Covid 19 cases trending downward but Guam remains under high-risk category
By Aurora Kohn
Guam's Covid 19 infections are continuing their downward trend for all ages, but the island remains in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's “high-risk” category, according to Dr. Ann Pobutsky, Guam's territorial epidemiologist.
“The decline is very apparent," Pobutsky said at today’s Covid 19 briefing hosted by the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
Other indicators such as hospitalizations, ICU patients and deaths have not increased.
This week, Guam’s new cases based on a seven-day rolling average under the formula of the new CDC guidelines, were just above 600. This was still significantly higher than the 200 cut-off value for the high-risk category.
Later in the day, the Joint Information Center reported two new Covid-related fatalities, raising Guam's death toll to 337.
The 336th fatality occurred at Guam Regional Medical City on March 9. The patient was a 74-year-old man, who tested positive on Feb. 17.
The 337th fatality was pronounced dead on arrival at GRMC on March 9. The patient was a 75-year-old man, who tested positive on March 4.
The latest Covid-19 tests detected 123 new positive cases out of 780 specimens analyzed on March 8. To date, there have been a total of 46,123 officially reported cases, 337 deaths, 1,604 cases in active isolation, and 44,182 not in active isolation.
“We are moving in the right direction but we still have a ways to go,” said Dr. Annette David, senior epidemiologist for the state epidemiological outcome working group.
According to Pobutsky, the biggest risk is to those who are older, especially those above 60 years of age. She said persons of older age and family members of persons who are older should be “vigilant”.
Although trends showed a current tendency for the numbers to converge across all age groups, the highest number of new infections was in the 18-39 age group. The 18-39 age group was also the lead group during the delta and omicron surges.
“So the 18-39 we know have the lowest update of the vaccines. I believe at this point there’s only about 60% fully vaccinated compared to the rest of the other age groups who are eligible for vaccinations," David said.
DPHSS officials also said they would not recommend lifting the mask mandate until infection rates and hospitalization rates were sufficiently low to warrant it.
“The pandemic is not over until it is over everywhere,” said Chima Mbakwem of the TB Hansen’s Disease Program of the DPHSS.
He said the mask mandate was not only an essential tool in limiting the transmission of the disease but also a protective tool for those who were more vulnerable to its effects.
While there were challenges due to Covid 19 being a novel virus, Mbakwem said that the reaction time of the government in implementing mandates to mitigate the effects of the virus showed that DPHSS was prepared. He said that DPHSS is now improving on systems it has in place so that it can meet the challenges of future pandemics better.
“Strengthening our surveillance base is very key, “ Mbakwem emphasized.
DPHSS plans to create a Bureau of Emerging Infectious Diseases and proposes to build a new lab to assist in timely detection of new diseases on island and the region it is part of.