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Guam construction projects halted

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — The Department of Public Health and Social Services has directed the suspension of all construction projects after Friday, following the discovery of a significant Covid-19 cluster at one local construction company on Sept. 9, and additional cases discovered in two other companies on Sept. 11.

The government of Guam has declined to name the construction companies.

"Guam's construction industry relies heavily on foreign labor and a significant portion of the construction workforce is housed in congregate settings," a release from the Joint Information Center stated.

"These companies have worksites throughout the island, including on military installations, government of Guam projects and local private sector projects. The emergence of this cluster and the threat presented by the additional cases pose a significant danger to the public health of the construction workforce, industries associated with these projects, and the larger community. Immediate action is necessary to protect against further spread," the JIC added.

The military's Joint Region Marianas stated, in part, it will work with GovGuam for the "continued essential military construction progress while maintaining the best practices to protect the community and prevent the spread of Covid-19."

Public Health spokeswoman Janela Carrera did confirm 74 positive cases were identified at one company.

Sources identified the largest cluster of cases is at a workers' barracks in Barrigada.

It's possible they are a mixture of H-2B workers and local workers, Carrera added.

Public Health learned of the 74 cases over five testing days, from Aug. 28 through Sept. 9, Carrera said.

"Right now, it's still under investigation," she added. "Our caseworkers are actively investigating all angles, all parameters of this case, from quarantine to isolation, ensuring the health and safety of all cases - all positive cases, all negative cases - to protect all those involved at the construction site, as well as the public."

All 74 cases are properly isolated and their contacts have been quarantined, she added.

"The spread of the infection has stopped so the mitigation plan that we put into place is working," Carrera said. She clarified this meant Public Health is not identifying additional cases among the contacts from the cluster.

There are three cases at a second company and five cases in the third construction company, Carrera said.

Public Health will conduct site visits of workers' barracks and dormitories, the JIC release stated.

"Businesses that refuse to comply with this directive may be subject to fines and/or the termination of business licenses, as well as any other penalties as may be available under Guam law," JIC stated.

Public Health will get the assistance of the Guam Police Department, Guam Fire Department and other regulatory agencies including the Department of Labor for enforcement.

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