By Joseph B.A. Marzan and Dolly Yasa
The Department of Health-Western Visayas Center for Health Development (DOH-WV CHD) confirmed that four provinces in the region surpassed their peaks of new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
In an episode of DOH-WV CHD’s Isyung Bakuna with the Philippine Information Agency-Region 6 (PIA-6), the regional office’s Infectious Diseases Section Head Dr. Mary Jane Roches Juanico gave a report on the status of COVID-19 in the region as of April 3, 2021.
Their data indicated that as of April 3, the region has 27,940 cases, 23,930, or 86 percent, of which are local.
The daily average of new cases continued to climb in March at 76 cases per day, which is a 28.81 percent increase from the February average of 59 cases per day, and a 46.15 percent increase from the January average of 52 cases per day.
The figures still did not surpass the region’s standing peak at 194 cases per day in September 2020.
Juanico said the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, and Iloilo (excluding Iloilo City which is a separate local government unit) reported spikes in daily averages in March and even exceeded average cases in 2020.
She noted that of the four provinces, Iloilo posted the greatest rise in daily averages and continued to surpass its peak also in September 2020, but she did not provide specific figures.
The other administrative divisions of the region, including the provinces of Capiz and Negros Occidental and the highly urbanized cities of Iloilo and Bacolod, have a seemingly low number of case averages and have not peaked compared to other parts of the region.
With the latest figures, however, Juanico noted that Aklan, Antique and Bacolod City have risen to ‘Moderate’ risk classifications because of their 2-Week Growth Rates (2WGR) and Average Daily Attack rate (ADAR).
Out of the three, Antique has been registering the highest 2WGRs and ADARs in the past weeks.
Comparing the last 3-4 weeks and the last 5-6 weeks as of April 3, Antique’s 2WGR increased by 1700 percent, but went down to 322 percent in the last 2 to 3 weeks.
In the previous 5-6 weeks, the province only had 1 new case, but reported 17 new cases in the last 3 to 4 weeks, and 58 new cases in the last 1 to 2 weeks.
Despite this, Antique still has the least number of total COVID-19 cases in the region as of April 3, with 207.
Juanico also reported the region’s 788 deaths as of April 3, which constitute 2.82 percent of all total COVID-19 deaths in the country.
The region also posted a 5.2 percent positivity rate, with 28,999 individuals yielding positive results out of a total of 555,326 tested as of April 2.
As of April 3, Negros Occidental still records the most number of COVID-19 cases in the region with 7,467, followed by Bacolod City with 6,166, Iloilo City with 5,804, Iloilo province with 5,358, Capiz with 1,346, Aklan with 1,216, and Guimaras with 307.
As to the Healthcare Utilization Rate, which is the rate of utilization of COVID ward beds and mechanical ventilators, the region registered 27.86 percent utilization, still within the ‘Low Risk’ status.
As to Health Capacity Monitoring, 23.47 percent of public hospital beds and 13.78 percent of private hospital beds are being utilized as of April 2.
The DOH mandated that all public hospitals should maintain 30 percent capacity for COVID-19 patients, while all private hospitals should have 20 percent available bed capacity.
Juanico attributed the rise in daily averages of COVID-19 cases in the region to increased social gatherings and activities like cockfighting.
Local government units (LGUs) in the region have already taken steps to prohibit cockfighting activities in the meantime.
She said that the DOH and LGUs have taken notice of the reports in the continued rise of cases in the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, or collectively coined as “NCR plus”.
She added that as much as possible, they “don’t want to see the same scenario in Western Visayas”.
She also stated that the ‘Low Risk’ classification in the regions’ HCUR does not necessarily mean that there should be cause for comfort, reiterating their directed protocol for the handling of cases.
Under the DOH protocol, asymptomatic and mild cases can stay in quarantine facilities and Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMFs) by LGUs, with hospitals catering primarily to moderate, severe, and critical cases.
Juanico explained that this was so that frontliners in hospitals cannot get exhausted in handling other health services aside from COVID-19.
600% SPIKE IN BACOLOD CITY
In Bacolod City, Emergency Operations Center deputy for medical, Dr. Cris Sorongon said Monday that surveillance testing was conducted on all offices at the New Government Center (NGC) after 19 city government employees tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 last week.
Sorongon himself also tested positive.
“We are conducting surveillance testing as we speak on all offices of the NGC; implementing 30% workforce on duty starting tomorrow, Tuesday,” Sorongon told Daily Guardian.
He also said that since Resolution 101 of the National Inter-Agency Task Force was implemented, data from the Department of Health (DOH) Region 6 showed that COVID-19 cases in the city surged by almost 600%.
“Once again we are alarmed by the spike of cases and the surge we are experiencing,” Sorongon said.
“We appeal for observance of minimum health protocols; MASS GATHERINGS discouraged; 30% workforce both public and private; if with early s/sx visit BRO for free consult and swabbing.”
Sorongon said he started to feel ill Monday last week and decided to undergo testing on Thursday.
He is now confined to a private hospital where he is recuperating.
Meanwhile, the 19 infected employees included 10 from the City Engineer’s Office, 5 from the office of Councilor Cindy Rojas, two from the EOC, and one each from the City Treasurer’s Office and the City Mayor’s Office.
EOC Executive Officer City Administrator Em Ang said that both Mayor Evelio Leonardia and Rojas, who is in charge of the returning locally stranded individuals, have not been exposed to the staff who tested positive.
Ang said the mayor already ordered his staff members to determine the last day that the infected CMO employee reported for work since there were reports that the latter did so before the Holy Week.
With Covid cases in Bacolod rising, Leonardia issued Executive Order No. 17, series of 2021, limiting mass gatherings and other activities in the city.
Under the EO, dine-in restaurants, fast food and food retail establishments, including those in supermarkets, grocery stores, and food preparation establishments, as well as barbershops, salons, and other personal care institutions should limit occupancy to 30 percent of their capacity.
Meetings, conferences, and exhibitions as well as religious and Church gatherings are also limited to 30 percent of the venue capacity, while skeletal workforce is encouraged in public and private offices.