- By Johanna Salinas
DPHSS identifies high-risk contacts at Guam Reef
The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services has identified seven high-risk contacts among 74 employees at the Guam Reef Hotel, which had been used as a quarantine facility for service members who tested positive for Covid-19, according to Public Health Director Lynda Unpingco-DeNorcey.
“All employees have been offered the testing. They’re undergoing the testing,” she said.
DeNorcey said test results would be ready within 24 to 48 hours. “Anyone (who) is testing negative may still have been exposed. The incubation period is anywhere between two days to 14 days,” she said.
“The virus normally develops on median four to five days. More than 96 percent of the viral infection will occur maybe between 11.5 days after," DeNorcey said."When they’re in the incubation period, it is a time when they are infectious. Having symptoms along with this time, they are definitely very infectious. That’s a reason why they still have to be under quarantine.”
On Monday night, DPHSS reported two positive cases among the 103 individuals tested. It was not clear if the two new positive cases were among the hotel employees.
To date, there have been a total of 224 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with five deaths, 173 released from isolation, and 46 active cases. Of those cases, 182 are classified as civilians, and 42 are military service members.
The service members, who were initially quarantined at Guam Reef, have been transferred to Andersen Air Force Base medical facility, military officials said.
Another concern was whether Guam Reef’s restaurants should serve food at this time. “If I feel, as the director, that if anything is not confining to the health of our people of Guam, rest assured I will shut things down. And I’ll get approval from my boss, the governor,” said DeNorcey.
“I will not risk this public for any of that. That is my job to ensure the safety of this community. We are on top of it. We’re doing our due diligence with my staff out there to do their job. And yes, we do have a containment branch that is responsible to ensure that any risk of any possible exposure to contamination is contained.”
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero asked for public patience as they wait for the results of the contact tracing. “We have definitive, accurate findings as to how it started. Both our DPHSS and the military’s public health are working very closely and interviewing people. Investigating and asking them where they come from, when did they arrive, what were their contacts and so forth,” she said.
A question brought up in the press conference was why results trickled instead of shared all at once.
“We were reporting results in real time as we got them,” said Brig. Gen. Gentry Boswell, commander of 36th Wing.
“On the first day when we had the first case, we put everyone on restriction. Once we had the positive on two cases within 24 hours, we moved everyone to Andersen Air Force Base in medical quarantine just to be safe. That delay was just the basis of the time it took to process 100 percent testing of the unit.”
Although the latest outbreak took place in a hotel, the government is still moving forward with reopening tourism on July 1.
“Currently the plans we have in place have not changed. The reason is one of the ways we would change the plans is if we had a increase and if we had an increase in a rolling five days,” the governor said. "Another one is if we see our hospitalization cases going up. That is not the case. We continue to have zero hospitalization. Additionally is if we were to have a low supply of testing, that would be a concern.”
Leon Guerrero said she will assess what happens in the next two weeks. "We’re looking at the next weeks opening other business activities and other places considered closed. The other plan was to go in PCOR3. There’s not been a definite date for that but we’re still looking,” she said.
The governor is still confident that the island is withstanding the virus. “I just want to say and assure the people of Guam that our infection rate even with the increase through the military still remains below 1 percent,” said Leon Guerrero. "That is still really amazing. That’s still a good sign we continue to maintain our virus infection to the minimum numbers. This will not sustain if we do not continue with wearing our facemask and social distancing.”
Leon Guerrero believes that Guam needs to be more socially distant. “We’re a very loving community and we just want to hug each other, but social distancing can be improved,” she said. “Social distancing, if you listen to medical experts, they’d still prefer 6 feet, because if you sneeze.”
Another main concern was protecting Guam’s homeless during the pandemic. The government originally planned to move the homeless population to tents in the Paseo in Hagatna.
“Our information from the coalition and also from DPHSS was that that was not satisfactory for the guidelines and the public health requirements. We have to have a hardened structure,” said the governor.
Leon Guerrero said the government has requested proposals to build structures and in short term move homeless individuals. “I don’t just want to move people and leave them there,” she said. “What I want to do is do a wraparound service so we can provide for their needs. Many of these homeless have mental health challenges.
Many of them are also drug addicted. We want to provide services to them so they can start rehabilitating and coming back to being productive citizens of our communities.”
The governor said the John Burch of Parks and Recreation was not removed for working with the homeless program. She insisted that Burch worked hard to find a home for the homeless. “We needed him somewhere just as significant and important for the skills he has,” said Leon Guerrero.
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