Northern testing purely voluntary; Public Health using a variety of approaches

Guam Public Health’s Rapid Engagement Team (PNC file photo)

The COVID-19 testing being implemented by the Rapid Engagement Team deployed by the Department of Public Health and Social Services to the Gil Baza and Zero Down subdivisions in Yigo is purely voluntary and employs a variety of approaches so as not to alienate residents.

DPHSS Director Art San Agustin, during the governor’s news conference on Thursday, said: “The only criteria really is the willingness and receptiveness of the residents in the areas that are being approached. And I think really, what’s key is the approach. The approach we have is we’re bringing someone else with information and in their language. We have someone who can do the interpretation. Material has been translated into the Chuukese language, for example. And so there’s a team approach, not a sense of law enforcement.”

He added that all the testing that’s being done is purely voluntary.

Aside from the testing and the health advice, San Agustin said they are also using a social service approach.

“We’re even saying if you need assistance with accessing health care, or perhaps a follow up with your application on public assistance, that’s a more holistic approach that we are taking. That, I believe, makes a significant difference, but we can’t force anyone to be tested at this point, unless we have a public health crisis. Right now, we’re appealing to them and bringing the information to them and asking them for their full cooperation and support,” San Agustin said.

According to San Agustin, Public Health has more than 20,000 test kits on island with more on the way so the rapid engagement teams won’t have the problem of running out of test kits.

“We are completely committed to having as many people tested at no cost at the health centers and our designated test sites. And so, for example, today, the rapid engagement team is over at Zero. And they’re providing all these services at no cost to those residents,” San Agustin said.

The Rapid Engagement Team has so far identified 29 positives out of 78 tested as of 2:24 pm Thursday.

San Agustin said this is approximately 37% of the population that’s been screened and tested so far and more information will become available as DPHSS gets more data from its rapid engagement team.