By Troy Torres
Leah Metra asked quarantine program manager Rebecca Respicio why her brother in law, Paul Metra, and her son, Jonathan Metra, couldn't be tested for COVID-19 and released from hotel quarantine if the result comes back negative.
Ms. Respicio didn't have a coherent answer, according to Ms. Metra.
Indeed, Kandit News has asked the Joint Information Center and the Governor's Office this same question. We asked several government officials Monday, "Why are you guys still quarantining travelers, when you're able to test them now?"
None of them - governor's communications director Janela Carrera, governor's spokeswoman Krystal Paco, Civil Defense spokeswoman Jenna Blas - have answered this simple question.
The hotel quarantine program started as an answer to the arrival of both returning residents and tourists to Guam, so that they would be kept away from the rest of the population for a 14-day period. That 14-day period is the time health officials believe the Coronavirus develops in the human body enough for symptoms to start showing. If the quarantined person goes through the 14 days of quarantine at these hotels without showing symptoms, then they're free to go.
The supposed need for this program developed during a time, when the government of Guam did not have enough test kits to test the people coming off planes. But, that's changed.
For the past month, GovGuam and private clinics have had thousands of test kits; more than enough to test arriving passengers.
For Ms. Metra, the injustice of her brother in law and son being denied testing by Ms. Respicio is compounded by two other factors:
Both of them were cleared by antibody blood tests they took in Los Angeles within 72 hours of their arrival to Guam; and
They both came to Guam to bury their immediate relative - Paul's mother; Jonathan's grandmother, who died on May 5.
According to the quarantine program rules, and to Ms. Respicio's sworn testimony before the Guam Legislature, people coming to Guam, who have a medical clearance showing they tested negative for Coronavirus within 72 hours of arrival, are allowed to leave the airport with their families.
"We were there to pick them up, and we were waiting and waiting until someone came out and said, 'If the person you're waiting for hasn't come out already, then they are being transported to the quarantine facility,'" she told Kandit in an interview. Ms. Metra has taken to social media over the past week after constant attempts by her family to release her relatives have fallen on deaf ears.
They do not have a big family. The only people left (outside of quarantine) after her mother in law died are her father in law, his son (her husband), and their daughter.
Ms. Respicio also reiterated to senators the program's rule exempting travelers from hotel quarantine if they came to Guam to bury a loved one.
"[Respicio] asked me when the funeral is and I told her, 'It's on May 29,' and she just said, 'They'll make it out with plenty of time for the funeral,'" Ms. Metra said, commenting on the heartlessness of the response from the program manager.
She said Kane Agan, a public health official, told her the blood antibody test both her brother in law and son took in Los Angeles does not meet public health's requirements for medical clearance. Mr. Agan told her they needed to take the nasal swab test.
"My son took that test as well," she said. "And no where in their procedures does it state what type of test they have to take."
She is correct. The rules the government set up does not state the type of test that must be taken.
Listen to this on-the-phone interview with Leah Metra: