The USS Ronald Reagan and her crew departed Guam for sea on Wednesday. The ship pulled into Naval Base Guam on Saturday for a “Safe Haven Liberty” allowing the crew some “COVID-safe” time off the ship.
The Navy had said during the ship’s time in port, “Sailors continue to safely take part in recreation and morale activities within the designated beach and pier liberty areas, with no physical interaction with base personnel or anyone not part of the ship’s crew.”
There was public criticism after a video circulated of Raegan sailors on the pier without masks and not spaced 6-feet apart.
To which, Joint Region Marianas issued a statement saying, “since the majority of the USS Ronald Reagan team has remained sequestered ashore, aboard ship and at sea for more than 100 days, the wear of masks and social distancing will not be required by the crew while in open air off-ship.”
Rear Admiral John Menoni, live on air with K57’s Patti Arroyo Thursday morning added, “think of the Ronald Reagan crew members as one giant family that’s lived in the same house together for the past 100 days and has had nobody come over and visit. They’ve been at sea for 100 days, they’ve lived in that house, they have no COVID cases, they know their population and they’re a homogenous unit.”
The military additionally said, “to preserve the ship’s COVID-free bubble, local support personnel made required supply deliveries to the pier prior to the ship’s arrival and the pier was properly sanitized before being opened to the crew.”
It’s unclear if the Reagan will remain at sea or return to its homeport in Japan, with JRM Lieutenant Commander Rick Moore saying, “due to operational security, I won’t be able to discuss the ship’s future operations.”
The Naval Base had closed its Gab Gab beaches to accommodate the sailors’ liberty, however a different beach on Naval remained open last weekend to accommodate families and patrons.
Since then, the base issued an update on their Facebook Page, saying “in line with current PCOR 1 limitations, all beaches on Naval Base Guam are closed until further notice. Beaches will remain available for sandbox liberty only.”
Moore confirmed that despite the USS Raegan taking to sea, the NBG beaches will remain closed until further notice.
Andersen’s Tarague Beach remains open however, with base officials there saying doing so allows “physical activity and relaxation to ensure continued mental and physical readiness.”
In a statement posted to their Facebook Page, AFB says:
“Patrons are required to follow all 36 Wing COVID-19 mitigation measures. While using the Tarague beach recreational area and roadways, whether you are driving, walking, jogging or relaxing on the beach, please give all other users extra room…We are all trying to stay safe and get our fresh air in peace, so please give a little extra room.”
There was local chatter on social media over the discrepancy in beach policies inside and outside the fence over the weekend.
To which, JRM Commander Menoni said, “although people would want everything to be aligned and neat, and in its boxes exactly the same way inside and outside the fence lines, throughout this crisis, while the military has tried to align very closely with the Government’s [Guam] different policies, in some cases we can’t.”
“I would like to remind everybody that when we saw this virus pop on the Island back in March, the Government of Guam went to PCOR 1, and the military went to a roughly equivalent HPCON Charlie. And whereas the Government started to pull out PCOR 1, going to PCOR 2 I believe in mid-May…because of our mission, we stayed in HPCON Charlie all the way up to August 8. So we had very restrictive policies on all military installations on the Island,” added Menoni.
The Admiral said he’s in conversation with the Governor regularly on these issues to ensure doing what’s best for the community.
“So there is a misalignment. In fact, the military has been more restrictive. And what we see with that, while it definitely helps protect our sailors, soldiers, airmen, and coastguardsmen, and it preserves our mission readiness, we end up with…potential physical fitness issues and mental health issues, and you need both of those to have an effective force,” said Menoni.
The Naval base is additionally fining people for violations to any public health order, including not wearing a mask on the premises. “Pursuant to Section 271 of Title 42, U.S.C., violators are subject to a fine up to $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both,” according to NBG’s latest Public Health Order. The base is in HPCON Charlie, the second strictest of the HPCON levels.