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OPINION | Guam’s Covid response: What’s missing is hope

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“If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” — Nhat Hanh

HAGÅTÑA — When Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero issued her recent executive order, returning Guam to Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1, she made the statement that there would be dissenting voices, and characterized them as “a vocal minority.”

I think her description is incomplete. It’s a vocal minority, representing the silent majority.

From where I sit, the majority of Guam’s citizens are less hopeful today than when the coronavirus pandemic first hit our island.

Question: Are you now more or less confident in the government’s ability to deal with this crisis.

Hope 'tanks' need refilling

To massage an old Zig Ziglar quote, “Hope doesn’t last. Like bathing, we recommend it daily.”

I’ve trained and consulted with hundreds of managers over the years, and I’ve given this message: your behavior, actions and decisions must consistently create hope and enthusiasm, remind people where you’re headed — and that they made a good decision to follow you.

Like most mainland communities, Guam has adopted the lockdown-open up-lockdown again virus strategy, trying to keep infections controlled until somebody — someday — comes up with a safe and effective vaccine, or Guam develops herd immunity.

Since there has never been a successful vaccine for a coronavirus, and herd immunity could take a very long time, that doesn’t bolster hope.

Let’s call a spade a spade

The uptick in virus infections wasn’t caused by widespread negligence of businesses. It was a direct result of certain people not taking personal responsibility seriously. That’s one reason this lockdown has infuriated so many.

Not masking up at a funeral or other gatherings, or people breaking self-quarantine to go bar-hopping cannot be laid at the feet of the business community, nor can you blame Lou for that.

These situations are avoidable. How about “no masks, no funeral”? Maybe close places that encourage violations, and tighten quarantine restrictions.

Penalize the right people

Does it make sense to threaten a $1,000 fine to people who want to exercise or take a walk alone, or with household members on the beach or at a park? Medical providers have long contended that it’s highly unlikely to contract the virus in such settings.

Instead, why not use the team of each village mayor to patrol their jurisdictions and cite those who violate rules on gatherings?

Be smart and be fair. Target penalties to those who willfully endanger public health.

Inclusion generates hope

One of the main gripes among the governor’s detractors has been the group of advisors she has surrounded herself with. I’ve suggested she expand the group. There are many qualified people whose voices should be heard and would benefit the decision process.

Guam also needs that long-requested summit, which would bring together officials from the administration, along with qualified people from all sectors to search for short- and long-term solutions. Adequate distancing is available in a large room, plus live-streaming technology would bring it to anyone with an internet connection.

Breakout sessions and answering viewer questions would go a long way toward increasing that hope — and trust.

Otherwise, it gives a picture that those in power are inflexible and have no interest in the ideas and opinions of others. That almost always causes unrest.

Exclusion leads to protest

When hope breaks down and people feel authorities aren’t listening, eventually that results in anger. That anger sometimes comes in the form of a protest.

If we get locked down every time a group of people mess up and infections spike, anger and opposition will mount.

As for restricting the private sector, Guam’s economy is barely showing a pulse as it is. Once this latest lockdown has passed, it’s critical that every business that can open be allowed to stay open. That looks normal, and people will start to build hope.

May your hope bucket fill to overflowing.

 

 

 

 

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