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DOE awaiting GovGuam guidance on need to shut numerous schools

Ponding basins and Dengue-infested areas being mitigated

Jon Fernandez

By Troy Torres

(Tumon, Guam) The government’s emergency response officials have not consulted yet with schools superintendent Jon Fernandez on the need to close schools in the villages, where Dengue infection now resides.

Mr. Fernandez is monitoring the situation and encouraging public health officials to give him the latest and most-informed guidance as to whether he should shut down any or all schools, aside from Ordot Chalan Pago Elementary School and Agueda Johnston Middle School. Those schools will be closed tomorrow, September 23.

Mr. Fernandez provided Kandit with information regarding the government’s failure to advise on the threat to the Agueda Johnston and OCPES schools communities when first advised September 12 of Patient Zero - a 12-year-old Agueda Johnston student. Yesterday, September 21, the government released information that six more people on Guam tested positive for Dengue. One of them is an OCPES student. The school is within a 200-meter radius of Agueda Johnston Middle School.

“Yes, it is in my authority to determine when to close schools," Mr. Fernandez stated. "However, in a public health emergency, it is important to do this in concert with the information from DPHSS. When I first learned about the Agueda student, I inquired whether the protocol required school to be closed. I was informed that, because the student would not be at school and because there was no information regarding where the individual may have contracted the disease, there was no need to close the school. However, over the weekend, as I learned more regarding the spraying and more about the disease, I decided late Sunday evening, after being apprised of the progress of the spraying, to close both OCPES and Agueda in order to allow the completion of the spraying and to get information out to parents and employees before they reported back for school. I made the decision in consultation with the board and we thought it best to close and try to answer questions and concerns without parents and employees having to worry about the school day. We provided information to students to bring home beginning last Tuesday. Posters were distributed to all schools. A follow up letter went to all schools later in the week. We also provided guidance to administrators regarding the cleanup of school sites and relaxation of uniform policy.”

Mr. Fernandez is waiting on the Emergency Operations Center and the Joint Information Center on what to do about the schools within the vicinity of Dengue-infection zones.

Dededo is home to Okkodo High, Astumbo Elementary, Astumbo Middle, Finegayan Elementary, Wettengel Elementary, Maria Ulloa Elementary, Benavente Middle, and Liguan Elementary schools.

Yigo is home to Simon Sanchez High, FB Leon Guerrero Middle, Upi Elementary, and D.L. Perez Elementary schools.

Mangilao is home to the University of Guam, Guam Community College, George Washington High, Price Elementary, and Adacao Elementary schools.

Ordot and Chalan Pago are home to Agueda Johnston Middle and Ordot Chalan Pago Elementary schools.

Carbullido Elementary School is within the vector zone of the perimeter of Toto.

John F. Kennedy High and Chief Brodie Elementary schools are directly across the street from Harmon.

These are not to mention the several private schools within this area, the Mangilao Correctional Facility, and the Youth Correctional Facility in Mangilao.

Officials finally answer mosquito-breeding concerns

Kandit received responses to three questions we sent to Bertha Taijeron, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health and Social Services. The questions and their answers follow:

What is the government doing about the ponding basins of standing water throughout the island?

In today’s briefing, there were discussions to address ponding basins in high risk areas by clearing debris around the area. The specific mosquito that can carry the dengue virus mostly breeds in smaller water areas such as artificial containers that collect water (i.e. tires, flower pots, garbage cans, etc.) rather than large areas of water like ponding basins. However, partner agencies are working together to address debris near ponding basins in high risk areas to eliminate the breeding sites for the specific mosquitos that can carry the dengue virus.

Since the patients are not in isolation, are those who care for them provided any kind of protective apparel or gear to prevent mosquito infection considering the proximity?

Patients are advised to stay inside an air conditioned room, or use a bed net or insect repellent while febrile to avoid infecting mosquitoes that can infect others.  Once a person no longer has a fever, they are no longer infectious to mosquitoes. The Division of Environmental Health’s mosquito surveillance team provided insect repellent, and mosquito nets to the vulnerable population that was identified during their assessment.

All people on Guam should avoid mosquito bites. This includes the caregivers of confirmed cases. 

Patients and their caregivers are provided information on the proper protective measures they can take at home (i.e. protective layers of clothing, spraying insect repellent and remaining indoors) to further reduce the spread of dengue.

There is no specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for mosquito avoidance, however all in Guam are encouraged to cover exposed skin with clothing and use repellent to avoid mosquito bites. Also avoid spending time in areas with mosquitoes.

Are medics who transport suspected cases of patients provided with protective gear to avoid mosquito transmission considering proximity?

Same response as above.

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