‘More COVID-19 tests need to be done’

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The Governor’s Chief Medical Adviser says we need a lot more COVID-testing on Guam to understand the true extent of the disease on the island.

Dr. Mike Cruz says don’t let the few positive cases reported lately, fool you.

“The fact is, we need more tests to be done here on Guam,” Dr. Cruz said.

Speaking to K57’s Patti Arroyo this morning, Dr. Cruz says there are no ifs, and, or buts — Guam needs to get its hands on more FDA-approved test kits to truly understand the extent of the pandemic on our Island.

“Even though we see a flattening, or a lack of cases, in the past few days, it really doesn’t mean much when you’re only testing at the limited capacity and capability that we have,” Dr. Cruz said.

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The CNMI just this week received its first 20,000 test kits out of a 60,000 kit order from South Korea, prompting some on Guam, including Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, to question why Guam can’t use those kits as well.

“We have not been able to verify that these are approved for use in the United States or by the FDA. Normally, you’re able to use a loophole called the Emergency Use Authorization. If they’ve gotten that and that’s not updated on the FDA website, then obviously we’re going to be looking further at that,” Dr. Cruz said.

He added that those kits are for screening only, which could add another layer of complication.

“What they’re monitoring is not the presence of the virus, but actually the antibodies formed towards the virus. So it’s usually an indication of a past infection. As an example, a false negative on a screening test, such as the ones from Korea, is that good enough to say that’s a negative? Or, does that negative then need to be tested with a confirmatory test,” Dr. Cruz said.

Cruz says ultimately, though, the government is pursuing any test kits that can be used on Guam and they are looking into one specifically from China now.

Yesterday, Public Health announced Guam received two ABOTT-ID Now, rapid testing machines, one of which will be at GMH and the other at Public Health.

Linda DeNorcey, Public Health Director, said: “They can do one test, if it’s a positive, it’ll be read within 5 minutes. If it’s a negative result, it’ll be ready within 13-15 minutes.”

GRMC is also beefing up testing capacity with a gene expert machine that confirms if a patient is positive for COVID-19. Dr. Cruz says that should be operational by next week.

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