Despite Guam’s 14-day quarantine policy for any incoming passengers, it seems more travelers are making their way to the island and the rooms are filling up at Guam’s quarantine hotels.
Guam Energy Office director Rebecca Respicio, who is currently heading up GovGuam’s quarantine efforts at the Pacific Star Hotel, says that as of this morning, there were around 250 travelers at the hotel, occupying some 200 rooms. That’s already an increase of 20 people from just yesterday.
She says they keep hoping to reduce staffing levels at the hotel but as restrictions around the world start lifting, Guam is actually seeing more incoming travelers.
“The Saipan flights have reopened. We still get Honolulu flights and Narita flights. Two mornings ago, we got a flight from Chuuk. So we’re are consistently getting more passengers, too. Early on in the pandemic, we’d get a Honolulu flight…believe me, a whole plane, and there would be less than 20 people on there, like 10 people coming off that plane to quarantine. Now, it’s back up in the 30s and we’re starting to get a little bit nervous,” Respicio said.
She added that most of the incoming people are residents or workers getting to the island. Some are people trying to get to their final destinations but are stuck on Guam.
GovGuam is paying for the quarantine accommodations.
Before COVID-19, Respicio was busy with work as the director of the Guam Energy Office. But Respicio said that when the island began quarantining in mid-March, the passenger demand was too great and she stepped up.
“It was only as a result of the needs building up. Having to be here late and coming back early and then passenger needs were having to be accomplished by the nurse. And when I say needs, I’m talking about non-medically related,” Respicio said.
She added: “So when that became really overwhelming for the nurse, that’s when I made the decision that somebody needs to be here 24-7. And I couldn’t just ask any of the team members…I needed to be running it. I can’t ask them to do something that I wasn’t willing to do.”
Respicio says that at the beginning, most of the controversy was around frustrated passengers who were forced into quarantine when they got to the island.
But after governor’s former chief of staff Tony Babauta’s one-night stay debacle, the focus shifted.
“Nobody was even paying attention to the quarantine processes and the community wasn’t paying attention to the quarantine processes until this spotlight situation…which was an isolated situation, it’s not a practice that we make,” Respicio said.
Respicio insists no special accommodation was made for Babauta who resigned after his one-night stay became public. Adelup said Babauta was not feeling well and checked into the hotel as a precaution.
As for the GovGuam staff accommodations at the Pacific Star, Respicio says they’re not as luxurious as people imagine, with many of the rooms converted into meeting rooms and a place for Public Health to do their casework.