At least two commercial banks and several business establishments have required clients to wear face masks while a tertiary school has imposed a similar mandate as the new COVID-19 cases in Catanduanes surged to 95 with ten days more to go before the month end.
Both Virac branches of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and China Banking Corporation (CBC) implemented the mask mandate, along with the Christian Polytechnic Institute of Catanduanes (CPIC), reports say.
From just three (3) cases on May 3, the number of new coronavirus cases has been jacked up by six (6) on May 6, five (5) on May 9, 10 on May 10, 13 on May 12, eight (8) on May 15, 16 on May 17, a high of 23 on May 19 and 12 on May 21.
The total of 95 cases is nearly four times the 25 cases recorded by the Provincial Health Office for the first four months of 2023.
The capital town of Virac accounts for nearly 40 percent of the total with 36, followed by San Andres with 17, San Miguel with 12, Bato with nine (9), Gigmoto and Caramoran with eight (8) each, Baras and Pandan with two (2) each, and Bagamanoc with one (1) case.
The municipalities of Panganiban and Viga have yet to record new COVID cases.
Records show that of the 39 new cases recorded on May 17 and 19, 36 have symptoms while only three are asymptomatic.
Sixteen are considered close contacts of confirmed cases while health authorities have yet to determine how the other 23 were exposed to the virus. Only one of the 39 have a history of travel.
Informed sources that four patients confined at the COVID ward of the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC) have died, although only three – two from San Andres and one from Virac – have been added to the pandemic’s toll as the other fatality is a woman from Camarines Sur.
According to the COVID-19 tracker of the PHO, Catanduanes has a total of 57 active cases as of May 22, with 11 admitted and 46 placed under quarantine.
The 57 active cases come from Virac (14), San Andres (8), San Miguel (11), Bato (7), Caramoran (7), Bagamanoc (2), Gigmoto (7) and Baras (1).
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the island is now 3,755, with 3,555 recoveries and 143 deaths.
In a meeting with officials of several schools in the capital town last week, health authorities reportedly gave them the option of requiring students to wear masks inside the campus.
Also reiterated was DOH Regional Advisory No. 2022-0028 on the updated guidelines on quarantine, isolation and testing for COVID-19 response and case management for the Omicron variant.
Under the guidelines, unvaccinated individuals with symptoms and positive RT-PCR result must continue isolation until the 10th day while those asymptomatic must isolate for 14 days.
Unvaccinated individuals with symptoms who test negative must continue isolation for 10 days while those asymptomatic are to be released from isolation.
The same policy also applies to the partially vaccinated, the guidelines state.
On the other hand, the fully vaccinated individual with symptoms who test positive must continue isolation until the 7th day while the positive asymptomatic one should isolate for seven (7) days.
The fully vaccinated close contact with symptoms who test negative in RT-PCR will be released once the symptoms are gone while the asymptomatic, fully vaccinated close contact is to be released upon testing negative of the virus.
The meeting with school officials just before the DOH Bicol Center for Health Development warned the public of the threat to health due to the sudden surge of COVID-19 cases in the region.
It cited data of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit that showed 117 new coronavirus cases just on May 18, 2023, the highest recorded since January this year.
With a positivity rate of 47.97%, this means that one of every two tested for COVID-19 were positive.
The DOH Bicol CHD urged the public to observe health-seeking behaviors like the Minimum Public Health Standards, with senior citizens, individuals with comorbidities, pregnant women and the unvaccinated against COVID-19 to always wear masks, especially those with COVID-like symptoms who were also advised to go to the nearest health center.
They will be treated appropriately and advised to undergo home isolation, along with the close contacts of confirmed cases.
Health officials also advised the unvaccinated to go to the health center for their primary series doses and two booster doses in order to help decrease COVID-19 cases and avoid serious complications, hospital confinement and possible death.