Epidemiologist: ‘We’re still in a surge’

Public Health COVID-19 operation. (PNC file photo)

Although new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been going down a bit, new cases are still at the 3-digit level and the territorial epidemiologist says Guam is still in the middle of a COVID surge.

“As you can see, we are seeing a dip, but we’re still over the 100 mark and yesterday there were 167 new COVID cases. I think it’s fluctuating, but we’re still in a surge. It’s more than 100 cases a day. And we’re not going to be saying we’re out of the surge until we’re below 25 cases per day,” Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Ann Pobutsky said during a media briefing hosted by Public Health.

During the briefing, Pobutsky also disclosed some of the latest COVID statistics.

She said all the age groups are showing a decrease, but there was a really deep dip with the elderly beginning around the end of September 23rd to the 24th. But she that has since gone up again slightly.

“The largest group still is that 18 to 39 group and 40 to 59. These are working age, parents, and they probably have a lot of exposure. We’ve also seen an uptick in the last three days with this 60 to 74 group,” Pobutsky said.

In addition, Pobutsky said there’s been an increase in symptomatic cases recently. However, even though there’s been an uptick, there are still more asymptomatic cases than symptomatic cases which she said is actually a characteristic of the Delta virus.

“But we really don’t know how much Delta is circulating here and we haven’t had any report on the variance recently, since I think June,” she said.

As for breakthrough cases, Pobutsky said these are averaging about 45% of the daily case rate. But she stressed that the majority of the cases are still among the unvaccinated.

“We’re also seeing a dip in the hospital cases, but the ICU is clogged up with people. It’s stagnant. It’s been consistent like that for the past several weeks,” she said.

According to Pobutsky, the lag time between people being fully vaccinated and getting a subsequent positive test or a breakthrough is skewing towards a four-month interval.

“That’s the average but by age, we see that younger people have a shorter interval and the elderly … I’m not sure why they do not. So, it could be that because this is our working age population here and that they have more chances for exposure. They’re out in the community, they’re working, and they’re doing things, while the elderly might be a little bit more protected. But again, the elderly represent a small portion of these breakthrough cases as we noted earlier,” Pobutsky said.