GUAM (The Guam Daily Post) — Guam residents can now order up to eight more free at-home coronavirus tests, but local health officials Thursday urged people to report their test results to help give a more accurate COVID-19 case count.
The at-home test kits are available for order online at covid.gov/tests.
Most of Guam’s positive cases are now asymptomatic, so people who feel just fine may have been unknowingly spreading the virus to vulnerable individuals including the elderly and those with chronic health conditions, officials said.
Moreover, with the popularity of at-home test kits, public health experts across the nation have raised concern about further undercounting of the true number of COVID cases.
That’s the same sentiment from public health experts in Guam.
The Department of Public Health and Social Services said it’s not particularly tracking the number of at-home test results, although it has so far received more than 300 at-home test results, of which 95% were positive, according to DPHSS territorial epidemiologist Ann Pobutsky.
“But that’s not a true number because we haven’t been keeping track of that,” she said during DPHSS’s COVID briefing with media partners.
Pobutsky said people who tested positive using at-home test kits can get confirmatory tests at Tiyan and other public and private clinics.
But a confirmatory test is not a requirement to get treatment, said DPHSS incident commander Fernando Esteves.
“So if you need treatment, your home test is adequate. We accept that. That’s acceptable per our policy,” he said.
So someone who tested positive using an at-home test may not be part of the official COVID case count, he said, but could still be getting treatment.
Although not required, reporting at-home test results not only helps with the case count but more importantly help people get the treatment they need and the ability for contact tracing to prevent further spread, said Dr. Robert Leon Guerrero, interim chief medical officer for DPHSS.
Dr. Annette David, lead epidemiologist for Guam’s State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup, said it’s “very likely” that the actual number of local COVID cases is far higher than what’s been tracked.
“The takeaway message here is that, truly, COVID is not done with us,” David said. “We are mentally and emotionally ready to be done with COVID but unfortunately, it is not ready to quit us yet.”
Given a seven-day official rolling average of about 30 positive cases a day, “the real number is as much as four times, maybe more, higher, than that,” she said.
“COVID is still out there,” Pobutsky said. People are still being hospitalized and deaths, while sporadic, continue to occur, she added.
Some states have seen new rounds of surges, and over the past two years, Guam usually experiences the same things happening in the states, including Hawaii, four to six weeks later.
Esteves said federal studies have shown that only about one in every four actual COVID cases was reported or identified, even before the popularity of at-home test kits.
But just the same, health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated and boosted, and to get tested if they feel sick or exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive.
Health officials said while people at this point may be tired of hearing about COVID-19, it’s still worth reminding them to not let their guard down – especially with graduation ceremonies and parties ongoing, and the resumption of more events.
People who test positive for COVID-19 using an at-home kit are highly encouraged to report the result within 24 hours by emailing email@example.com.
If the at-home test result is negative but a person has symptoms or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, they are highly encouraged to get a confirmatory test as soon as possible to be sure.