Guam Public Health closely monitoring COVID surge in US, Europe

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

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services is closely monitoring the current surge of COVID-19 cases in Europe and the mainland United States, including the fast-spreading omicron variant.

Europe crossed 75 million coronavirus cases on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, as the region braces for the new omicron variant at a time when hospitals in a number of European countries are already strained by the current surge.

According to Reuters, over 15 countries in Europe have already reported confirmed cases of the new variant. The European Union’s public health agency said the omicron variant could be responsible for more than half of COVID-19 infections in Europe within a few months.

In the United States, the nation is now reporting more than 94,000 new COVID-19 cases each day — up by 47% since late October — and the omicron variant of COVID-19, which had been undetected in the U.S. before last week, had already been discovered in nearly one-third of U.S. states as of Monday, Dec. 6.

Closer to Guam, the Hawai‘i Department of Health’s State Laboratories Division has confirmed that the omicron variant has already been detected in the Aloha State.

The Hawaii case indicates that there is already community spread since the individual diagnosed with the omicron variant has no history of travel.

“Yes, it concerns us and that’s why we’re really trying to make a big push to getting people who are not vaccinated to try to get their vaccines. The best way to help prevent a surge is to make sure as many people are vaccinated. So we keep pushing for that,” Dr. Robert Leon Guerrero, Interim Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Public Health and Social Services, said during a media briefing.

He added: “Even though your parents or grandparents may be vaccinated, they may be at risk of waning immunity. And so, the more people around them that are vaccinated, the less likely that people will get exposed to the COVID.”

According to Dr. Leon Guerrero, what usually happens in the US and Hawaii usually will follow on Guam within weeks, and thus Guam is not immune from the COVID surges happening in Europe and the mainland.

“So we have an opportunity to prevent that occurrence by making sure people come in and get vaccinated,” the doctor said.

DPHSS is also continuing to push the vaccinations of 5-to-11-years-olds as the weekly pediatric infections in the states have risen by more than 40% since late October and the omicron variant has shown a special affinity to this age group.

In the states, nearly 142,000 child coronavirus cases were recorded, with weekly infections among children up by more than 40% since late October, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA).

“Europe and several states have seen increased numbers of the COVID infection mostly in unvaccinated people. So we’re trying to encourage everybody that’s not vaccinated to do so. And that includes, especially, the 5-to-11-year-old age group,” Dr. Leon Guerrero said.

According to DPHSS Bureau of Communicable Disease Control Administrator Annette Aguon, unvaccinated parents who accompany their kids for vaccination can also take the opportunity to have themselves vaccinated.

“We continue to encourage this. You know, it’s a family affair to come out. If you’ve been waiting to be vaccinated with your child, now is the opportune time because it does take two weeks right for your body to respond to that vaccination. And then we need another three weeks for you to get the second dose if you choose Pfizer or Moderna,” Aguon said.

As of December 2, a total of 125,723 of Guam’s eligible population (residents 5 years and older) is fully vaccinated. This total includes 12,052 residents 12 – 17 years old. 3,052 residents 5 – 11 years old received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech two dose series. 193 residents 5 – 11 years old have completed their two-dose series. 27,564 booster shots have been administered to eligible residents.