Governor orders shutdown of some businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic

Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK
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Fitness centers, bars, movie theaters and sit-down restaurants are among the businesses that must close by noon Friday to stop the spread of the coronavirus, according to an executive order signed Thursday by Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.

The goal is to reduce face-to-face interaction, the order stated.

The governor’s order also waives licensing requirements for health care workers, stating the current requirements make it difficult to quickly staff the government’s pandemic response team.

Prohibitions on gatherings and businesses will continue through March 30, the order stated.

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An executive order signed Thursday by Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero requires that most businesses close by noon Friday to stop the spread of the coronavirus on island.

"We're shutting down entirely, even though we took all the precautionary measures," said Ray Rupley, owner of popular Tamuning restaurant and bar Horse & Cow. He said the business has been cleaning often and also limiting occupancy, as required by an earlier government order.

Rupley said he disagrees with the closure order and said business already has been difficult.

"It's a painful sight," he said, adding many of his employees work a couple of jobs in order to make ends meet. "This two weeks is gonna be very tragic. I don't know how we're gonna make that up for them."

The Organic Act gives the governor authority over public health on Guam. The governor’s Saturday declaration of a public health emergency gives the governor and the Department of Public Health and Social Services the ability to restrict movement and to close businesses, among other emergency powers.

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The governor’s order prohibits gatherings or congregations related to:

  • public entertainment;
  • food and beverage service at a bar or table;
  • recreation;
  • bowling;
  • fitness; and
  • other similar activities.

All businesses must close and cease on-site operation by noon Friday, through March 30, the order states, but the following types of business activity and operations can continue:

  • health care;
  • essential infrastructure, to include utilities and housing construction;
  • public transportation;
  • grocery stores;
  • farmers markets;
  • food banks;
  • convenience stores;
  • and businesses that help the economically disadvantaged;
  • pharmacies;
  • health care supplies;
  • gas stations;
  • auto repair;
  • banks and credit unions;
  • garbage collection;
  • hardware stores;
  • plumbers,
  • electricians and similar service providers;
  • schools, in order to facilitate distance learning;
  • dry cleaners, laundry services and laundromats;
  • shipment or delivery of groceries and goods; and
  • security, payroll and similar basic services required by essential businesses.

Delegate called for lockdown

Before the executive order was issued, Del. Mike San Nicolas joined local leaders in asking the governor to place Guam on lockdown and keep flights from coming to Guam.

"I respectfully implore your reconsideration and join the rest of our island's leaders in urging you to take the necessary steps to facilitate a community-wide lockdown and mandatory group stop of commercial passenger traffic for the A.B Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority," he wrote to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.

San Nicolas joined local leaders and the Guam Medical Association who asked the governor to require residents to stay home and to stop all inbound travel to prevent the spread of the disease.

San Nicolas said while the Federal Aviation Administration makes the determination regarding ongoing airport operations, the governor can formally communicate a request to do so.

San Nicolas said any action to contain the virus serves as a substantial reason to close most commercial passenger travel at the airport.

San Nicolas said he is making efforts to ensure Guam's needs are included in various economic stimulus packages considered at the national level.

"Let us focus on flattening the health risk exposure curve now and we will fill the economic gaps as we save lives," he wrote

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