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Guam doctor: 'We are spiraling'

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero met with members of her medical advisory group on Thursday night to discuss her intention to issue an executive order that would reinstate the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions under Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1.

Under this highest level of Covid-19 readiness, schools will be closed and only essential businesses and government offices can stay open.

The governor's decision will be finalized and announced today, Friday, said the governor's policy director Carlo Branch.

Earlier Thursday, the governor, who remains in isolation while recovering from Covid-19, held a virtual meeting with officials of Guam’s public and private schools. She informed them of her plan to place Guam back in PCOR 1 effective Saturday. In the meeting, schools were urged to hold off on face-to-face learning for two weeks.

Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio also is in isolation as he confirmed Wednesday night that he, too, has a moderate case of Covid-19.

Dr. Hoa Nguyen, a member of the governor's 20-member medical advisory group and co-owner of the American Medical Center, said he recommended the return to PCOR 1 for at least two weeks due to the recent surge in positive cases.

 Combat medics from the Guam National Guard 1-294th Chamorri Battalion assist the Department of Public Health and Social Services with the testing of 156 personnel at the Department of Corrections Adult Correctional Facility in Mangilao on Aug. 13. Photo courtesy of the Guam National Guard

“We are spiraling,” he said Thursday. “Most likely we will go back to PCOR 2, but I think that (PCOR 1) — for at least one to two weeks — because the virus only has a cycle of two weeks. If you let everyone hunker down for two weeks, you will break the cycle.”

“She has a tough decision to make,” said Nguyen.

Surge in cases

Thursday marked the largest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported in a single day with 28. Twenty-six positive cases were reported through the Guam Public Health Laboratory while two cases tested positive at Guam Memorial Hospital.

According to the Joint Information Center, 11 cases were identified through contact tracing. Four cases reported recent travel from the continental U.S. and were identified in a quarantine facility.

“We have a big surge,” said Nguyen.

The 28 confirmed cases were identified in 446 samples that were tested on Wednesday.

Despite the recent surge in cases, the island's positivity rate remains steady at 1.7%.

On Wednesday, 26 Covid-19 cases were added to Guam's total.

In addition, all 92 passengers on a United Airlines flight from Honolulu were quarantined after they arrived Wednesday evening. A passenger on the flight, who is a military service member, had tested positive, according to the governor's office.

Dr. Thomas Shieh, who has pressed for testing upon arrival at the airport, described Guam's actions as reactionary.

“I have said it before, GovGuam's Covid-19 plan is like a dog chasing its own tail,” Shieh stated.

“We have to test smarter. We can’t just keep counting the positives; we need to separate those who are actively infectious versus those with past infections and are not infectious. If someone has no symptoms for over four weeks and tests positive...consider testing them for their antibodies. If they have antibodies for Covid, then they should be considered past infections and ask them to donate plasma to save others. ... We need to get out of this spin cycle," Shieh stated.

"And always practice the three Ws: wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance. We will be fine if we emphasize the three Ws.”

Certain GovGuam

offices closed

Three government of Guam sites shut down Thursday after the risk of Covid-19 exposure became apparent.

The governor's office in Adelup, the Guam Congress Building where senators were discussing the budget, and the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority's main office shut down Thursday. Meanwhile, an employee of F.B. Leon Guerrero Middle School tested positive for Covid-19, and certain areas of the school were closed off for deep cleaning.

With the rise in Covid cases, mass testing sites are getting prepared.

The Department of Public Health and Social Services, Mayors’ Council of Guam, and private and federal agencies are working together to provide mass testing for free. Participants must bring an ID, if one is available.

The following testing sites are open to the public:

  • Saturday, Aug. 15, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., Yigo gym along Marine Corps Drive
  • Saturday, Aug. 22, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., St. Francis Church and School along Route 4 in Yona
  • Saturday, Sept. 5, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Talofofo gym

 

  • Saturday, Sept. 19, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Umatac Mayor’s Office along Route 2 in Umatac

Testing will also be held on Aug. 20 from 9 a.m. to noon at Guma' Trankilidåt in Tumon, but this is limited to residents of the senior citizen home.

Residents who are unable to go to the community-wide testing and experiencing symptoms consistent with Covid-19 are advised to call their clinic or doctor. If a patient does not have a regular health care provider, they can call the Northern Region Community Health Center at (671) 635-7525/6 to schedule an appointment. 

Clinics asked to help out

Clinics are being asked to help out with the mass testing, especially this weekend.

“We are going to ramp back up again just to serve the community in the next week to two weeks. It’s a time when (we) and all the tier 2 and 3 clinics step up to make sure the community is safe,” Nguyen said.

At American Medical Center, Nguyen said as many as 150 walk-ins are seen on certain days as more people seek testing.

In addition to helping at the Yigo mass testing site, Nguyen said the overflow from Yigo will be tested at the AMC clinics in Upper Tumon and Mangilao.

'One slip-up away'

With the rising Covid-19 cases, some areas on the military bases have reinstituted tighter prevention measures, according to an Aug. 13 memo from Rear Adm. John Menoni, commander of the military's Joint Region Marianas.

While the military on Guam is well-postured for a medical crisis, Menoni pointed out, "we are one slip-up away from a major resurgence of Covid cases that would negatively impact our mission readiness."

"It only takes one irresponsible act to cause community spread; a disregard for the basic rules to wear a mask, to physically distance and to wash hands," he stated, in part.

At the first sign of a significant threat to public health, Menoni stated, he will not hesitate to implement more restrictive measures. Some of the areas of concern on public congregating are the commissary, exchange stores and dining establishments, he stated.

 

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