Last Friday, April 24, 2020, personnel from the Virac Rural Health Unit (RHU) and the provincial COVID-19 task force inspected two buildings at the Catanduanes National High School as the new site of the Ligtas COVID Facility after a neighbor and the adjoining barangay expressed their sentiments against the old site.
It may be recalled that two weeks ago following an inspection by the same agencies, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Catanduanes Engineering District, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), the Catanduanes Contractors Association (CCA) and the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers, Inc. (PICE) Catanduanes Chapter began assembling beds and partitions for the newly-completed three-story building at the right side of the school.
The facility was supposed to accommodate 90 patients with mild symptoms but had only 36 beds available as of last week when it accepted a Person Under Monitoring (PUM) discharged from hospital confinement and her sister who had attended to her.
The two minor-age PUMs had already completed their 14-day quarantine but could not come home as their house has no separate room where they could stay. A boarding house at Moonwalk road also refused to accept them.
Last week, the office of Acting Governor Shirley Abundo received a letter from a breast cancer survivor who along with an elderly sister resided just across the school fence barely four meters from the facility.
The resident expressed concern about the possibility that the future occupants of the building would spit out the windows and possible infect them with the virus.
The barangay councils of Constantino and Sta. Elena also sent similar petitions to the capitol, claiming that the establishment of the facility was not coordinated with them.
At the meeting of the Catanduanes Development Council (CDC) on April 22, it was suggested that the family be moved out of the residence, to be billeted at a resort or hotel at government expense.
The following day, the Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Disease Provincial Task Force (EREID-PTF) considered a dialogue with the neighbors and the barangay council, along with placing interior screens on the windows to deter spitting.
However, on Friday, the CNHS management gave permission for the transfer of the facility to the other two buildings approved for use of Persons Under Investigation (PUIs). The new site consists of the new three-story buildings flanking the CNHS auditorium.
At the Catanduanes State University (CSU), where all of the 30-plus stranded islanders in Tabaco spent seven days at a building of the College of Business Administration (CBA) after their arrival, the management has reportedly refused its further use as a quarantine facility.
The decision was made after the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) allegedly directed colleges and universities to resume classes on May 4 in anticipation of the lifting of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
The acting governor and Provincial Board Member Giovanni Balmadrid were supposed to discuss the matter with CSU President Minerva Morales.
Although this appears to have been rendered moot and academic by the extension of the ECQ in the province until May 15, it is not sure whether the returning chief executive, Joseph Cua, would appeal to the CSU leadership for the continued use of the facility beyond May 15, assuming current health protocols for returning Catandunganons would still be in effect.