Public Health: COVID surge happened within the military first

Oversight hearing on DPHSS convened by Speaker Therese Terlaje on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. (PNC photo)

The territorial epidemiologist testified on Friday that even before the current COVID-19 surge happened within the local community, it happened first within the military.

Testifying during the oversight hearing on the Department of Public Health & Social Services conducted by Speaker Therese Terlaje, Dr. Ann Pobutski recounted that around eight weeks ago, they noticed an uptick in military cases before seeing an uptrend in positive civilian cases.

“This is what we started to see approximately eight to 10 weeks ago. We started to see an uptick in the military cases before we started seeing a big uptick in the civilian cases, and the military cases have remained steady and then the civilian population,” Pobutski said.

During that time, military exercises were being held on Guam and a number of military personnel were residing in the island, either inside the bases or on the various hotels.

When the Speaker asked what Public Health did when they observed the military surge, Pobutsky answered:

“When we started seeing that uptick in the military cases, we had a weekly Department of Defense meeting. And it was the day after that meeting that the military brass decided to require masks for the military. You know, that’s a young population, they think they’re immune, and they’re walking around without masks, etc. So we were on top of that,” Pobutski said.

She added that after a couple of weeks, the military then mandated vaccination starting in September.