The COVID-19 omicron variant may already be on Guam, public health officials acknowledged Thursday.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the omicron variant has now been found in 50 countries and 19 states across the U.S., including Hawaii.
“I don’t know, but most likely I think it is probably here,” Dr. Robert Leon Guerrero, Interim Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Public Health and Social Services, said in a media briefing.
Dr. Leon Guerrero earlier said that pandemic developments in the US and Hawaii usually follow on Guam within weeks, and thus Guam is not immune from the COVID surges happening in Europe and the mainland.
“So there’s a good chance that it might be here already. Luckily, initial data shows that the omicron variant is not as severe as the delta variant, although it seems to be more transmissible,” Dr. Leon Guerrero.
DPHSS already sent its latest batch of samples to US CDC for genome sequencing to find out if the omicron virus is here. Unfortunately, it takes weeks before the results can be turned over to Guam Public Health.
For the delta variant, for instance, DPHSS was only able to verify its presence on island weeks after residents actually caught the delta variant.
DPHSS has said that the exorbitant cost of the genome sequencing machine is one of the factors why Guam can’t get its own so that it can do the sample analysis on island.
Dr. Annette David said that if the omicron variant is indeed on Guam already, DPHSS will do the same protocols as it did for the delta variant.
“If it’s here, we’ll do the same thing. We’ll continue to push for vaccination and keep with the physical distancing, masking in public places, and hand hygiene,” Dr. David said.
Dr. Leon Guerrero also mentioned the latest announcement from Pfizer that a booster of its COVID-19 vaccine may offer important protection against the new omicron variant even though the initial two doses appear significantly less effective.