DPHSS: Delta is gone, but omicron is still around and pandemic is not over
Updated: Apr 22
By Aurora Kohn
The deadly delta variant is gone, leaving the less-lethal omicron as the dominant strain on Guam, but public health officials maintain that residents must continue to wear masks.
Dr. Robert Leon Guerrero, interim chief medical officer at the Department of Public Health and Social Services, emphasized that the world is still in the midst of a pandemic.
He said the department’s “stance” is to recommend that people continue to wear masks and observe social distancing despite the absence of mandates, especially for individuals who belong to the high-risk group.
High-risk individuals include the elderly, people who are either immunocompromised or those who have comorbidities, such as diabetes, chronic renal disease, asthma or cardiovascular diseases.
The only remaining Covid-19 mandate is the mask-wearing for indoor activities. An executive order issued this week lifted the mask mandate for outdoor settings, social distancing and the limit on social gatherings.
At today’s DPHSS weekly Covid-19 press briefing, Dr. Anne Pobutsky, territorial epidemiologist, reported that Guam’s most recent seven-day rolling average is 30 new cases per day, except for a slight uptick during the last weekend.
The 18-39 age group continues to lead other age groups in terms of infections.
There were only five Covid-19 hospital admissions as of Thursday. The department reported 31 new cases out of 323 specimens analyzed on April 20.
Total Covid-19 cases for Guam is at 47,743 with 354 deaths. Of the total number of infections, 2,879 were from the military and 44,864 were from the civilian population. There are 237 currently active cases in isolation.
Leon Guerrero said Guam is still at the borderline between moderate and low on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s community risk indicators, primarily due to the number of hospitalizations.
However, he said the rate of new infections is definitely in the low category.
DPHSS also recommends that persons who experience symptoms get tested so they could avail of treatments that are available.
According to Fernando Estevez, DPHSS incident commander, the antiviral treatment has to be administered within five days from the onset of symptoms in order to be effective, which is why it is imperative that individuals experiencing symptoms should get tested at the earliest instance.
As another precaution, qualified people should get the second booster, which is available to individuals aged 50 years and older.
“If you’re elderly, if you’re over 70, or even 65 or if you have a chronic condition, go ahead and get your booster. Let’s reduce the risk,” Pobutsky said.
Pobutsky said Guam’s genome sequencing test machine is not yet operational.
The wastewater surveillance testing project that will identify the presence of any new Covid=19 variants and other new viruses on Guam is still on hold, pending the arrival of some lab items.
Estevez estimated that both the genomic sequence testing machine and the wastewater surveillance apparatus will be ready by the end of June.
In the meantime, DPHSS recommends that persons experiencing symptoms get themselves tested. Persons who obtain a positive result using home tests should report test results to their doctor, Pobutsky said.
Estevez also cautioned that a negative test from a home test is not necessarily accurate. He recommended that individuals experiencing symptoms should avail of testing services at government testing facilities in order to be certain.
DPHSS has completed its Maternal and Child Health Jurisdictional Survey but it is still conducting its health disparities survey at the ITC building and the Tiyan test site. Surveys at the Northern and Southern Regional Health Centers will begin shortly. There are also interviewers in the field. Surveys will begin in smaller villages.