LGUs should start moving vs. current COVID-19 surge

Judging by the current surge in cases, it’s either Omicron is already here or the Delta variant is running rampant among the island’s population.

The real score can only be known once selected samples sent to the Philippine Genome Center for sequencing have been examined and the results released after the current waiting period of 30 days.

For the first seven days of 2022, there were only 11 new COVID-19 cases in Catanduanes recorded from Jan. 4 to 7.

Then from Jan. 8 to 15 came the explosion of infections that reached a total of 100, nearly ten times the number for the previous week.

Of this number, the capital town of Virac accounted for 40 cases, followed by 11 for Bato, nine each for Viga and Caramoran, eight for San Andres, six each for Panganiban and Baras, five for Pandan, four for San Miguel and one each for Bagamanoc and Gigmoto.

While majority of the new cases have no history of travel, at least five people infected in Baras and Viga had traveled from the National Capital Region and nearby Southern Tagalog.

From diving to zero sometime during the first three days of the year, the number of active cases climbed back to 112 as of Sunday, Jan. 15.

Thankfully, there were no deaths during the eight-day period, with the first COVID-19 fatality of the year an 88-year old woman who succumbed to complications 12 hours after being admitted with breathing difficulties at a hospital during that first week of the year.

The lone fatality was fully vaccinated and was due for her booster shot but she apparently had an existing ailment.

In another sigh of relief for worried health officials, none of the 112 active cases were in either severe or critical condition.

The Bed Occupancy Rate at all six COVID-19 hospitals remains at the safe level, with just 25 of the 74 available beds occupied as of Sunday including one ICU bed.

This favorable situation should persist for now as the Department of Health (DOH) has released updated guidelines on quarantine, isolation and testing for COVID-19.

Fully vaccinated, asymptomatic close contacts shall quarantine for at least five (5) days from date of last exposure, while those partially vaccinated or unvaccinated close contacts shall quarantine for at least 14 days.

These asymptomatic close contacts shall no longer undergo testing unless symptoms develop, with the individuals immediately isolating regardless of test results.

On the other hand, all asymptomatic and fully vaccinated confirmed cases shall isolate for at least seven days from sample collection date and the isolation discontinued provided they remain without symptoms during the period. The asymptomatic, partially vaccinated or unvaccinated shall isolate for at least 10 days.

Individuals with mild symptoms may now undergo home quarantine for at least seven days from onset of signs and symptoms, provided they have their own room and bathroom and are being medically supervised.

Moderate cases and those with severe and critical symptoms will have to be isolated for at least 10 and 21 days, respectively, from onset of symptoms.

Immunocompromised confirmed cases, meanwhile, have to undergo isolation for at least 21 days, regardless of vaccination status.

Most likely in consideration of the delays in testing, the same DOH guidelines state that asymptomatic close contacts will no longer be tested. Instead, it recommends symptom monitoring.

To ensure that hospitals will not be paralyzed, healthcare workers who are asymptomatic or have mild to moderate symptoms must isolate for five days while their close contacts are no longer required to quarantine.

It also states that intensive contact tracing and testing of asymptomatic close contacts are no longer recommended in areas with large-scale community transmission.

The new rules send a message to local government units that they will have to implement IATF health protocols and granular lockdowns if they want to prevent Delta and Omicron from further weakening their local economies.

And they could start by ensuring that those on home isolation remain inside their homes.

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