A 53-year-old female who is immunocompromised and has underlying conditions is the first person to be hospitalized due to COVID-19, reported Minister of Health and Human Services Gaafar Uherbelau yesterday.

The patient who complained of severe headache was tested positive for COVID-19 and due to her underlying conditions was admitted to the hospital. The patient is said to be stable and is not on oxygen or a ventilator.

The number of covid cases continues to climb as predicted with 19 new cases recorded yesterday, bringing the total number of active cases up to 177. 25 cases have recovered and around 600 close contacts are in quarantine.

Minister Uherbelau announced the opening of the COVID Care Center, a separate site located at Kalau Gym in Meyuns, below the Office of the President. The Center provides services to people who have symptoms or think they may have symptoms of COVID-19 and is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and on Saturdays from 9 am to 12 pm.

A social media post that was shared claiming that BNH Surgical Ward was being converted to a COVID ward and patients were being sent home was discredited as misinformation by Minister Uherbelau yesterday. He advised that the public “please listen to announcements from the Ministry of Health” on COVID-19 related matters to get the correct information.

Meanwhile, lines of people waiting to receive booster shots in the last two open PODs this week have been extraordinarily long, wrapping around the national gym, with people willingly standing for hours to get the vaccine shots.

Vaccines for 5 to 11-year-olds ran out on the first day and the next orders are expected this weekend. Community testing is commencing soon with MHHS expecting to announce logistics of testing early next week.

Responding to the increasing number of cases, the Council of Chiefs in a letter to President Surangel Whipps Jr. recommended strengthening quarantine protocols and temporary border lockdown “for a month or two, to allow for accurate assessment of the level of infection and to get a grip on it”. It also recommends the current public awareness campaign to all levels of the community “on the virus and what is being done to control it be reviewed and improved so that ‘ordinary folks’ can understand”.

But testing of travelers upon arrival was suspended again after it was reinstated last week. President Whipps at a Wednesday press conference this week reiterated that decisions made are based on science, data, and expert advice.

Whipps said that the decisions take into account the whole society approach. For example, he said, flights bring critical supplies, equipment, medical referrals, families, and of course tourism. “We have to take all of these into account when we make decisions,” said Whipps.

A scheduled flight from Taiwan bringing an estimated 300 tourists for the Chinese New Year has not been canceled although President Whipps admitted that Taiwan is looking at what is happening here and changes can happen.

He revealed that Taiwan has reduced the number of referral patients it can accept due to covid cases also rising in Taiwan. Whipps said Palau is looking at re-routing medical referral patients to the Philippines.

School closures have been extended another week, until January 28. While physical classrooms are closed, online classes have commenced in all the schools, public and private, and at all levels from elementary to college.

Based on experts’ projections, the surge is expected to peak and start to drop in 3 to 4 weeks depending on mitigation measures in place. Cases of the virus are expected to drop significantly by mid-February.

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  1. I just wondering why this report didn’t even mention the virus actually is from Guam. And what I read from this report is media framing the source of the virus is from Taiwan. The island times should tell people what the truth is.

    1. The report is talking about the increase in cases and the impact of those cases. It does not mention where cases may have originated. References to Taiwan merely refer to the potential impact the cases will have on the Palau-Taiwan bubble.

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