February 6, 2023

Baguio City saw a sudden spike in coronavirus disease-2019 (Covid-19) cases over the weekend after the initial implementation of mass testing on target populations.

Of the 30 new laboratory-confirmed cases of Baguio, 12 are health workers of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center. Nine were diagnosed last April 25.

BGHMC Chief of Hospital Ricardo Ruñez said in an online briefing on April 28 they are tracing how these health workers have acquired the SARS-CoV2 virus, which causes the Covid-19 infection.

He said not all have direct contact with suspect or positive Covid-19 patients and not all are assigned in non-Covid wards. 

In an effort to contain the spread of the virus, the BGHMC management has scaled down its operations and suspended accepting patients, including those undergoing hemodialysis treatment on April 26.

It only resumed operations on April 27 but on a scaled down capacity.

Those who want to seek consult at the out-patient department are encouraged to go to barangay health centers, other hospitals, or book an appointment first.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong has also ordered a lockdown of the areas where the new patients reside.

These areas are San Luis Extension, Woodsgate Subdivision, Purok 1 Camp 8, Teachers Village, Sto. Tomas Proper, Sitio Sto. Niño, Bakakeng Central, sector 5 of Dominican-Mirador, and BGH Compound.

Department of Health-Cordillera OIC Director Amelita Pangilinan said in the same briefing the spike in cases is due to the implementation of the mass testing being done nationwide, following the agency’s procurement of more test kits and  PCR machines.

She said tests on BGHMC employees were done not because they exhibited symptoms but because they fit the criteria of those in the priority list for mass testing.

In the DOH guidelines, people will be tested based on their “risk exposure” or those who are more likely to acquire the virus. They are classified further into three categories: first priority are health workers, those who exhibit influenza-like symptoms, and those with severe respiratory illness; second priority are those with mild symptoms and with travel history in areas where Covid-19 cases were recorded; and third priority are those without travel history and without symptoms.

Pangilinan said this explains why returning Overseas Filipino Workers staying at the Teachers’ Camp were tested even if they are asymptomatic because of their travel history and the hotel employee and an eight-day-old infant who exhibited symptoms of the disease.

In the April 27 session of the city council, Asst. City Health Officer Celia Flor Brillantes said the target for Baguio is to test 140,000 individuals or 35 percent of its total population in order to get a real picture of the extent of transmission in the city.

Citing the Covid-19 tracker presented by the local inter-agency task force on the management of emerging infectious diseases last April 24 to ranking city officials, Brillantes said cases are expected to peak by April 30 and if the public continue to follow quarantine protocols, cases might begin declining by May continuing until July.

She said health experts should have been able to able to project the number of cases by May 15.

Brillantes said BGHMC committed to conduct 200 tests per day for Baguio. The rest of the tests are distributed to other provinces in the Cordillera and regions 1 and 2.

“Tuluy-tuloy ang tests until supplies (test kits) last,” Brillantes said. 

She said health authorities are also hoping the transmission at the BGH will be contained.

Baguio and Benguet have been classified by IATF-EID as high-risk reason why quarantine was extended until May 15.

Meanwhile, Ma-galong has set action plans to address the spike in cases. “We are now classified as high risk with a gloomy projection that if we fail to arrest the problem we will have 39,000 cases by September. So I hope we can institute the needed measures,” the mayor said in the management committee meeting on April 29.

He asked the Local Finance Committee to work out the emergency purchase of P10 million worth of test kits. 

Ifugao recorded its first Covid-19 case. The patient from Lamut, has no travel history outside the municipality but was confined four times at the Panopdopan District Hospital.

As of April 29, there are 42 positive cases in region, 23 are admitted in hospitals, 18 recovered, and one died. There are 2,900 suspect cases.

Apayao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province remain free from Covid-19. – Rimaliza A. Opiña