Resolution to end public health emergency fails

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April 17, 2022--Anti-mandate protesters gather outside the Guam Congress Building to show support for Resolution 291-36. (Photo by Don Sulat)

Resolution 291 has failed in a 7-to-6 vote.

As PNC previously reported, the resolution, introduced by Senator Chris Duenas, would have terminated the public health emergency (PHE) that began in 2020.

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Yesterday, leaders and officials from the Guam Recovery Office, the Office of Homeland Security (OHS), the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS), the Department of Administration (DOA), and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) met to discuss the Resolution before the 36th Guam Legislature.

Session lasted hours as officials and senators debated the implications of the termination with one of the major ramifications being financial drawbacks.

Over $60 million in federal grants could be lost with the termination of the PHE, one of the attendees pointed out. Another pointed out that dropping the PHE would also drop the emergency allotment for SNAP benefits–that is, about $70 million in federal grants.

On top of the financial side, the termination of the public health emergency also can affect other aspects of the community.

“But [dropping] the PHE would cause significant operational challenges because then the person running the operations–the vast majority of them–would be immediately removed from the services provided to the community,” said Fernando Estevez, Incident Commander for COVID-19 Response.

In his opening remarks, Duenas stated that they are not in a hurry to end the public health emergency; they are in a hurry to get reports to the people, transparency, and accountability.

Duenas asked the panel for black-and-white documentation of the repercussions for terminating the PHE.

In stiff opposition to the bill, Senator Clynt Ridgell argued the resolution was politically motivated and not backed by science.

Ultimately, no Democrat senator in attendance–that is, 7–voted for the bill. Meanwhile, the resolution gained complete support from Republican senators in attendance–that is, 6.