Actions needed vs. COVID-19 before Omicron arrives

Compared to the previous week when only five new COVID-19 cases were reported, the number of new cases from Dec. 5-11, 2021 actually increased by nearly half.

Of the nine new cases, four are residents of the capital town of Virac while three are from Gigmoto, with Bato and Pandan having one each.

Majority were asymptomatic, with only two needing admission in a hospital, the Provincial Health Office reported in its daily COVID-19 Tracker.

And for the first time in months, no deaths from the coronavirus were recorded in the past week.

The number of active cases also dropped to 24, compared to 59 a week ago.

A check of the Department of Health’s coronavirus webpage shows that the Average Daily Attack Rate (ADAR) for Catanduanes has significantly plunged from the previous 2.41 to a new low of 0.57.

The Bed Occupancy Rate of the six COVID-19 hospitals for Dec. 11, 2021 also improved to 8.1 percent, compared to 16.9% the other Friday.

This means that out of the total 74 beds dedicated for use of COVID-19 patients in the six public and private hospitals, only six were occupied and only one of those admitted used a ventilator.

With the vaccination drive continuing at the municipal level, the number of Catandunganons fully vaccinated against the virus has now risen to 93,545, or 41% of the current target population, which does not include children below 12 years old.

This is tops among the six provinces of the Bicol region, as shown during the recent National Vaccination Days accomplishment of local vaccination teams, complemented by the Vaccine Express of the Office of Vice President Leni Robredo.

As proudly pointed out by a thankful DOH Provincial Officer Dr. Robert John Aquino, eight of the 11 municipalities were in the top 15 towns in Bicol with high vaccination coverage based on set targets.

These are Panganiban with 100.14% (3rd), Baras with 90.04% (4th), Bato with 86.43% (7th), Gigmoto with 84.76% (8th), Bagamanoc with 84.39% (9th), Virac with 82.19% (12th), Viga with 81.01% (13th) and San Miguel with 80.66% (14th). All eight were given Certificates of Commendations by the DOH Bicol Center for Health Development headed by OIC-Regional Director Paula Paz Sydiongco.

Without the cooperation of barangay officials, municipal governments especially Rural Health Units, the provincial government and the Provincial Health Office as well as volunteers from various agencies, student nurses and the Catanduanes State University, the laudable vaccination achievement could not have been possible, Dr. Aquino pointed out.

With the island province sure to hit the goal of herd immunity by the first few months of 2022, it is now imperative for the administration of Governor Joseph Cua to shift part of its focus to improving the facilities of the Eastern Bicol Medical Center and the district hospitals, particularly those with dedicated COVID-19 wards.

As it would take some time for the Omicron variant of concern to finds its way to the island, this should allow the government to purchase the needed supplies and equipment, particularly spare oxygen tanks and ventilators.

Likewise, it should not set aside its earlier plans to set up an RT-PCR laboratory in Virac and thereby, with the faster release of test results, allow contact tracers enough lead time to track close contacts for isolation and testing.

With the help of the office of VP Robredo, the Naga City government was able to set up an RT-PCR laboratory for only P13.5 million, which is a pittance compared to the reported P70 million funding allotted by DOH for such a lab here last year.

Perhaps, the province will be able to network with Naga City and find out how it would be able to establish a similar lab for the same or even smaller funding, considering that Motortrade Philippines is donating the P2.7-M RT-PCR machine.

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