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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, May 14, 2020
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with Matè Espina

Doctorsí opine

Rock & Refuge

Amidst the confusion on whether to lift the quarantine, go on general community quarantine, or modified general community quarantine, very few are listening to what our medical community is saying.

We call them our frontliners, yet when it comes to decision-making their views are set aside despite the fact that if all hell breaks loose, the medical team will be the first to put their lives on the line.

And such was the reaction from the medical community upon learning last Tuesday that Bacolod will lift its quarantine in accordance with the directive of the national Inter-Agency Task Force that placed us and Negros Occidental on a “low-risk” status.

Of course that decision was already reversed by Interior and Local Government Sec. Eduardo Año who said that the regions identified as low-risk will not fully lift their quarantine but will transition first into a modified GCQ. What that is will be contained in the guidelines that will be issued through executive orders.

But when the lifting of the quarantine announcement was made, many in the medical field who normally would not voice out their opinions, went on social media to vent their emotions, some even literally ranted.

CLMMRH Chief, Dr. Julius Drilon went on radio yesterday to say that while he respects the decision of the city government, they are worried because all their indicators show that everything seems “unstable” and we do not have a clear picture yet of the situation in both the city and the province.

If we just base our indicators on the number of COVID-19 positives we have, then definitely we are on the low-end as we only have 12 cases in Bacolod and 8 cases in the province. Two of the new cases were identified just yesterday, weeks after their tests were submitted for confirmation.

Doc Drilon said that we have very little positives because we also have very little tests made. In fact, two months into the lockdown, records show that we only tested less than 600 people. That is also because DOH changed its protocol to conduct testing to those who are showing symptoms.

Unfortunately for us, most of our cases are actually asymptomatic which makes it scarier because they may unknowingly be spreading the virus around.

Another doctor, Jet Masa, posted on his page a very interesting analysis of our numbers and I’d like to share it.

Bacolod, prior to the latest addition yesterday, have 11 positive patients with three deaths or 27 percent of the cases. The Philippines has a case fatality rate of 6.7 percent. If three died here, “arithmetic would show that there are around 45 cases based on the country’s case fatality rate.”

Dr. Masa further said, if 11 cases are accounted for, where are the other 34 cases? Perhaps asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms? Since we only test people who seek medical attention, what are the chances of getting a more accurate data?

“At the end of the day, do you feel confident on the number of confirmed cases, taking into consideration that we are not really measuring what we intend to measure? Think about that,” he added. Jet was on point. Are we really measuring what we intend to measure?

It was incredulous to see Cebu taking the second spot in terms of number of cases in the country. But their numbers are not surprising because Cebu started their own mass testing and massive contact tracing.

My fear here is, if we do mass testing, will we see more positives in our midst? Is that the same fear that’s driving our local government units who continue to dilly-dally in pushing for mass testing despite the urging from the medical community?

Now that we are downgrading to an MGCQ, we expect people to start coming out and though there will be protection in place like the mandatory mask-wearing and physical distancing, will that be enough against the virus that we all know was able to afflict hospital staffers even though they were wearing more coverage than the general masses.

Our LGUs are focused on opening up businesses and reviving the economy as we definitely cannot afford to continue the lockdown. But is there also someone at least who is focused on responding to the call of mass testing and massive contact tracing? Did we allocate funds for these already?

We need answers. We owe it to the medical community who will be putting their lives on the line when cases re-emerge en masse.*

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