“Ng diak domekbeot a tekoi. Look at health in totality. Don’t underestimate the psyche of this community,” Senator Dr. Steven Kuartei said, urging the Ministry of Health and Human Services (MHHS) to take people’s fears seriously.

The fear of COVID-19 infection in the community remains high despite high levels of vaccinations and the COVID preparedness the country has achieved.

“The disease is now in the mind, not the body…and it is severe,” added Kuartei, referring to the fear people have of COVID.

Palau has prepared itself to handle the COVID outbreak as much as possible, according to the CDC’s Dr. Thane Hancock, who has been on the island to assist Palau’s MHHS with the COVID  outbreak.

Palau’s MHHS has turned the Step-Down Facility (initially constructed to house elderly patients) into a COVID treatment ward. It has turned the former morgue into a separate testing site for people wanting to be tested. It has established a separate COVID Care Center Facility to deal with symptomatic outpatients and testing of outgoing travelers. It has isolation rooms and an alternate site that can house up to 50 patients. It has also acquired new medications to treat severe COVID cases. The hospital staff has also been working with doctors from ASPR, practicing how to treat mild as well as severe cases of COVID.

“All of these practices, while you move through this wave, you have this experience now,” said Dr. Hancock about how to handle the next wave.

Thus far, all the preparations and messaging are falling short of easing people’s minds or raising their confidence in the systems in place. Dr. Kuartei recommends counseling to individuals dealing with the stress of COVID.

Dr. Richard Broston, the CDC Regional Coordinator, also here helping the MHHS, agreed with Dr. Kuartei, saying that the emotional component must not be underestimated and it was something that they needed to do a better job of addressing.

“Each patient who is tested positive is given personal care, but more can be done,” added Dr. Broston.

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