For Immediate Release

September 14, 2022

Emergency Medical Team Responds to Yap State COVID-19 Outbreak

On September 3, 2022, a team of eight (8) health professionals from the Republic of Palau Ministry of Health and Human Services (Palau MHHS), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the Pacific Island Health Officers' Association (PIHOA), flew to Yap State to assist with a surge in COVID-19 cases. Between mid-August and mid-September, nearly 3,000 positive COVID-19 cases were identified.

The emergency medical team includes Dr. Richard Brostrom, CDC Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support’s ( CDC CSTLTS) Hawaii State COVID-19 Point of Contact, Pacific Regional TB Field Medical Officer, and Hawaii State TB Program Clinical Consultant, and Ms. Stephanie Kern-Allely, PIHOA Regional Communicable Disease Epidemiologist. Dr. Brostrom and Ms. Kern-Allely are also supporting Yap’s epidemiology surveillance team.

The remaining emergency medical team members are health professionals from the Palau MHHS. They are: Dr. Catherine Decherong (physician), Dr. Tzun Rafael (physician), Ms. Minda Benjamin (nurse), as well as members of the COVID-19 testing team: Ms. Roxana Lawichifeg (Environmental Health Technician), Ms. Jane Decherong (Patient Navigator), and Ms. Krystle E. Renguul (Training Officer).

Palau MHHS team providing COVID-19 testing for 150-200 people each, per day at T2T sites. Test positivity approached 80% each day.

Regional team working at the Southern T2T site in Millew. Members from Yap, Pohnpei, Palau, and the CDC.

The emergency medical team is assisting at two locations:  the Test-To-Treat (T2T) site at the Sports Complex in Abay and the Milew Multi-Purpose Center in Rull, as well as the Emergency Operation Center (EOC). Palau MHHS staff members have been able to step in at the T2T sites, while nearly 70% of the Yapese T2T staff was out with COVID-19. 

Current clinical and operational support includes a review of staffing levels as well as plans for streamlining the data collection process and improving customer satisfaction. A new policy under consideration is to separate first-time symptomatic individuals from those being re-tested; progress is being made toward instituting a COVID test certification form at T2T sites for persons who have already tested positive.

Staff setting up a T2T site in Yap.

Administering Bebtelovimab to an  elderly nurse with a fever and confusion at a T2T site.

Technical assistance from Dr. Brostrom and Ms. Kern-Allely includes working with the Yap Staff to improve outward situation reports, implementing a system for evaluating and reporting only new cases (first in the FSM), and enabling real-time data to be linked and updated automatically.

By streamlining data entry and reporting processes, developing a data cleaning tool for the Epi Data team, creating a situation report generation system, collecting and verifying case hospitalization and death data, evaluating curve hints at a possible slowdown of cases, and modeling tests and treatment supplies needed for continued outbreak response efforts on Yap Proper and Outer Islands, Yap State will be better positioned to manage the current situation and any future outbreaks. The emergency medical team communicated its progress on recommended practices in a meeting with Yap State Governor Jesse Salalu and his Cabinet.

Council of Tamol meeting with outer island Chiefs to discuss the opening of Yap's Outer Islands.

Pohnpei and Palau clinicians reviewing cases. For those over age 50, more than 80% received Paxlovid.


About the Pacific Islands Health Officers' Association

The Pacific Islands Health Officers’ Association (PIHOA) mission is to improve the health and well-being of the USAPIs by providing, through consensus, a unified credible voice on health issues of regional significance. Established in 1986, PIHOA is governed by and represents the collective interests of the USAPI health leadership from American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. 


PIHOA’s Secretariat, comprised of executive, administrative, and technical staff and consultants, provides support to the USAPI health agencies and leadership in the following priority areas: health workforce development; epidemiology and surveillance; health systems performance improvement; laboratory services; regional health leadership and policy advocacy; and, Pacific health security. PIHOA has two offices in Honolulu, Hawai’i, and Hagåtña, Guam.

Media Contacts

Billie Hiraishi

Communications Officer

Stephanie Kern-Allely

Regional Communicable Disease Epidemiologist