Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has dialed back her latest vaccination orders, easing restrictions on businesses, their employees and customers.
According to an executive order she signed late Monday night amending her Friday orders, customers and employees of certain businesses will need to show proof of receiving at least one vaccine shot prior to entering. The mandate begins today for customers. For employees, the mandate begins September 27.
If an employee of what is known as a ‘covered establishment’ refuses or cannot comply with the vaccine requirement, “they will be required to test for COVID-19 once weekly, as provided in applicable DPHSS guidance,” according to Executive Order No. 2021-20.
Covered establishments include all restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms, fitness centers, dance studios, movie theaters, food courts at shopping establishments, bowling alleys, sporting events, concerts, boat cruises, “ands other establishments and events that may be identified in applicable DPHSS guidance,” Ms. Leon Guerrero’s order states.
The governor, fresh from meetings with her medical advisors and the island’s largest business group imploring her reconsideration of her Friday orders, appeared conciliatory in a special address she released late Monday night.
“My greatest fear is we will not be able to provide hospital care to our people,” the governor said, striking at a theme she has been consistent with throughout the pandemic. “In the last week we have increased by 175 percent of COVID admissions to the hospital. The vaccine prevents serious illness and shortens its duration, and it has been proven that it prevents hospital admissions. Data tells us that 90 percent of our COVID hospital admissions in 2021 are not vaccinated individuals.”
The Joint Information Center simultaneously released nightly data, which confirmed the 145th coronavirus-related death; hospital coronavirus admissions correspondingly reduced from 25 to 24, but the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU and on ventilators had jumped.
“As of this recording, there are 16 covid admissions at GMH alone; 15 of whom are not vaccinated and 4 of whom are in the ICU; and 3 on ventilators,” Ms. Leon Guerrero said. “We only have 18 ICU beds.”
The limited number of ICU beds, and doctors and nurses to tend to them, has been at the heart of Ms. Leon Guerrero’s policies, whenever she has imposed or eased restrictions during the public health emergency. Still, her policies – sometimes seen as Draconian – have been met with significant resistance at times, and with constant calls by some for senators to end her public health emergency.
The governor draws from enormous power during a state of public health emergency via the Emergency Health Powers Act. She may set aside laws, procurement regulations, public notice requirements, and to a degree, due process of law, under the emergency powers she is granted. She has invoked these powers since March 2020 without break.
Her orders Monday night also extended those powers, when she extended the public health emergency again to September 29. Ms. Leon Guerrero has issued similar orders monthly, as the law allows a public health emergency to exist only for 30 days at a time, or until the governor declares it again. According to the statute, which is codified as Chapter 19 of Title 10 of the Guam Code Annotated, the Legislature may end the emergency.
Following the outcry from businesses and doctors, eight of the 15 senators Monday tried to override the veto of legislation that would have changed the Emergency Health Powers Act and required the governor to request legislative approval prior to the renewal of a public health emergency. An override of a gubernatorial veto requires 10 senatorial votes.
Republican senators Jim Moylan, Frank Blas, Jr., and Chris Duenas then introduced Bill No. 180-36, which would require legislative approval during a public health emergency for the governor to institute fines, give citations, or require vaccines.
According to the Emergency Health Power Act, the governor may mandate vaccines on the population. The law was created two decades ago by then-Sen. Eddie Calvo.