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  • By Pacific island Times News Staff

Yap's three Covid-19 tests return negative results

Photo by Joyce McClure

Colonia, Yap-- The results of three patient samples sent by Yap State Department of Health Services to the Guam Public Health Lab on April 16 all came back negative for Covid-9, the Yap state government announced.

Two of the test samples were for two persons under investigation (PUI) who had been in Guam prior to their arrival in Yap on March 18 at which time they were placed under 14-day mandatory quarantine at the Matson Sports Complex with all 51 passengers on that flight. As persons under monitoring (PUM), they were released on April 2 and requested to remain in home quarantine for an additional 14 days.

The first individual who tested negative was placed in isolation at Yap State Hospital on April 10 with symptoms similar to those of Covid-19, including fever, chest pain, diarrhea, vomiting, poor appetite and body aches. Renamed a Person Under Investigation (PUI), his symptoms had begun three days prior to his arrival at the hospital.

On April 15, 2020, the second individual was sent to isolation at the hospital with fever, chest pain and body aches that he initially developed five days prior and was also renamed a PUI. Both individuals were still under the 14-day home quarantine order when they fell ill. Information received during contact tracing for both men indicated that they had not followed the stay-at-home order and were seen moving around Colonia and mingling with family and friends.

The third test sample was of a man who had no links to anyone with Covid-19 and no travel history to an area where the virus is known to be present. He arrived at the hospital on April 14 complaining of severe respiratory distress secondary to pneumonia. Concerned that he may have contracted the virus anyway, he was placed in isolation for treatment and observation, but passed away within 24 hours of admission. The test results confirmed that his death was not related to Covid-19.

“Yap DHS is grateful to the Guam Public Health Lab and U.S CDC for their assistance in testing our samples and the fast turnaround time for results which greatly assists our health services in making critical, next-step decisions in a timely manner,” said John Gilmatam, Chairman of the Yap Health Crisis Task Force.

“While we are elated that the results have given us some reassurance that Yap still has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, we are very cautious because initial negative test results with subsequent testing, can return positive,” he added. “This can happen for several reasons. Either the test sample was insufficient or the test kits were defective, and the type of COVID-19 testing kits currently in use to test our sample is only 70 percent accurate.”

The two patients will remain in isolation until they are fully recovered from their symptoms. They will then be tested again by the hospital’s laboratory to ensure they have a second negative test reading before they are given clearance to be released. The contacts of the two PUIs are also being notified of the negative test results and reminded to continue to observe home quarantine order to keep themselves, their families and the community safe.

Yap DHS received an ID NOW Covid-19 testing machine and accompanying test kits last Thursday. When the machine is set up and online training for lab staff is completed, local testing will begin. Initial testing will be limited to those patients meeting the CDC criteria for testing. There will be no mass testing or on-demand testing during this initial phase, according to officials.

“The Yap State Department of Health Services would like the public to know that the Governor’s Decree 2020-005 issued last Thursday placing a nightly curfew on all residents of the main island will remain in effect. Everyone must stay indoors between 7:00pm and 6:00am seven days a week. During the day, residents may do their essential errands and food shopping. The decree will be reviewed when the final group of PUMs who arrived on March 28 from Palau, complete their 14 days in home quarantine without incident or illness on April 26.

“Covid-19 is a new, contagious, infectious virus that kills,” Gilmatam said. “We have managed to keep it out of our borders so far, but it has not been an easy undertaking. With the help and support of our State Health Crisis Task Force, national, regional, U.S and other diplomatic partners, we have been able to respond with our Covid-19 emergency plans. But the battle is not over.”

Those plans include rigorous contact tracing; community outreach, education and awareness; setting up handwashing stations; regular, public situational updates; the governor’s declaration of a public health emergency; securing $1.6 million in funding from the U.S OIA; preparation of hospital and quarantine facilities; school closures; shut down of government non-essential services; discouragement of mass gatherings; encouraging 6 feet of social and physical distancing; the enactment of a travel ban; restrictions on incoming ships, cargo and mail; and, more recently, the island wide curfew.

“All of these efforts are to keep Covid-19 out of Yap. Our goal is no lives lost to Covid-19,” added Gilmatam. “So far, we have succeeded but we must not let our guard down and get complacent. We must continue to be vigilant and open-minded to the decisions being made by our local technical experts with support from our traditional, state and national government leaders.

“We must trust that all of these undertakings are being done with careful consideration of our own reality and observations of what is happening in other countries in order to learn from them and determine our next steps to preserve our life, our peace, our health and our wellbeing.” Gilmatam urged, “We need everyone to continue to help us, help our island and help our nation remain Covid-19 free.

“Stay home, don’t roam. Prevention of this virus is the safest, most cost-effective and only viable option we have right now. The alternative, we already know, is death which will be costly not only fiscally, but paid for in the loss of the lives of our precious loved ones.”

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