By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) Two senators answered questions about their contributions to the growing Dengue crisis. Kandit News Group asked all senators what they're doing to help with the Dengue crisis. We also asked them whether they are confident in the governor’s ability to lead this crisis, and in public health director Linda DeNorcey’s ability to manage it. Ms. DeNorcey has since left the island for a conference in Washington, D.C., and to ask for resources from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials while there.
Senator Clynt Ridgell was the first to answer our questions. He said he is not involved with the emergency response and has not spoken with the governor on what he can do to help with the situation. Mr. Ridgell has been busy preparing for the hearing he had today regarding his bill to end the Guam Power and Waterworks authorities’s backbilling practices.
“I did attend the briefing that [the governor] held for mayors and senators,” Mr. Ridgell said. “They asked that we help by spreading information.”
The senator, as well as Senator Regine Biscoe Lee, who also answered our questions, both told Kandit they have not introduced any bills to appropriate money for the emergency response. “If there is a need to I will,” Mr. Ridgell said.
Mr. Ridgell also is confident in Ms. Leon Guerrero’s ability to lead Guam through this crisis. “When World Health Organization officials were here on Guam they told a few members of the Guam Legislature including myself that they were impressed with Guam’s response.”
Regarding public health director Linda DeNorcey’s management of the crisis, he wrote, “For now I will give her the benefit of the doubt. Viral outbreaks are difficult to control. Dengue is found in numerous countries in the Pacific and Asian region. It’s not just lesser developed countries that struggle with Dengue as even countries like Australia struggle with Dengue.”
Ms. Lee has taken a more proactive role, telling Kandit, “I have directed the legislative operations staff to use our Public Access Channel to share emergency information and guidance published by our government. I have also shared information provided by our government on my social media platforms. I'm also on Guam and available in case the Governor requires emergency authority.”
Ms. Lee said she maintains “regular contact with the governor and her office. [Ms. Leon Guerrero] knows that the Legislature will help air PSAs or other emergency information related to the Dengue virus.
She goes on to say she is confident in the governor’s ability to lead because it is the people who chose her to lead the island. “I am confident in the people and the choice they made,” Ms. Lee wrote to Kandit. She also expressed full support for Ms. DeNorcey and her acting director while Ms. DeNorcey is off island, Lauren Duenas. “Both the director and deputy director of public health have spent decades in this field -- focused on the delivery of care, public health screening, and emergency response.”
Meanwhile, Congressman Mike San Nicolas prepared and has been circulating information to the public on how to prevent mosquito infection and what to do if symptoms of Dengue appear in residents. He was the first government official to prepare and disseminate any such information on Guam.
The Speaker’s Office said they will send answers to our questions tomorrow, as Speaker Tina Muna Barnes is participating in the informational briefing led by schools superintendent Jon Fernandez tonight.
Senator Therese Terlaje, the legislative chairwoman on health issues was the only senator to attend the one and only news conference on the Dengue outbreak. The senator has been vocal about the need for emergency management officials to properly inform the public of what is going on.
Ms. Leon Guerrero was scheduled to leave Guam this Thursday for a series of trips to the U.S. mainland, including a speech before the Guam Heritage Association of Nevada. She was scheduled to return to the island October 11. Governor’s director of policy Carlo Branch confirmed to Kandit tonight that she has cancelled her trip.