Military worried about Guam COVID spike and hospital capacity

Admiral John Menoni (PNC file photo)

The Commander of Joint Region Marianas says Guam service members are not immune to the COVID spike outside the fence and he’s worried about the island’s hospital capacity.

Reflecting on the recent rise in DoD COVID cases, Rear Admiral John Menoni reiterated what officials have been reporting: that these cases are contracted off-base, locally.

“Because what happens outside the fence of the bases absolutely affects what’s inside the fence lines and vice-versa. If you remember the USS Theodore Roosevelt, that was a huge concern that we were going to bring it from on-base to off-base. Now, we’re seeing a reverse vector, that’s the situation we’re dealing with at this point,” Menoni said.

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In an exclusive interview with Newstalk K57, Menoni says the need to be vigilant on both sides of the fence is critical

“I’m always worried about capacity. And the reason is, we have a population of 167,000 last I saw. Simple math shows that, if we don’t get this thing in check and people become symptomatic and require hospitalization, it can go very bad, very fast, and overwhelm our healthcare workers,” Menoni said.

Local authorities, including the head of GMH and GRMC, are working with FEMA to request some 40 additional nurses, more doctors, and respiratory therapists as the island grapples with a COVID spike stretching every institution’s capacity.

As for whether the military will be called in to support, the JRM Commander says he cannot make the decision alone.

“Because it is above my level and above the Governor’s level, it’s at a federal level. Right now,  DoD, FEMA, and Government of Guam are all coordinating on that request,” Menoni said.

But the Admiral says they are preparing.

“We’re working through this and monitoring it and I’m talking with potential off-island sources of support, should the tasking come to DoD, to make sure everyone is aware of what’s happening on the ground here. So that when they show up, we shorten the timeline of that whole learning process before they really can get to work,” Menoni said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will be on the island this weekend meeting with the Governor and the State Surgeon.

They’ll be discussing Guam’s critical needs, with more than triple the amount of new COVID cases in just this month alone.