By Nancy I. Maanao
Buried in the Joint Information Center's nightly news release Tuesday night is a paragraph, where the Governor's Office admits - SIX WEEKS AFTER THEY WERE AWARE - that the way they were testing COVID-19 specimens was wrong and may likely have led to several false negative results.
"The Department of Public Health and Social Services Guam Public Health Laboratory (GPHL) performed a total of 55 tests using 1 ML viral transport medium. Of the 55 tests, several of the tests performed through Abbott ID NOW were retested through an approved U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) protocol to confirm negative test results. By doing this, it ensures that a negative test result is not a false negative." - paragraph buried at the end of Tuesday night's JIC release update on infections.
The "(EUA) protocol" referenced was an urgent message sent to GovGuam on April 14 telling the government NOT to use a viral transport medium with any dilution whatsoever, and to insert swabbed specimen from testing directly into the Abbot ID NOW machine, which is the machine used to test for Coronavirus by the GPHL in Tamuning.
The government was transporting specimens swabbed at the Northern Public Health Center to the Tamuning lab using the 1mL dilution VTM.
This means that of the 2,203 total tests run by the DPHSS GPHL prior to yesterday, all of the tests were run using a method that is scientifically proven to yield a high number of false negatives. It is statistically likely that many residents who showed symptoms of COVID-19 and tested negative actually were positive for the virus.
"DPHSS plans to redirect the Abbott point-of-care machine from GPHL to Northern Region Community Health Center (NRCHC). GPHL staff will be training NRCHC laboratory personnel to perform diagnostic testing of COVID-19 on patients by using direct swab procedures on the Abbott ID NOW." - Governor's Office news release Tuesday night
On April 22, Kandit first asked the JIC whether the government would be responding to the urgent message from Abbott Laboratories, the manufacturer of the Abbot ID NOW machine, by ending its method of transporting tests in the dilution VTM and retesting those who tested negative through the machine.
On April 23, the Governor's Office released a statement telling the public that Abbott told the government it was okay to use the 1mL VTM, despite the clear instructions released by Abbott globally.
On May 1, Kandit contacted Abbott directly through Twitter. On May 4, Abbott responded, confirming that it has not told GovGuam to use the 1mL VTM.
Nick Delgado with the Guam Daily Post on Tuesday asked Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero whether she is aware of the Abbott instructions and the governor AGAIN doubled down on the issue and said the government would continue using the 1mL VTM, asserting her knowledge of the issue as a nurse and dismissing the clear instructions from the machine's manufacturer.
Hours later, the Governor's Office released its statement making a complete 180-degree turn on what Ms. Leon Guerrero said not even 12 hours earlier.
The JIC and the Governor's Office still have not responded to Kandit's follow up questions on the matter, and whether GovGuam will be retesting everyone who tested negative as a result of their ABSOLUTE SCREW UP.