PHYSICAL DISTANCING IS PROVING TO BE DIFFICULT to implement in the celebration of the Misa de Aguinaldo in different churches in the Diocese of Virac especially when heavy rains begin to fall. This photo taken on Dec. 16, 2020 shows people still without the face shields that are now mandatory for those who venture outside their homes.
At least two members of the 294-strong Power Restoration Rapid Deployment (PRRD) Task Force Kapatid who went home to their provinces have tested positive for the coronavirus disease.
The Tribune learned of this developing story Saturday night (Dec. 19, 2020) when a reliable source informed that two linemen from Region 6 (Western Visayas), who had just left Catanduanes after helping restore electricity to 60 percent of 55,000 households, had been isolated in Naga City, Camarines Sur and were designated as Bicol #3442 and #3443.
Why the two Visayan linemen were in Naga City when their destination is in the other direction has yet to be determined.
According to a source from the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO), there were actually seven (7) members of the PRRD Task Force Kapatid who tested positive for COVID-19 via rapid test: one from Northern Negros Electric Cooperative (NONECO) based in Negros Occidental, three (3) from Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) from Iloilo province, and three (3) from Central Negros Electric Cooperative (CENECO) in Bacolod City.
They were among the 294 personnel from 42 cooperatives sent here by the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PhilRECA), the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to help FICELCO restore power to the island after the devastation brought by super typhoon Rolly on Nov. 1. A 41-man team from MERALCO earlier departed the island on Dec. 3.
The three teams from NONECO, ILECO and CENECO were billeted in two churches in Bato and were among the first to depart for their home provinces on Dec. 15 via the 6 A.M. ferry at San Andres port.
It is claimed that none of the Task Force Kapatid personnel underwent any testing upon arrival on the island.
When they returned, they were subjected to GeneXpert COVID rapid test as part of their respective cooperative’s health protocols and seven of the specimens returned positive results.
The seven were then made to undergo the more accurate Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test and two were confirmed to have the coronavirus.
Due to this development, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) and the Bato MDRRMO have issued separate appeals to those who had close contact with the NONECO personnel billeted at St. Anthony of Padua parish church in Cabugao and the ILECO personnel at St. John the Baptist Parish Church in Bato to immediately report to their respective Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) or the Rural Health Unit (RHU) for validation and verification of their exposure.
They also requested those who attended the send-off party tendered on Dec. 14, 2020 for the NONECO and ILECO personnel to do the same.
The unfortunate news regarding the Task Force Kapatid linemen came a day after the Provincial Health Office expressed its wish that new cases of coronavirus disease in Catanduanes would be minimal during the Christmas and New Year holidays in spite of fears that there would be a spike due to parties in homes, holding of the Misa de Aguinaldo in churches and increased movement of people.
Dr. Franchette Amabella Panti, spokesperson of the Provincial COVID-19 Task Force, told the Tribune last week that since swab testing resumed a week after typhoon Rolly slammed into the island on Nov. 1, 2020, there has been one or two new confirmed case per morbidity week.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the province stood at 121 as of Dec. 18, 2020, with six active cases all in Virac which has a total of 77 coronavirus cases so far.
Baras has eight (8), Bato with seven (7), Panganiban with six (6), Bagamanoc, San Andres, San Miguel and Gigmoto with four (4) each, Pandan with three (3), and Caramoran and Viga with two (2) each. Fortunately, only two have died from the disease, with 113 certified to have recovered from the ailment.
Last Dec. 16, the island’s 121st case was a 19-year old male student from Virac who had cough, headache and soft stool on Dec. 13 and as admitted at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center.
He apparently stayed in the same house as a 26-year old female relative who tested positive on Dec. 15 along with another 19-year old male from Virac, who complained of cough, colds and loss of sense of taste on Dec. 9 and was isolated.
On Dec. 13, the total stood at 118 as two new cases were recorded: a 40-year old female from Virac who suffered from colds, headache and loss of sense of smell on Dec. 4 and was isolated; and, a male, 31, also from Virac who had fever and cough on Dec. 6 and was isolated.
The first new case in December came on the 4th, via the positive result on a 72-year old female physician from Virac who was asymptomatic. Tested only because her husband was considered as a suspect case, she may have gotten the virus from a patient.
November brought in six new cases, to add to the 109 total as of Oct. 30, 2020 or two days before the super typhoon struck.
There was one new case from Virac on Nov. 1, but details of this was not posted by the PHO for obvious reasons.
On the 17th was recorded one new case, a 49-year old female health care worker from San Andres, who showed symptoms of cough, colds, loss of sense of smell and taste on Nov. 20 and was isolated.
Two new cases from Virac were recorded on Nov. 20, bringing the total to 112. They were a 55-year old man who had on-and-off fever, cough, colds and loss of sense of smell on Nov. 9 and was isolated; and, a one-year old female who was observed to have fever, cough, colds and difficulty of breathing on Nov. 10 and was admitted at a hospital.
Nov. 23 brought in two more cases. A female health care worker from Virac, 39, who had fever, cough and body pains on Nov. 17 and was isolated, following exposure to a 41-year old man, also from Virac, who had fever, cough, loss of sense of smell on Nov. 14 and was isolated.
Thus, from Nov. 1 until last week, a total of 12 new cases were recorded, with nine of them from Virac.
Prior to Nov. 1, the previous case was on Oct. 30, a female government employee from Gigmoto who was exposed to a confirmed case, was asymptomatic and placed in isolation.
Dr. Panti said that of the six current active cases in Virac, only one is asymptomatic, with the 121st still confined while the rest show mild symptoms and are quarantined in their own homes.
“We need to swab those with Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) like cough, colds and fever, as well as those with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI), or those having difficulty of breathing, to control spread of COVID,” she added.
Close contacts of confirmed cases should voluntarily inform their Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT) or RHU and go into quarantine for 14 days, the Assistant Provincial Health Officer said.
The surveillance and swabbing of health care workers is also needed to protect not only their families but also their patients, Panti added.
She clarified that those who tested positive cases often cannot accurately recall whom they have been in contact with during the two- to three-day window prior to appearance of their symptoms or swab taking.
The DOH has advised the public not to hold large gatherings, limit Christmas parties to members of their immediate families and to observe health protocols such as the wearing of face masks and face shields, frequent washing of hands and physical distancing.
It has also urged the people to hear the early morning mass on line to avoid large crowds.
Milder symptoms of recent cases should not lull people into complacency during the Yuletide season, Dr. Panti said, as the increased movement of people at this time could spread virus faster and pack local hospitals with new cases.
She cited the problem of lack of quarantine facilities as many buildings temporarily converted for the purpose were heavily damaged by the typhoon.
The PHO also reminded the public against the use of firecrackers, which could harm people, and the “torotot” as it could spread the coronavirus.
It also advised against drinking dirty water and to use chlorination tabs distributed before the recent typhoons. In the wake of typhoons that resulted in the unavailability of potable water in many places, many deep well pumps tested positive for contamination but thankfully, there were few cases of diarrhea, the health official stated.
She also warned against wading in floods during rainy days to avoid being afflicted with leptospirosis and to dispose of stagnant water in their homes so they would not serve as breeding places of mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus.