48 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Guam, raising the total to 1395
Guam saw 48 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, raising the total to 1,395 since March. 852 cases were active.
- Guam Memorial Hospital had nine new cases,
- Guam Regional Medical City had 18,
- Private clinics reported 14.
From August 28 to 30, there were a total of 108 cases of COVID-19:
• 66 new cases were reported on August 28.
• 39 new cases were reported on August 29.
• 3 new cases were reported on August 30.
These results are inclusive of the 60 cases previously reported by the Joint Information Center on August 29.
Decision on lockdown coming up
The governor could announce this week if the stay-at-home order will be extended again or if more restrictions could be lifted. The restriction on exercising at parks and beaches was lifted last weekend.
The island has been back in Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1 and ordered to stay home for the past couple of weeks since the spike in COVID cases.
“We are considered one of the highest new cases per capita in the nation. That’s not something to be proud of.” Leon Guerrero said on Monday during a press conference.
Leon Guerrero said she will continue to work closely on the issue with the Guam Visitors Bureau.
More Guam businesses closing
COVID-19 brought tourism to a standstill, which also impacted related businesses and displaced 35,000 workers. More local restaurants are closing as the COVID-19 pandemic and its social restrictions continue to make it impossible for the industry to make profits.
Chef and restaurant owner Lenny Fejeran said Kitchen Lingo in Hagåtña and Kådu in Mangilao will close their doors for good after Aug. 15.
The company’s Little Pika’s in Tumon continues to be temporarily closed because the tourist district is still nearly empty.
“The reason is obvious,” Fejeran said. “COVID-19 is pretty much the nail in the coffin after the restaurant industry was already hurting from increased tax, high food prices, increase in minimum wage. You want to ride it out but if you end up with zero cash, that’s very difficult to survive.”
Guam Chamber of Commerce President Catherine Castro said the extent of business closures depends on how long the pandemic lasts, even as business leaders have called on the local government to look at industries outside of tourism to grow the economy and to prioritize spending.
The past months saw the closures of restaurants and other businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including Forever 21 in Tamuning, Tony Roma’s at Agana Shopping Center, Java Junction in Hagåtña, and Froots at Agana Shopping Center.
GVB’s new forecast: 400K tourists
Guam Visitors Bureau officials revised their fiscal 2021 forecast from 251,000 arrivals to 400,000, but it’s still a steep drop from the record-breaking 1.6 million tourists who visited the island in fiscal 2019.
With that also came a revised GVB budget proposal of $9.2 million for fiscal 2021, a steep cut from the $22 million budget it proposed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the board reduced the current fiscal year’s budget from about $22 million to $12 million.
GVB presented the revised fiscal 2021 figures to Sen. Joe San Agustin’s appropriations committee during the public hearing on July 29th regarding GVB’s 2021 budget request.
Former governor and current GVB President Carl Gutierrez told senators that the bureau plans to meet with Hawaii Governor David Ige and other state officials to outline a partnership that Gutierrez said he hopes will allow Guam’s inclusion in a list of accepted destinations for Japanese tourists during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are trying to ride on the coattails of Hawaii by partnering with them,” Gutierrez said. “As a community, we have done an excellent job combating the pandemic and instituting health and safety protocols in the new normal of doing business. We now need to focus our efforts in persuading the government of our key markets – Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – to lift their travel restrictions and nonessential travel advisories for Guam.”
Sen. Therese Terlaje asked GVB officials whether Guam did something wrong and whether it can be fixed so it can also be included in Japan’s planned list of safe travel destinations.
Tourism contributes some $2.5 billion a year to the local economy and $260 million in government taxes. It employs 34% of Guam’s workforce. With tourism nearly at a standstill, those jobs and revenue are lost.
Gerry Perez, GVB vice president, said “$200,000 per hour is what this island is losing by not having tourism.”
Gutierrez said a GVB survey found that many in Japan will not travel if they have to be tested, “so we don’t know how good that is in that bubble.”
“But to be sure, we would like to ride on the coattails of Hawaii that we’re in the process right now, since yesterday, trying to be able to go over there with Dr. Mike Cruz, to see Gov. Ige and the Senate and the House to be able to appeal to them to include Guam in that bubble. Japan, I think, would really look very favorably at that,” he said.
Perez said the bureau had been talking about a travel bubble with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan since June.
GVB came up with an agreed-upon forecast of 400,000 tourist arrivals from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, taking into account health and safety protocols and source markets’ statuses.
Perez and Gutierrez said Guam, as a U.S. territory, is still being lumped together with the rest of the United States which is considered a high-risk COVID area, although Guam’s cases and hospitalization rates are lower than most jurisdictions in the mainland.
Guam has eased the 14-day quarantine for anyone traveling from a low-risk area, but arriving passengers staying on Guam for more than five days have to get tested on day five.
Anyone from a low-risk area and staying on Guam for less than five days will also be subject to testing.