• By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Guam mourns first coronavirus-related death


(Updated: the number of Covid-19 cases on Guam is now 27)

A 68-year-old woman, who died early morning today while being treated for Covid-19 at the Guam Memorial Hospital, became Guam's first coronavirus fatality, officials said in a web conference Sunday.

Dr. Joleen Aguon, the governor's Covid-19 advisor, said the woman had no travel history but had contact with a traveler. She was admitted to GMH for fever and shortness of breath on March 15 and stayed at the hospital throughout the week. She died at 1:30 a.m. today.

"Before she could clinically decline, the patient and her family had made a decision not to undergo any extreme life-saving measures, so for the past 36 hours, she was placed in comfort care," Aguon said.

The patient died due to comorbidity. Besides Covid-19 infection, the patient had multiple existing conditions such as end-stage renal disease, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension, Aguon said. Regardless of Covid-19 infection, Aguon said the patient's immune system had already been suppressed.

Public health Director Linda DeNorcey said one of the people the deceased patient had in contact with tested positive for coronavirus while the rest had been cleared.

"As a soldier and a surgeon, I can tell you that the toughest part of the job is losing somebody under your care," said Dr. Mike Cruz, medical advisor to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero. "As we mourn our first death, work must not stop and cannot stop."

Gov. Lourdes Leon Guerrero said, according to law, the diseased must be either buried or cremated within 24 hours. "We are working with the family and the funeral home," the governor said.

Funeral service, according to church protocol, will be limited to family members to ensure limited contact with the public.

The first fatality was among the 15 confirmed Covid-19 cases on Guam. They were all in isolation, "either at GMH or at home temporarily until they were transferred to the Skilled Nursing Facility, which took place Saturday and this was done in accordance with CDC guidance,' " Cruz said.

Cruz said those who are temporarily placed in home isolation were subject to monitoring by the public health staff, which includes home visit and phone calls to check in.

Of the 15 cases, Cruz said six are in their 60s, three in their 50s, three in their 40s, two in their 30s. The youngest patient is in his/her 20s. Most of the infected individuals previously travelled to the Philippines, Cruz said.

"There is strong evidence that Covid-19 has spread throughout the community," Cruz said. Most of the affected patients are from the northern, central and southern villages, he added.

Officials against reminded the public to stay home, exercise good hygiene, wash your hands, and practice social distancing by maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from others people.

"Though these measures are not dramatic, they are the most effective things we can do to combat the spread of Covid-19," Cruz said.

In the CNMI, Gov. Ralph Torres and Lt. Gov. Palacios extended their "deepest condolences to the family of the first Covid-19 related death on Guam. Our thoughts and prayers are with Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, her administration, and the people of Guam."

Torres said she has remained in close contact with Leon Guerrero over the last week. "Her administration is doing everything to protect the people of Guam," the CNMI governor said. "Through our partnership, Guam has allowed us to send specimens to their lab for testing, as we continue to conduct surveillance and working to upgrade our facilities here on Saipan through federal assistance. This pandemic affects all of us, and we need to do our part to stay at home, avoid unnecessary travel except trips to the grocery store and picking up food and medication. Marianas, we need to take this seriously."

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