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No guidance on how many other schools are within Dengue-affected zones

OCPES & Harvest students are latest minors infected; DOE to hold public information briefing tomorrow

By Troy Torres

(Tumon, Guam) One of the recently-announced confirmed cases of Dengue is a student at Ordot Chalan Pago Elementary School; another is a student at Harvest Christian Academy.

It is unclear at this time whether any of the confirmed cases of Dengue infection reside in proximity to any other school. The Governor’s Office and Civil Defense have refused to answer questions on the general location of the residences of the newly-infected patients.

The government also has refused to answer how many more are suspected of Dengue infection and awaiting laboratory confirmation.

Harvest Christian Academy sent a notice to parents of the school’s closure due to the infection of one of its students and the need to spray insecticide at the campus. Emergency officials have not said whether the spraying will occur in the 200-meter radius surrounding the perimeter of the campus.

Harvest Christian Academy, OCPES, and Agueda Johnston Middle School all will be closed tomorrow, September 23, for insecticide spraying and for gathering of mosquito samples by the Department of Public Health and Social Services’s Division of Environmental Health vector control unit.

In the message to HCA parents, the school informs them of the infection of the student and states, “There is no way of confirming the exact location of the student when the mosquito bite occurred, but since the student attends Harvest, we are taking additional measures on our campus to protect our families.”

The message informs parents of the timeline of events leading to the decision to close the school tomorrow. HCA administration was informed of the infection Saturday afternoon. Since then, the school administration had been in close contact with public health and Governor’s Office officials, who have been advising the HCA team. School officials quickly mobilized their response, to include assistance from emergency response officials.

Department of Education superintendent Jon Fernandez said in a news release from the Joint Information Center, “We urge our students and families to educate themselves on the dengue virus and the importance of mosquito control efforts.” The information needed to educate students and families was disseminated by the Superintendent last week Thursday, seven days after the Superintendent was notified of the first infection, and four weeks after the first confirmed case was reported by public health officials.

The incubation to confirmation period of the OCPES student leads back to an approximate mosquito-bite date that coincides with the period, when Mr. Fernandez learned of the first confirmed case of the Agueda student on September 12. Mr. Fernandez was told of the infection that evening and did not make a decision to close both Agueda and OCPES the following school day, Friday, September 13. We have reached out to Mr. Fernandez and his public information officer, Isa Baza, regarding this lapse in judgment.

Mr. Fernandez told Kandit that the decision had to be made in concert with public health director Linda DeNorcey and Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, and that at the time that decision was not made. Kandit, however, reached out to Civil Defense spokeswoman Jenna Blas, who told us that the decision was Mr. Fernandez’s to make alone.

A review of the education board-adopted Standard Operating Procedures #1300-002 shows that Mr. Fernandez owns the decision to close schools in order to protect students from disease outbreak. Neither he nor Ms. Baza have returned our request for response on the violation of the department’s own protocols.

Education board policy governing the conduct of DOE PIO Isa Baza during a disease emergency operation

Unlike the detailed information and timeline presented to the HCA school community, the news release from the government that was sent to all public school parents this morning only mentions the new infection of one OCPES student and does not provide any other information for that school community regarding that infection.

Mr. Fernandez sent the news release to all public school parents. The release invites parents to an informational briefing by the superintendent tomorrow, Monday, September 23 at 6 p.m. at the DOE headquarters in Tiyan.

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