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Officials say Covid-19 continues to produce new variants

By Aurora Kohn

Covid-19 will continue producing new variants as long as infection cases are high elsewhere in the world, said Dr. Robert Leon Guerrero, interim medical officer of the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

He added that most of the new variants are coming from countries in the Far East like Taiwan, India and the Philippines.

Latest data indicated that 60 percent of the Covid-19 infections in the U.S. were caused by the B4 and B5 variants, which originated in India and Thailand. These variants have not been detected in Guam so far.

Leon Guerrero said the new Covid-19 cases in Guam are not surprising given that the omicron subvariants are highly contagious and that there were still high numbers of Covid-19 cases in different parts of the world.

The vaccines work. According to DPHSS, this is the message of the latest data showing no increase in the number ICU cases and of deaths due to Covid-19 virus and its variants despite a relatively steep rise in the seven-day rolling average of new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“Vaccines don’t necessarily prevent you from getting the disease but it does decrease the severity and that’s why we encourage people to get the vaccines, to get the boosters,“ said Leon Guerrero.

Dr. Ann Pobutsky, Guam’s territorial epidemiologist, said for the period from June 8 to July 5, the seven-day rolling average was just over 100 cases per day with a positivity rate of just over 10 percent.

The new cases are mostly among the working age group, 18 to 39 years old . The lowest rate of new infections was among children and teens.

Pobutsky also said the new cases were largely asymptomatic. Of the 1,119 specimens collected On July 5, there were 154 new Covid-19 cases. There were 16 hospitalizations with one pediatric admission. There were cases in the ICU.

As of July 6, Guam had a total of 52,517 cases of Covid-19 infections that were officially reported, with 371 deaths. There was one previously unreported fatality related to Covid-19 that was added to statistics on July 6.

Despite the increase in the seven-day rolling average of new cases and hospitalizations, DPHSS said Guam was not in a “surge ” and they will not recommend the return of the mandatory health mandates.

“Even though there is an increase in cases, we really are looking at what’s going on in the hospital because if people have mild symptoms and there are a lot of infections, it doesn’t matter as long as people are not clogging up the ICU or dying,” said Pobutsky.

However, DPHSS continued to recommend that residents wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands frequently to help prevent new infections. Current data indicated that most of the new infections happen at home or in the workplace and did not result from large gatherings or public meetings.

DPHSS officials also confirmed that the vaccination facility located in the Agana Shopping Center was in the process of closing down due to the pending expiration of the lease agreement with Agana Shopping Center.

Alex Silverio, program coordinator for DPHSS, said “there is nothing adverse about the closure except those contracted payments and agreements have to be procured.”

Silverio also said “requests for proposals are already in the pipeline” for the proposed facilities for genome testing and wastewater surveillance testing to detect new variants of the Covid-19 virus and any other infectious virus that may have entered Guam.

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