By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, who is serving as the acting lieutenant governor while Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio is attending to a family matter off island, has been busy over the past couple days. She and her office have become more immersed in the handling of the emergency response plan. Below this story we provide the four images of flyers and information sheets her office sent to Kandit News Group. She asked that we share this information with the public.
Ms. Barnes today responded to a series of questions by Kandit regarding senatorial involvement in the emergency response to the Dengue crisis, and the senators's confidence in the governor's leadership and the public health director's management of the crisis. We provide her response in its entirety:
I believe that my greatest asset in this situation is to play the role of a facilitator. As Acting Lt. Governor, I have spoken to the Governor and her representatives throughout the different agencies, and it seems apparent that our Government is doing what we need.
As my office did our own independent research on what else can our Government do to address this situation, I had my staff look at the various Emergency Response Guides from different jurisdictions that have been put in place. There seems to be a consensus on three main elements that address a Public Health Emergency Response to a Dengue outbreak.
These elements are:
• Public education • Identify high-risk areas
• Identify breeding sites
Since the Emergency Declaration, the Joint Information Center has been activated to provide the latest updates to the community. Last Wednesday, I was provided a briefing by the Centers for Disease Control and the Guam Homeland Security Briefing Room and immediately thereafter, a Press Conference was held to share the updates with the community. I also did a Public Safety Announcement to help raise awareness. I was provided with a few flyers and a FAQ’s sheet which I am sharing with you so that you can help me get the word out. As a policy- maker, I am grateful for the education campaign and the ability to ask questions so that I can better understand what we can do to minimize the spread.
Identify High Risk Areas
Since the identification of confirmed dengue cases on our Island, from my understanding insecticides have been sprayed around areas where cases have been confirmed. Furthermore, other mitigation efforts are underway within schools. Based on last nights Information Session hosted by GDOE, I was delighted to hear that proactive measures are being taken to reduce the potential of being bitten by a mosquito. These include relaxing of the uniform policy to allow for long sleeves and pants, school administrators being tasked with identifying mosquito breeding sites within their campus and the support of the GDOE Maintenance Division to eliminate such sites. I also spoke to Mr. Juan Flores, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools and he had mentioned that within the Catholic Schools System, individual schools are using their funds to proactively spray pesticides within their schools. Both Mr. Fernandez and Mr. Flores have been in close communication with their staff and they are taking action. With regards to Harvest Christian Academy, I understand that there was a confirmed case there but their team, in tandem with the Governor’s Office have been working closely with stakeholders to address proactive steps that have been taken. From my understanding, DPHSS is disseminating informational letters to all Catholic schools, private schools, charter schools, and DODEA schools with information for parents and staff regarding the dengue virus.
Identify Breeding Sites
It was shared with me that DPHSS’ Epidemiology and Surveillance Teams continue canvassing homes and notifying residents in the areas of concern to help clean any potential breeding sites. Furthermore, a government-wide effort by the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Mayors’ Council of Guam, Chamorro Land Trust Commission, Department of Agriculture, Guam Environmental Protection Agency, and the Guam Police Department continue to work together in areas of concern.
DPW continues collecting and transferring debris and to eliminate mosquito breeding sites, DPW, working with the Dededo Mayor’s Office, removed 28 abandoned vehicles, 20 white goods appliances, and 554 tires from the high-risk area identified in Dededo.
I was also informed that discussions are being had with other Federal Partners to determine what other measures and resources can be provided with regards to prevention efforts.
Director Denorcey is meeting with stakeholders at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials to seek additional assistance on this Dengue Outbreak. She has entrusted Acting DPHSS Director Laurent Duenas and remains in close communication with the Acting Director. At yesterday’s Information Session, Acting Director Duenas shared that they are working with the Pacific Island Health Officers Association who has native speakers from the region to further the outreach efforts to members of our community. Furthermore, DPHSS informed us last night that mosquito nets are being provided free of cost by DPHSS for members of our community.
As I have stated before, should this funding run out, I am on standby to call the Guam Legislature into session to ensure that we give those on the front-lines what they need to combat this in the most expedient way possible. Pursuant to § 1.02(b)(1)(ii) of our Standing Rules of the 35th Guam Legislature:
'Emergency sessions. At any time when I Liheslaturan Guåhan is in recess or has adjourned, the Speaker, or the Acting Speaker, may summon I Liheslaturan Guåhan upon at least two (2) hours notice to convene for whatever period of time I Liheslaturan Guåhan shall deem required; provided that the Speaker shall certify in writing that an emergency condition exists which I assure you that as soon as the money runs out, the Legislature will work closely with the Administration to have a bill sent down and I will call Session for two hours later.'
With regards to your concerns regarding the 5 day reporting requirement, based on my experience in the 7 terms that I have been in office, the five day requirement as prescribed by law, is once such transactions are complete. Once the Administration informs me that the funds have run out, that means that no more transactions can be made, and within five days I should have a report at my office outlining such transactions. I had reached out to the Governor’s Office and they have assured me that they are aware of these requirements and that they will be providing me with what the law mandates.
In closing, I was provided with a few flyers, as well as FAQ sheet, I hope you can assist me in sharing this with our community.