it and develop an appropriate response.
Because of this, she made some decisions that proved controversial.
Her first brush with controversy was her implementation of the short-lived National Guard checkpoints on Guam’s roads.
More controversy came her way, as her administration acquired quarantine facilities because of her lack of authority to close Guam’s borders.
“I exercised my emergency powers to get that quarantine facility. And there was this whole thing out there in the media and criticism, about the way that we procured the quarantine. But the decision I made, I still stand by,” Leon Guerrero said.
She also came under fire over the decisions she made on which businesses would stay closed and which would remain open and when.
Although Guam’s economic suffering was alleviated by federal aid, after the CARES Act was passed early in the pandemic, it still wasn’t enough to stave off criticism from some sectors, especially in the business community.
Some in the business community even staged protests and rallies challenging the governor’s decisions.
“There were two competing interests here. The economic health of our island, and our people’s health. And they’re just as compelling..both..But when I look at it, I mean how can you say that life is not the most important? And yeah, you’re right. I got a lot of criticism from the community. But I stayed focused because I knew that we had to be a healthy community before we even…do anything. Before we even go to school, before we even go out there and do sports or any of that stuff. A sick community is not going to help us create jobs and all that,” Leon Guerrero.
The governor said that although her administration’s messaging efforts could’ve been improved, she still believes her response has been mostly successful.
She cited Guam’s low hospitalization rate, test positivity rate, and death rates compared to earlier in the pandemic as well as the fact that the latest numbers show that Guam is leading the nation in vaccinations.
All of which has led to Guam’s current status of PCOR 3 with a CAR score that has mostly stayed below 1.0 for several weeks, most recently hovering around 0.2 and 0.1.
She said that although she understands that people may have disagreed with her,.she based her decisions on science and she said that her own experience contracting COVID-19 as well as the calls she made to every family who lost a loved one to the disease increased her conviction that she was making the right calls.
And that she stands by her decisions.
“If I was in a position where I was confronted, I’m okay with that. They need to know from my side why decisions are made. And even when the media was hard on our decisions and hard on me, it was my job to get out there and face it and explain to them. And maybe there were times they didn’t agree with it, but that’s how it was. And I felt that, as a leader, you need to do that,” the governor said.