‘COVID contact tracing and containment have been streamlined’

Department of Public Health and Social Services (PNC file photo)

The workflow has been streamlined for COVID-19 contact tracing and containment, public health officials said during an oversight hearing Thursday afternoon conducted by health committee chair Sen. Therese Terlaje.

According to public health officials, they can now contact a positive case, close contacts, plan isolation, and instruct on quarantine for family members within 5-8 hours of test results.

Chima Mbakwem, Containment and Isolation Branch Lead under the DPHSS Incident Response Command, said the new strategy is a time-saving mechanism where the containment team identifies family members and close contacts and immediately hands the data to the contact tracing investigation team who completes their investigation within 1-2 days while those identified are already under quarantine and are being monitored for 14 days.

Annette Aguon, COVID-19 Epidemiology/Surveillance Branch Lead, also updated the oversight chair on contact tracing investigation resources, reporting that there are currently 22 investigators, 25 contact tracers, plus 3 contact tracers with Dr. Mbakwem’s team.

Also assisting in this effort are approximately 42 DOE nurses, 38 existing Public Health staff, among others.

In addition to public and private partners, it was disclosed that a pilot project has started at the University of Guam which will augment the investigation team at a separate site.

During the oversight hearing, DPHSS officials attributed the increased staffing, household contacts in multigenerational homes already under quarantine, and the current lockdown in assisting them to complete investigations sustainably until Guam starts reopening and shifting gears.