Public Health official defends quarantine policy

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Chima Mbakwem is in charge of Public Health's Infection Control and Response to COVID-19.

Public Health’s lead for Infection Control and Response to COVID-19, Chima Mbakwem came out swinging on K57’s Patti Arroyo’s show Wednesday, standing by the department’s protocols for quarantining incoming travelers and saying this is the best plan to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Despite numerous complaints of inconsistencies by travelers who have been held in quarantine complaining that they were not being fed on time, or that their underlying health issues weren’t being addressed, Mbakwem says they are going above and beyond to protect the community, pointing out that they have a robust medical team including a psychologist to take care of those needs.

He stressed that decisions aren’t made on the fly, they are based on the bigger picture and ce contends that the argument isn’t about quarantining but instead the location of the quarantine not being travelers’ homes.

“It’s about understanding the concept, a lot of people are picking and choosing what arguments to satisfy their own end without looking at the bigger picture of what the quarantine system is supposed to do for us as a community. The person at the hotel room is complaining about being locked up in the room. The individual in the isolation facility who actually has the disease is not complaining because that individual understands that they are being taken from their home to a place where they can stay so they don’t infect their family members. Their family members are quarantined at home which is their location so that if they are infected the island the community is safe,” Mbakwem said.

While Mbakwem says this is the best plan for the island, others in the medical community don’t share the same view. Dr. Tom Shieh wrote a letter to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero asking her to not lock up Guam residents in government hotels or facilities. He contends that the CDC provides no recommendation for quarantine post-travel arrival. He further argues that the CDC has moved from a testing-based monitoring protocol to a symptom-based protocol stating that the test-based strategy is no longer recommended, adding that there is no scientific data to support that quarantining in a government facility will prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Since the quarantine of travelers began in March, Public Health Program Coordinator Janela Carrera states that 102 quarantined travelers have tested positive. Out of that number 33 have tested positive while in quarantine in the past four weeks alone.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.