Guam confirms first death due to COVID-19
The US Pacific territory of Guam has recorded its first COVID-19 death on Sunday, March 22: a 68-year-old woman. It is also the first coronavirus-related death in the Pacific.
The Office of the Governor of Guam urged people to continue to stay indoors and limit social contact.
The first death
The Governor’s medical adviser and State Surgeon Dr. Mike Cruz made the announcement during a news conference on that day saying: “As a soldier and a surgeon I can tell you the toughest part of the job is losing somebody under your care. Today it was my duty to report to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero of our first COVID-19 related death at zero-one-thirty this morning.”
The COVID-19 Medical Director, Dr. Joleen Aguon said the 68-year-old woman “had multiple comorbidities” including end-stage renal disease, which compromised her immune system. Dr. Mike Cruz, the government official leading the coronavirus response, said the woman was a relative of a person who recently returned to the territory with COVID-19.
She was brought to the Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH) on March 14 in a personal vehicle, said Dr. Aguon. She was then admitted on March 15 and remained in isolation throughout the week
“She came in with fever, chills, and shortness of breath,” said. Dr. Aguon. “She had no travel history; however, she did have contact with a traveler.”
Dr. Aguon said the woman and family “decided not to undergo any extreme life-saving measures” and “over the past 36-hours she was placed in comfort care” and she passed on the morning of March 22 at 01:30 at GMH.
By law, the woman has to be buried or cremated within 24 hours, said Governor Lou Leon Guerrero (D) at the news conference. The Governor’s Press Secretary, Krystal Paco-San Agustin later said in a text message after the news conference that the woman who died was among the “first three confirmed cases” in Guam.
Tracking the spread
“Five of the first 14 confirmed cases had recent travel, most of which is linked to the Philippines,” Dr. Cruz said at the news conference. “There is strong evidence that COVID-19 cases have spread throughout our community and has affected residents in the northern, central and southern villages,” he added.
In the Pacific, Guam is the jurisdiction with the most number of people affected by COVID-19. Up to March 24, Guam has 32 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
At the news conference, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero asked for a major disaster to be declared in the US territory, which would open the way for significant federal funding.
Already, most of Guam is in a state of lockdown, with schools and all public facilities closed since March 16.
Governor Lou Leon Guerrero also said in a statement that she had asked President Donald Trump (R) for stimulus funds to help a tourism-based economy in free fall.
COVID-19 testing limited to priority groups
There is currently a shortage of the supplies needed to conduct advanced, accurate testing for COVID-19 islandwide and nationally. The Governor’s Medical Advisory Group provided guidance for COVID-19 prioritization of testing.
At this time, there are four specific groups that will be prioritized for testing:
- Hospitalized and Emergency Room patients with COVID-19 symptoms. These patients are already sick, and our health care providers must be protected. Early identification of a COVID-19 infection will keep our hospitals safe.
- People with chronic diseases and COVID-19 symptoms (e.g. diabetes, cancer, COPD, advanced kidney disease and others). These members of our community have an increased risk of becoming severely ill or even dying from a COVID-19 infection. They need to be diagnosed as early as possible.
- Health care workers and first responders with COVID-19 symptoms.
- Older people with symptoms of COVID-19. It is very clear that older people infected with COVID-19 get sicker faster and die at a much higher rate compared to younger people.
Testing for individuals outside these groups is not recommended until more testing supplies become available. DPHSS and GovGuam continue the effort to obtain more test kits.
This means the Guam Public Health Laboratory will not be testing mildly sick people with symptoms at this time. People who are sick with mild symptoms should stay home and self-quarantine for 14 days from the first day that their symptoms began. If you are sick with mild symptoms and have elderly relatives at home, you should separate yourself from them or separate your household if possible. Until further advised, do not go to clinics for testing unless you have serious symptoms.