The Department of Public Health and Social Services says no citations or fines were issued on Thanksgiving — the first day the $100-plus fines went into effect.
It’s either people really did heed the warnings or residents just didn’t complain about each other to Public Health and Guam Police.
Public Health spokeswoman Janela Carrera says enforcement is largely driven by complaints from the public, be it a social gathering or a business in non-compliance.
“I believe GPD received one complaint and I believe Public Health also received one complaint as well. Not sure if it was the same complaint, but no citations were issued,” Carrera said.
That complaint was unfounded.
Carrera says because of COVID’s incubation period, we won’t truly know if there are any surges or new cases associated with Thanksgiving gatherings for at least a week and it appears the intention of the fines is working.
“What we really had in mind is that it would serve as a deterrent. We also wanted it to serve more as an educational component. We wanted to give the public the opportunity to comply. It’s not meant as a punishing tool, punishment is a last resort. So, when we issue citations, that’s really the last resort,” Carrera said.
Carrera says when they show up to a call, they try to educate people first and give them the opportunity to comply.
She says depending on the situation, if there’s no room for immediate compliance or a way to rectify, then that’s when they’d issue the fine.
“There are other jurisdictions throughout the U.S. that have adopted similar fines and fees. Some jurisdictions have even steeper fines…they start out at $1000,” Carrera said.
She compares it to speeding tickets, saying residents are more likely to obey posted speed limits if they know there’s a chance they’ll be dinged financially.
Carrera says typically Public Health will respond to business or private establishment complaints and they call on to GPD to help out, although police usually respond to complaints about individuals believed to be in non-compliance.
Public Health’s citations and fines will be in effect indefinitely until COVID — in some way or another — is declared “over” on Guam. For individuals, the fines start at $100 for a first offense and $1000 for businesses… then go up from there.
Overall, Carrera says they are seeing increased compliance among residents and the drop in new positive cases is a reflection of that.
She says community spread is down and most new cases trace back to clusters like at DOC or construction companies.