After three days, the Department of Public Health and Social Services nursing and social work staff, assisted by other local government entities, completed efforts to conduct targeted COVID-19 testing at the Gill-Baza and Zero Down subdivisions in Yigo.
The efforts gave the consular office of the Federated States of Micronesia the chance to be a partner because many of the residents in the area are migrants from the FSM.
The results showed an alarmingly high rate of COVID-19 contagion in the areas, which have drawn community discussions because of a lack of basic infrastructure that affects health and safety. Running water and a lack of access to the Guam Waterworks Authority wastewater system are among the challenges for households in the area.
After the three days of targeted testing at the Gill-Baza and Zero Down subdivisions, 117 or 27.7% of the 422 people tested were confirmed COVID-19-positive, according to government of Guam data. On the first day of testing, the positive rate was at a staggering 39%.
At 27.7%, that's nearly double the rate of positive cases for the latest weekly average on Guam, which was 15%.
The COVID-positive rate at the two subdivisions also does not inform us of the full scope of the contagion in the area, as some households, based on reporting by The Guam Daily Post, have declined to participate in the door-to-door testing.
Public Health spokeswoman Janela Carrera, when asked how many of the two subdivisions' residents declined to participate in the testing, said as of press time this information was still unavailable because the department was "still compiling data."
This case provides yet another lesson for GovGuam to target stringent measures on people who don't have the interest of the general public in mind by refusing to cooperate with testing, brought literally to their doors, for free, while other Guam residents have to fork out a considerable amount to pay for COVID testing on their own or have had to forgo testing because they can't afford it.
The refusal to avail of the free testing demonstrates that GovGuam's lockdowns should be targeted at those who fail to comply or at areas that have COVID cases that are spreading at a much higher clip than the islandwide average.
A 27.7% positivity rate is of great concern.
Public Health allowed many of those who tested positive to remain in their homes to self-isolate. But given that certain households had extended family members sharing one roof, and nothing kept members of these households from wandering about into the rest of the community, the lack of effective controls has become part of the problem – while the rest of the community in these islandwide, broadly implemented lockdowns are left feeling trapped.
We asked Public Health if door-to-door testing will be expanded to reach other areas, especially in heavily populated areas in Dededo, Yigo and Tamuning, among other villages.
You'd think this is an easy answer for Public Health and that it would swiftly move on to the next area or areas to catch as many cases as possible.
Just last week, GovGuam officials told the public there are more than 20,000 test kits available, so there's no reason to go slowly or be ambivalent about where the next door-to-door testing will go next.
"We will regroup and discuss our challenges, successes, apply those," Carrera state. "We will look at the data and the evidence and meet with stakeholders such as the FSM community leaders, the governor's office and others and look at areas that may need immediate intervention and move forward from there."
As the Yigo and Dededo mayors know, there are areas where a lack of access to health care, running water and a wastewater system presented health challenges even before COVID occurred. This was evident during the campaign to provide mosquito nets and insect repellents to Guam residents living in substandard shelters during the dengue outbreak last year.
There's no shortage of places that need door-to-door testing immediately.
We just need Public Health to be quicker on its feet.