Official defends Public Health’s quarantine policy

Chima Mbakwem (PNC file photo)

A recent decision by the Guam Superior Court said Public Health must allow a woman to quarantine at home if it has the resources to monitor her.

This is the latest salvo in the battle over whether GovGuam’s policy on quarantine is too restrictive.

Chima Mbakwem, Public Health’s lead on COVID containment, spoke with Newstalk K57’s Patti Arroyo about it.

Mbakwem said that although he wasn’t at liberty to talk about the court ruling, he was able to go into the science of the virus.

He said that people who use the current success at controlling COVID spread as justification to relax quarantine measures are comparing two different things.

Mbakwem said that while the island has enough resources to control spread internally, the introduction of new cases from off-island could exceed the island’s ability to cope.

He compared this to getting a fire under control, only to introduce a spark from elsewhere to start the fire anew.

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“Every day, we’re looking at what we have on the ground. We’re looking at institutions elsewhere and looking also at how they are managing their problems. Like New Zealand, they just got zero COVID. But they’re not allowing travelers into the island. Because they understand the chances of imported cases, because of what is happening around them. So I think for imported cases, we need to tread a little more cautiously until there’s a definitive approach on how to curtail people coming into the island that might cause spread,” Mbakwem said.

The governor submitted a request for declaratory judgment to the Guam Superior Court last Thursday.

In the request, the governor asked the court to declare that Public Health is legally authorized to impose quarantine policies that are stricter than CDC guidance when local conditions call for them.

She also asked that quarantine orders issued under the Emergency Health Powers Act be allowed to stand if there’s no clear violation of fundamental rights and the order bears a rational relationship to the public health emergency.