By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) Speaker Tina Muna Barnes is trying to convince Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and her medical advisors to do what even the federal government is doing - buy Coronavirus test kits from South Korea and launch an aggressive testing program on Guam.
Ms. Leon Guerrero, in a news conference today, said she doesn't know what mass testing will look like, and she needs some guidance on how to implement such a protocol. It has been a month since the public health emergency started, and the government of Guam still has no plan on this.
But the speaker tells the governor, in a letter to her, that she need not look far for guidance: Commonwealth Gov. Ralph Torres is implementing a very simple goal backed by a robust plan. His goal is to test every resident of the Commonwealth. He made that goal actionable by ordering 60,000 tests. One third of those tests already have arrived from South Korea.
"While social distancing is one way to flatten the curve, another way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to allow for mass testing," Ms. Muna Barnes stated in her letter to the governor. "Experts and individuals have stated that by identifying as many individuals who are asymptomatic as possible, this will help us prevent the further spread of COVID-19."
The speaker set up an advisory group of health care professionals regarding the Coronavirus issue (since December 2019, according to her release). This group proposed this testing solution to the governor and her own physicians advisory group.
"Based on a conversation with one of the members of my COVID-19 Advisory Committee, former Senator Dennis G. Rodriguez Jr., I was informed that an organization that he has been involved with, the TODU GUAM foundation, has also reached out to your Medical Advisory team to explore the possibility of immediately setting up mass testing. They have also outlined a proposal to immediately set up such facilities on Guam. This facility would be able to run up to 450 tests a day." - excerpt from Ms. Muna Barnes's letter to the governor.
Despite the solution Ms. Muna Barnes and her advisors are presenting, Adelup sent a rebuke through the governor's state surgeon: former Lt. Gov. and Guam Regional Medical City chief executive officer Dr. Michael Cruz.
"Unfortunately, as recently as yesterday afternoon, my conversations with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicate that the specific test kits alluded to in your letter have not yet received FDA approval or an 'Emergency Use Authorization'. This is despite the fact that some international media have said the exact opposite." - Dr. Cruz to the speaker
On the same day Dr. Cruz released that statement, the federal government had released news that it would be purchasing 750,000 of these exact same test kits from South Korea.
Ms. Leon Guerrero dismissed questions by media regarding the test kits solution.
Several senators Wednesday questioned their ability to make policy decisions regarding the Coronavirus crisis without reliable data coming from the administration.
"They're saying we're flattening the curve, and I really hope that's the case, but I don't know if this might be because we're not testing enough," Sen. Therese Terlaje said during the Wednesday session.
"What happened to the 4,000 test kits that were supposed to come in last week," Vice Speaker Telena Nelson asked fellow senators, rhetorically.
Senators's frustrations were validated in today's gubernatorial news conference, when Ms. Leon Guerrero and her public health director, Linda DeNorcey, alluded to a lack of true understanding on the infection curve because of limited testing occurring. According to the governor's office, people with mild symptoms are not being tested.
According to Ms. DeNorcey's data, while scores of the infected have recovered (which means they are no longer infectious, and that 72 hours have passed since the patient had a fever or other respiratory issues and at least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared), the 1-year-old baby who has been sick with COVID-19 still has not recovered.