There are two more COVID-19-related fatalities - one was 39 and the other 75 - bringing the total to 181 deaths attributed, at least indirectly, to the respiratory illness.
The 39-year-old patient died at the Guam Regional Medical City on Sept. 17, according to Joint Information Center. She was vaccinated and had other health conditions, officials reported. She tested positive on Sept. 14.
The 75-year-old woman died at the Guam Memorial Hospital on Sept. 19, the JIC reported. She was not vaccinated and also had underlying health conditions. She also tested positive on Sept. 14.
“As we think of those lost to this pandemic, let us also remember the countless healthcare providers tirelessly working behind the scenes,” Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said. “We can give them some reprieve by protecting ourselves and protecting one another with options that work, including wearing our masks, washing our hands, watching our distance, and getting vaccinated.”
The Monday night JIC report followed a GMH announcement that elective surgeries at the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority are suspended - effective today.
Officials reported that the Intensive Care Unit has reached "absolute capacity" at 14 patients, as of Monday afternoon.
By Monday night, GMH had 42 COVID-19 patients. Of those, nine were in the ICU, eight of whom were on ventilators. Of their COVID-19 patients, 26 were unvaccinated, the JIC reported.
GRMC had 33 COVID-19 patients, five of whom were in the intensive care unit but none on ventilators. Twenty-four of those patients weren’t vaccinated, according to the JIC.
The U.S. Naval Hospital Guam had three COVID-19 patients with one in the ICU, the JIC reported. The military hospital doesn’t release vaccination status.
'A critical point'
GMH’s 165 beds, along with the Skilled Nursing Facility’s 40 beds, are quickly filling up.
“Unfortunately, the COVID census and demands on the hospital have reached a critical point,” a GMH press release states. “Thus, the decision is to now maintain and staff one Operating Room for emergency cases, while redirecting all remaining staff and resources to support the continued influx of COVID patients, particularly those who need ICU and Telemetry level of care.”
While there’s a constant flow of patients in and out of the hospital, “our admissions surpass our discharges,” said Mai Habib, GMH spokesperson.
At 5 a.m. Monday, there were 165 total patients with 45 of those being COVID-19 patients. By Monday afternoon, there were 175 total patients with no change to COVID-19 patient numbers.
Still, GMH has seen a steady increase in COVID-19 patients - a majority of whom are unvaccinated, officials continue to underscore.
“We are seeing a massive influx of people presenting with COVID-19 symptoms who end up positive,” Habib said.
Habib shared a message from GMH officials to the community:
“Not all of us are vaccinated, which is increasing our hospitalizations, increasing our deaths and using up more resources than those who are vaccinated. We are definitely seeing that those who are vaccinated, even if they catch COVID, fair better and don't end up as severely affected – i.e. in the ICU – as those who are not vaccinated,” she stated.
“This COVID wave is not like the others and we're seeing it worse than before. The same simple practices of wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing are still very effective at stopping the spread. And please, get vaccinated. We know that there could be breakthrough cases, but your mortality and recovery rates are greatly increased when you’re vaccinated. There are some in our community who truly cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons, or all those under the age of 12. We need to think of them and protect them as well.”
GMHA officials said they’re working to expand bed capacity and staff resources. This includes moving additional stable, non-acute, non-COVID-19 patients to the Skilled Nursing Facility. They are rerouting all administrative nurses to the hospital floors for clinical support and continuing to work with federal partners to request emergency FEMA clinical staff.
An ICU overflow called “Care 2” will be mobilized with the shifted staff from the Operating Room and various departments to support additional critical care patients. The Care 2 bed capacity is four patients.
“We will continue to analyze the situation and make decisions as we see fit. This is a constantly fluctuating and changing dynamic; after 1.5 years of this pandemic, we are nothing if not flexible, adaptable and agile to the needs of our community,” aid Lillian Perez-Posadas, GMHA CEO.
“I want to thank every single GMHA employee, who continues to show up, work hard and go above and beyond their regularly scheduled hours to support the sickest in our community. You truly are frontline heroes.”
Providing care through COVID-19 surge
During this current surge, GMHA’s teams have worked hard to ensure the highest quality care for all patients, despite bed and staffing shortages, the press release states.
Officials said in August, the hospital suspended outpatient services to accommodate the influx of patients with the hope of continuing elective surgeries during this virus wave.