Issue of September 19, 2021
     
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69 COVID-19 deaths in Baguio in 16 days
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

DRIVE-THROUGH VACCINATION – The drive-through vaccination continues to cater to drivers and operators of public utility vehicles , including registered owners of private vehicles at the Athletic Bowl by the City Health Services Office together with its partners from the Baguio City Police Office, and Public Order and Safety Division. Meanwhile, Covid-19 survivors, National Artist for Film Kidlat Tahimik and wife, Katrin de Guia, strike an Olympic medalist's pose after they received their first dose at the Baguio Country Club recently. The city government of Baguio has been innovating ways to reach out to eligible population to get vaccinated. -- Harley Palangchao/KT

More than 400 residents in Baguio have died due to Covid-19 infection, with 69 of them recorded in September alone.

The city, meanwhile, has to contend with full isolation facilities and hospital beds for Covid-19 patients and already insufficient manpower due to the continuous surge of cases in the past days.

The surge, health authorities said, is now happening driven by local transmission or the spread  of the virus that causes the Covid-19 within barangays driven by the Delta variant.

As of Sept. 16, the City Health Services Office reported Baguio has 412 death cases, 69 of which died from Sept. 1 to 16 and the highest daily tolls were recorded on Sept. 15 with 12 and Sept. 14 with 10.

Forty-two barangays are on lockdown as part of quarantine procedures and tracing of possible close contacts of the 2,616 active cases in the city as of Sept. 16.

The city has also already breached the 20,000 mark of Covid-19 cases with 20,735 on the same date.

The city has also been recording daily new cases not lower than 100 and as high as more than 200 this month, with the highest daily count recorded on Sept. 11 at 289 cases. Daily new cases have also been overtaking the number of those who have recovered from the infection in a day.

With the number of locked down areas and at the rate patients dominate the available number of isolation facilities and contact tracers, authorities fear there might be chance patients cannot be accommodated if cases do not stop increasing.

Data analyst Mischelle Junio of the city’s contact tracing team confirmed the current rate of transmission has doubled and are concentrated in households and workplaces, which meant that when one is infected, all his or her household members are also positive, as well as those in his or her workplace.

It goes triple when a possible infected person still goes out and unknowingly infects others while waiting for test results.

Junio said the city now has insufficient personnel to do contact tracing, which is important to identify and prevent transmission by tracing a benchmark number of possible contacts of one confirmed positive case.

“We regret to tell na kulang, especially with the lockdowns. Looking at the number of positive cases, kulang po,” she said.

Junio said while they are doing all efforts to mitigate the case surge, it should be the people’s individual obligation to inform those they came in contact with if they suspect having the infection, and not only the job of contact tracers.

She said each household should now have a contingency plan in case a member becomes positive, which should include planning an area for isolation in the house and planning of other needs and precautions.

City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña also confirmed that as city isolation facilities are full and hospitals are now rejecting Covid-19 patients with an average of 30 to 40 waiting for admission, they have asked the help of the private sector for provision of beddings and linens for Covid-19 patients.

He said the city acquired beddings donated by members of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio. These were reconditioned and deployed last Sept. 15. 

Dela Peña said health workers such as those manning the Covid-19 facilities and the vaccination drive are also overwhelmed and becoming exhausted.

“We are doing our best to take care of our people. Ayaw natin na ang mga pasyente natin ay nakakalat sa kalsada, we will not do that. But ang mga personnel natin ay kulang na rin, pagod na rin. They have to extend their work hours dahil sa kakulangan ng personnel,” dela Peña said, while adding the city still have enough supplies of oxygen, medicines, and Remdesivir.

He said they are now also implementing home isolation as long as the area is properly checked and deemed suitable for isolation by the health office.

“Initially the Department of Health did not like home isolation because it should be facility-based. But we have to face reality. Wala nang facility, saan natin dadalhin? So I think kasama na sa protocols ang home isolation, which is now also supported by PhilHealth. But this should be case to case basis,” dela Peña said.

He said the city might impose more strict guidelines after the ones implemented until Sept. 19, if the cases do not improve. This may include lockdowns for a few weeks or until cases decrease, although he admitted they will have to observe balance as stricter rules will heavily impact the economy.

He repeated the city’s call for people to help address the situation at source by strictly adhering to the minimum public health standards to reduce the cases, becausse “there may come a time we can no longer admit them, so we do not want to go to that extent.”


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