HAGATNA, 15 APRIL 2020 (THE GUAM DAILY POST)—As the government of Guam waits to receive more test kits and machines for faster COVID-19 testing, the director of the Department of Public Health and Social Services said the goal is to ultimately “test every single person that we can.”
Public Health said it will soon receive test kits from the International Reagent Resource established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as 4,600 test kits through the Pacific Island Health Officers Association.
So far fewer than 1,000 of Guam’s 160,000-plus residents have been tested for COVID-19, and the lack of test kits have been mentioned as a reason for the slow pace.
In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam’s close neighbors to the north, 20,000 COVID-19 test kits have arrived and about 40,000 more are arriving soon so that every CNMI resident will be tested, the commonwealth government has announced.
Even as Guam’s efforts to obtain more test kits have lagged, Public Health Director Linda Unpingo-DeNorcey remains upbeat.
“We are really moving forward,” Unpingo-DeNorcey said at the governor’s daily press briefing. “We just got two new machines we are launching.
One machine went to Guam Memorial Hospital, and Public Health’s lab is getting the second new machine.
“That’s an additional machine aside from the current one that we have,” she said.
She said these machines are fast and can show results in five minutes if a sample were to come back positive.
Once more test kits arrive, she said, “we can mobilize all three machines simultaneously.”
Diagnostic Laboratory Services is another location for testing. The lab requires patients to obtain a doctor’s referral in order to test them; people cannot simply walk into DLS to get tested.
The demand for more tests comes as Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and Dr Felix Cabrera, who is on the governor’s medical advisory group, discussed the need for the community to continue to do its part to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier this month, Cabrera presented projections of Guam’s COVID-19 trajectory, which included the worst possible outcome if the government of Guam did nothing to respond to the pandemic. In the earlier projection, the death toll was projected to be hundreds in five months, if not more.
Guam has had five COVID-19 deaths in the civilian community and the death of a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on Monday.
Guam had one additional confirmed case Tuesday, raising the total to 135, according to the Joint Information Center. There have been 66 recoveries and five deaths. Sixty-four are in isolation.
Cabrera said the projected peak would be in the first week of June and that a Federal Emergency Management Agency model showed a projected peak as early as mid-May.
Cabrera said it’s premature and dangerous to assume Guam’s COVID-19 cases are past their peak.
“This is especially concerning as there is now growing consensus among the country’s experts that COVID-19 has the potential to hit us in waves,” Cabrera said.
He added it’s not the right time to loosen Guam’s guard against COVID-19.
“If we relax our preventative measures too early or too rapidly, multiple waves, by definition, have multiple peaks. It would be irresponsible to believe we are out of the woods or even close to it,” said Cabrera. “We must understand these actions lag time in what ultimately gets reported as new cases, hospitalisation or deaths. If we act only on the best-projected scenarios, we are likely to end up with the worst-case scenarios.”
Guam’s statistics don’t include nearly 600 of the 5,000 sailors on the aircraft carrier who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Even though we are reporting these recovered cases, there is no way we can be sure they are completely immune and not going to be at risk of having COVID-19 again,” Cabrera said. “That is a scary thought overall, but it is why we are taking as much caution as we can.”
“I don’t know if we could ever be normal again, given this pandemic crisis,” said Leon Guerrero.
She hasn’t considered easing restrictions such as social distancing. “If we start to lift restrictions, I am going to lift them very slowly. I am going to monitor them closely. Once we start seeing any kind of reinfection, then I am going to go back again, put in the measures we have put. It’s really a big challenge,” she said…. PACNEWS