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Guam attorney: 'We have the right to be treated fairly'

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — More quarantined travelers have reached out to a local attorney after a Superior Court of Guam judge ruled over the weekend that the Department of Public Health and Social Services should not leave travelers in the dark about their right to petition the court if they feel they're being held in quarantine against their will.

Although travelers were asked to sign voluntary quarantine forms, the quarantine is anything but, according to the judge.

The judge's decision was issued in a case filed on behalf of Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency officer and Dededo resident Eugene Igros and his children, ages 13 and 8. He and his family were forced into a government quarantine facility after arriving from California, a condition Igros summed up for the court as being imprisoned, according to court documents.

In light of the judge's decision that Public Health should inform all quarantined travelers they have the right to petition the court for release, the Igros family's attorney, Rachel M. Taimanao-Ayuyu, said more quarantined travelers have contacted her.

"This is a civil rights issue. We have the right to liberty. We have the right to be treated fairly and evenly by our government. Every person who was detained by the government, whether it was for a short time or the full 14 days, was held in violation of their due process rights," Taimanao-Ayuyu stated.

The government of Guam had not commented on the ruling as of press time.

In her ruling Saturday, Superior Court Judge Elyze Iriarte wrote: "The court is highly concerned that DPHSS continues to quarantine individuals without having faithfully abided by Guam law."

"It is clear that the governor has mandated the quarantine of the Igros family and others, overriding any notion of a voluntary quarantine for these persons," stated Judge Iriarte.

She said she is convinced the 14-day quarantine period should continue based on advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The court is satisfied that requiring a 14-day quarantine at a government facility for incoming travelers is reasonably necessary to address the risks associated with a 'point in time' test."

The Westin Resort Guam in Tumon is pictured Sunday, Sept. 13. A civilian worker who arrived on Guam recently said he was bused to a quarantine facility at the Westin. The resort, which is not a GovGuam quarantine site, is being run to house military service members on restriction of movement. Photo by David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

 

The Igros family is expected to be released from quarantine today, the 14th day of their quarantine, even without a test.

Eugene Igros contended that his family met all the quarantine guidelines that were in place prior to their July 26 trip. There was a change in the guidelines, however. On Aug. 21, DPHSS mandated a 14-day quarantine at the government facility for all passengers arriving into Guam.

Two quarantined travelers have contacted The Guam Daily Post about the involuntary quarantine. One traveler, Marcus Lang, is a civilian worker providing essential work to the merchant marine. When Lang arrived on Guam, nearly a week ago, he was bused to a quarantine facility at the Westin Resort Guam, which is not a GovGuam quarantine site. It is being run to house military service members on restriction of movement. His company asked for an essential worker exemption but was denied.

Lang has also been billed for food and accommodations at the Westin Guam Resort, unlike in the GovGuam-designated quarantine site, which is paid for by the local government. And without the choice of being able to order food from outside the hotel, he's stuck with high food bills: $7.50 for a serving of cereal, a three-piece pancake order can be had for $16.50 or a three-egg omelet can go for $14. These were among the lower-priced items on the breakfast menu.

He stated he tested negative for Covid-19 four times prior to his arrival on Guam, and has asked to be tested again.

"On arrival to Guam, I was asked to sign a voluntary quarantine letter and was threatened with a $1,000 fine and a misdemeanor charge for failure to comply," Lang stated.

The problem that certain of the quarantined travelers have encountered upon return is that Guam's quarantine rules changed after they left the island.

'Imprisoned in Tumon'

Clarice Martinez wrote to The Guam Daily Post, that she, too is "being imprisoned in Tumon."

"I met all quarantine guidelines that were in place when I departed Aug. 15. In fact, I had a test before I left and one prior to returning," she wrote.

She is a front-line worker, and said she should have been allowed to stay home rather than being forced to stay in a hotel.

"This is a colossal waste of taxpayers' money. I could be in (a restriction of movement) in my home," Martinez wrote.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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