BHERT contact tracers deserve better

In what could be described as the COVID-19 pandemic’s highest death toll on a weekly basis, the island of Catanduanes had 12 of its citizens die from the virus during period from Oct. 24 to 30, 2021.
The week’s fatalities came from Virac (5), San Andres (3), Bato (2), Baras (1) and San Miguel (1).
The PHO tracking page had info on only seven of the dead, four of whom were aged 75 to 84 years old. The youngest were a 25-year old man from Virac and a 38-year old woman from Bato.
In the current surge of coronavirus cases, the number of new cases more or less stayed the same at 184, one less than last week’s.
Virac accounted for a third with 58 cases, followed by San Andres (36), Caramoran (24), Bato (21), San Miguel (13), Panganiban (8), Baras (7), Viga (5), Gigmoto (5) and Bagamanoc (4).
The new cases include three infected with the Delta variant in barangay Igang, Virac.
As far as the data showed, all of the new cases had no travel history and most were close contacts of confirmed cases.
Most of them had the notation “exposure to be established,” a worrying sign that the DILG contact tracers were unable to determine how the new patients got infected.
Incidentally, in the recent Provincial IATF meeting, it was learned that the DILG contract tracers, who are being paid P18,000 a month, were trained for only one to two days.
In contrast, the BHERT barangay health workers, who receive a measly honorarium from the local government, are said to be more diligent and efficient as they underwent extensive training prior to and during the pandemic.
Sadly, most, if not all, of the BHWs are no longer doing the contact tracing, preferring to have the job done by their better-paid counterparts from the DILG.
Municipal mayors, especially Virac’s Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr., are correct in asking the DILG to provide funding for a bigger honoraria to the BHERT members involved in contact tracing.
The EOC is likewise justified in asking for administrative supervision of the DILG contact tracers, who have been deployed to the 11 LGUs.
The DILG contractuals are supposed to augment the BHERT contact tracers, with the EOC in a much better position to know where to deploy them, especially in areas with increasing number of cases.
But it would take a considerable amount of funds in the form of bigger honoraria to convince the BHERTs to resume working alongside the DILG contract tracers.


Compared to last year, the evening before Nov. 1, 2021 was starkly different.
On Oct. 31, 2020, with what turned out to be the world’s strongest landfalling typhoon bearing down on the island, most of the people were hunkered down in their homes, having did what they could to prepare for the coming disaster: putting up typhoon guards, evacuating to neighbors’ concrete houses, and stowing away precious mementoes, plants, clothes, food and other provisions.
The few who ventured out that Saturday to hear Mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Virac numbered about 20, including the priest and lay people. As they went home after praying for deliverance from the Almighty, they noticed the unusual silence of the surroundings, as if all – from insects and birds to dogs and humans – were waiting with bated breath for an unseen monster to show up in the dark of the night.
Last Sunday, with the day slowly turning into dusk, there were a lot of people outside, especially in the boulevard: groups of teeners, bikers and families enjoying the cool breeze from the sea and each other’s company; black-clad members of a Zumba club trying to dance their way to fitness, some apparently succeeding and most just burning away the calories of their afternoon snack; and, some simply driving around, soaking in the atmosphere of freedom just hours before the MECQ kept them in their homes.
*
THE EX-BOYFRIEND. A wife says, “Hey! Look at that funny guy who’s been drinking a lot.”
The husband responds, “Who is he?”
The wife answers, “Well, five years ago, he was my boyfriend and I denied him for marriage.”
“Oh my God! He’s still celebrating his freedom!” says the husband.

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