Virac Contract Tracing Team’s first task could prove difficult

The Contact Tracing Team CTT) organized by the Virac municipal government will have the tough job of identifying and locating persons who had been exposed to Catanduanes’ first COVID-19 case since her arrival on March 7, 2020.

Informed sources say that after the result of the first test on the 63-year old female resident of San Isidro Village failed to arrive after more than a month, some RHU health personnel went to her house to get a second swab specimen, which was then sent to the Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory (BRDRL).

While the recent Japan visitor had stayed in her home after being discharged from the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC), local health officials fear the may have passed on the virus to members of her family, some of whom may have gone out to public places.

In preparation for the conduct of expanded COVID-19 testing in their areas, local government units have been directed to organize Contact Tracing Teams (CTTs) together with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

Provincial Health Officer II Dr. Hazel Palmes told the Tribune last weekend that the Provincial Task Force on Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases (PTF-EREID       ) has already issued a memorandum to the municipal governments.

So far, the municipalities of San Miguel, headed by Mayor Francisco Camano Jr., and Pandan, led by Mayor Honesto Tabligan II, have already complied with the directive, the Tribune learned.

The task force’s action came on the heels of Memorandum Circular No. 2020-073 issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) which ordered LGUs, the PNP and the BJMP to fully assist and cooperate with the Department of Health (DOH) in conducting expanded testing in the countryside.

The trained Contact Tracing Teams (CTTs) are tasked to identify and monitor suspected persons with known exposure and contact to confirmed Covid-19 cases to mitigate the possibility of contagion.

The CTT in each LGU shall be led by the PNP Chief of Police and assisted by the City/Municipal Health Officer with a staff from the PNP city/municipal police station, the city/municipal health office and the Bureau of Fire Protection; the city/municipal disaster risk reduction management officer; the city/municipal barangay health worker; the barangay health emergency response team members; and the barangay public safety officer, as members.

In the same directive, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año also said LGUs are also expected to ensure the functionality of their Ligtas Covid-19 Center or Community Quarantine Facility by ensuring a conducive environment for recovery, and with adequate medical personnel, facilities and medicines for Covid-19 patients.

He also said it is necessary to increase the number of LGU trained personnel who shall conduct swabbing and specimen collection to assist the Local Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (LESU).

All CTTs are required to submit a daily status report to the city/municipal COVID-19 Task Force (TF) on the number of confirmed cases, number of trained staff for contact tracing, contact tracings conducted, number of PUIs identified, isolated, and tested, how many Ligtas COVID-19 Center were established either by the LGUs or the national government, number of available PPEs, and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test kits.

To enable expanded testing based on the order of priority, barangay officials must use their existing census data to classify “at-risk” individuals and to prioritize contact tracing for those who were in close contact with the reported cases of COVID-19.

Due to the increased demand for testing, first priority will be given to in-patients, including medical professionals and health workers who show severe to critical symptoms of COVID-19, who have known travel history or who have been in touch with a confirmed patient.

In the second priority are medical professionals and health care workers with mild symptoms and known exposure to a positive patient; and patients with mild symptoms of COVID-19 who are identified as high-risk with pre-existing medical conditions and/or are members of vulnerable groups (senior citizen, a pregnant woman with co-morbidities) and with known travel history or contact with a positive patient.

The third priority includes all asymptomatic medical professionals and health workers but with known exposure to a positive patient, and all asymptomatic patients with known travel history or contact to a positive patient.

The closest LESU in the area is mainly responsible for swabbing and gathering specimens. Local health units shall provide the LESU with the required technical and logistical support during the collection of samples, the DILG stated.

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