Staff Sgt. Guam National Guard Frank Fejeran escorts people looking for COVID-19 vaccines at Okkodo High School last year in Dededo, Guam. (Mark Scott / US Army)
An influx of new coronavirus cases and several deaths are testing mitigation efforts and the health system in Guam, the US western Pacific island territory.
Guam on Tuesday reported 210 new cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease of the coronavirus, including 11 hospitalizations, according to a statement from the Joint Information Center. One of the hospitalizations was at the Guam Naval Hospital.
Seventy-one new cases and three deaths were reported over the New Years weekend, according to a separate statement on Monday.
The three people who died have all been vaccinated, the Joint Information Center said in a statement on Monday. Two of them – a 76-year-old woman and a 47-year-old woman – are said to have underlying health issues.
A 58-year-old man, who was pronounced dead on arrival at Guam Regional Medical City on Friday, had not reported any underlying health problems.
A spokeswoman for Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, in an email to Stars and Stripes on Tuesday, called the surge “manageable” and said residents should not panic.
“None of these admissions are in [intensive care unit] level of care and they’re not on a ventilator either, ”Krystal Paco-San Agustin wrote.
In contrast, the Joint Information Center reported 43 new cases and eight hospitalizations on December 28.
Paco-San Agustin said people were being treated at home with monoclonal antibodies to prevent them from entering hospitals.
“Protecting our finite healthcare resources remains our top priority,” she said.
She said public health officials cannot yet attribute the new cases to the rapidly spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus which was first detected in South Africa in November.
Guam does not yet have the technology to test samples for the variant and has instead sent samples for genome sequencing to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Paco-San Agustin said.
“While awaiting the results, Governor Leon Guerrero has said publicly that we must act as if Omicron is there, especially after the holiday gatherings and the increase in travel,” Paco-San Agustin said.
Andersen Air Force Base 36 Wing did not respond to an email from Stars and Stripes requesting a status update. A spokeswoman for Joint Region Marianas did not respond to an email request on Tuesday for more information.
Guam has imposed masks and vaccines, among other measures, to stem the spread of the virus, Paco-San Agustin said. Guerrero has a proof of vaccination policy in place for businesses and large gatherings starting September 6.
People can’t gather in groups of more than 100 outdoors or 25 indoors, Paco-San Agustin said.
Guam has confirmed 19,899 coronavirus cases and 273 deaths during the pandemic, the Joint Information Center said on Tuesday.
About 80% of the island’s 169,000 inhabitants are vaccinated.
“We are staying the course,” said Paco-San Agustin. “In addition to vaccinations, we continue to test, monitor and treat. “