Saturday, October 23, 2021

Davao braces for another surge

SINCE the Covid-19 pandemic started in 2020, the Davao Region recorded its highest number of new Covid-19 cases in a single day at 1,031 on September 4, 2021.

Of these new cases, 498 were from Davao City, 64 from Davao de Oro, 136 from Davao del Norte, 238 from Davao del Sur, 28 from Davao Occidental and 67 from Davao Oriental.

With this, the region's active cases now reached an all-time high of 13,636 active cases. Based on the breakdown of active cases, all localities, except Davao de Oro, had reached the thousand-mark.

Davao City, the Covid-19 hotspot in the region, had a total of 6,208 active cases, followed by Davao del Sur with 3,006 active cases, then by Davao del Norte with 1,636, Davao Oriental with 1,192, Davao Occidental with 1,065, and Davao de Oro with 529.

With these cases, 187 of the 233 intensive care unit (ICU) beds in the region were occupied, while 517 of the 825 isolation beds were already been filled. Of the 792 ward beds, 629 were already occupied while 42 of the 117 mechanical ventilators were currently used.

In Davao City, the positivity rate hit a record-high of 30.5-percent, mostly as a result of household transmissions.

Davao City Covid-19 Task Force Spokesperson Dr. Michelle Schlosser said in a radio interview on Wednesday, September 1, that the positivity rate is higher than the acceptable level.

"Ang pinaka-acceptable level is five below. Medyo taas jud sya (The acceptable level of positivity rate is five percent below. So 30.5 percent is quite high.)," she said.

As of September 4, 2021, Davao City logged 498 new Covid-19 cases. The city's total Covid-19 cases reached 39,397 and of this number, 31,945 recovered and 1,244 died.

"Our data shows daghang mga household transmissions, meaning katong sa mga kapamilyahan diha nga nagahold na og gatherings, mamalihog intawon mi, iavoid sa nato siguro ang pagcelebrate sa atong mga birthday og pag create og family gatherings," Schlosser said.

(Our data shows there are a lot of household transmissions, meaning those families who have already been holding gatherings, please let us avoid celebrating our birthdays or creating family gatherings.)

She added, "Dili lang isa ka myembro sa pamilya ang infected, tag duha, tag tulo, tag upat, o ang entire family. Mas daghang household transmission bantug mas daghan tang household lockdown."

(It is not just one family member who is infected but two, or three, or four, and sometimes the entire family. With a lot of household transmissions that's why we have more household lockdowns.)

Covid-19 variants

Health authorities have attributed the spike in Covid-19 numbers to the presence of Covid-19 variants of concern (VOC).

As of August 24, the Department of Health in Davao Region (DOH-Davao) reported 281 Beta and 124 Alpha variant cases.

While the Beta variant is currently the dominant variant in the region, Rachel Joy Pasion, DOH-Davao Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit head, said based on the WGS from the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), results are showing more Delta cases.

Davao Region, as of August 30, had a total of 48 confirmed Delta cases since it was first reported in the region in July this year. Of this number, 20 were from Davao City, 10 from Davao Oriental, nine from Davao Occidental, five from Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur each, and one from Davao de Oro.

Health officials said the public should already assume that there is already a community transmission of the Delta and other VOCs after the recently confirmed cases did not have any travel history outside the region.

Davao del Sur information officer Sherwin Cesar told SunStar Davao in a phone interview that while they are still investigating the recently detected Delta cases in the province, they are already assuming that there is already a possible community transmission in their area considering that all of the five cases are tagged as local cases.

DOH-Davao has also observed clustering of cases of Covid-19 VOCs within households.

"We have really seen clustering of Delta cases among their closed contact, even if itong (our) whole-genome sequencing (WGS), e, parang delayed na ‘yung ating mga result, nakikita natin na pag may mga clustering (has delays in the results, we can see clustering of cases)," Pasion said during a recent DOH-Davao virtual presser.

High volume of patients

Meanwhile, the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) said on September 4 that it is currently "experiencing an unusually high volume of patients needing admission for Covid-19.” The government hospital is the primary Covid-19 referral hospital in the country.

SPMC Chief Dr. Ricardo Audan told SunStar Davao in a phone interview on September 3, 2021, that while this is not the first time the hospital has been overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients, he said suspects that the large volume of patients seeking medical treatment is caused by the highly infectious Delta variant.

"This has something to do with the Delta variant. Kasi ang characteristics ng hawahan is mabilis ang transmissibility, mabilis makaparami ng pasyente. (Because the characteristics of the transmission is faster, infecting more patients.) So it could be a Deta variant," Audan said.

SPMC has remained under critical level, as both ward and intensive care unit beds are fully or nearly occupied with Covid-19 patients.

As of September 2, 91 of the 92 ICU beds for Covid-19 patients were occupied, while all 472 ward beds were fully occupied.

The recently completed 44-bed modular hospital, which was constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highways, also allowed the hospital to cater to more Covid-19 patients.

However, Audan said patients that could no longer be catered to would either be transferred to private hospitals or at the Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City.

"Kung (If) worse comes to worst, the City Government and the Department of Health should also strengthen nila ang (the) private hospitals to expand their Covid-19 wards," he said.

Since the One Hospital Command Center was strengthened in Davao Region, only a few Covid-19 patients outside Davao City had been admitted to SPMC.

Other hospitals in the region were also experiencing overwhelming bed capacities, especially in Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur, wherein there were already decking of patients awaiting admission.

Due to the surge in cases in the area, Davao del Sur was classified by DOH as Critical Level 3, as hospitals, temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (TTMF) facilities are already overwhelmed.

Cesar said two hospitals in Davao del Sur have ceased operations due to undisclosed reasons, causing the shortage of bed capacities in the province.

He said some patients are forced to undergo home quarantine due to the decking of patients needing critical care treatment.

Government responses

In response to the surge in Covid-19 cases, provinces in the region are now placing their localities under a stricter community quarantine.

The Provincial Government of Davao Oriental officially declared a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from September 8 to 21, 2021.

Provincial Task Force on Covid-19 Action Officer Dr. Reden Bersaldo reported during an emergency meeting on Friday, September 3, that the surge in cases has placed the province under Alert Level IV and categorized with a high epidemic risk level.

The Municipality of Jose Abad Santos (JAS) in Davao Occidental also implemented the "Sunday lockdown" starting August 29.

Municipal Mayor Jason Joyce issued Executive Order 21-014, Series of 2021, declaring Sunday as border lockdown within the area from 12 a.m. of August 22 until further amended.

Joyce said the municipality is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases "due to the easing of restrictions of movements of people within the municipality."

"There is a need to control the Covid-19 cases in Jose Abad Santos because of the full occupancy of the Covid-19 beds in the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), the Covid[-19] referral hospital of Davao Occidental," the mayor said in the EO.

He said the border control lockdown will curb the surge in cases.

"In order to curb the surge in Covid-19 cases and to avert the spread of the virus in the municipality of Jose Abad Santos, the municipality deems it proper to curtail the movement of people in going in and out of the municipality by ordering and enforcing border lockdown in Mangile and Kitayo checkpoint every Sunday," Joyce said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Josephine Mariscal issued Executive Order No. 15, placing the entire municipality under MECQ from September 1 to 15.

In Davao City, Schlosser said due to the surge in household transmission cases, they are mobilizing the barangay health emergency response teams and the Philippine National Police to strengthen the household lockdowns.

Covid-19 vaccination

As Covid-19 cases continue to surge, DOH-Davao said there is a need to ramp up the vaccine rollout in the region.

As of August 30, DOH-Davao reported that the region already received a total of 2,403,770 doses of Covid-19 vaccines. Out of the total, 1,975,158 doses had been distributed.

A total of 868,567 doses had been allocated for first doses, while 626,182 doses were allocated for second doses.

Pasion said the majority of the active Covid-19 cases in Davao Region are unvaccinated.

Based on the August 29 data, out of the 11,543 active cases, 95.57 percent have not received a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccines.

About 1.47 percent are those who have incomplete doses or have only received their first dose, and 2.96 percent are those fully vaccinated or have received their two doses of the vaccine.

“Of these fully vaccinated, it is very noteworthy that none of these fully vaccinated are in critical condition,” Pasion said during the DOH-Davao virtual presser.

Philippine College of Physicians-Southern Mindanao Chapter President Dr. Kathryn Uy Roa said in a separate virtual presser that certain groups of individuals can benefit if the rest of the community will be vaccinated.

These include dialysis patients, transplant patients, cancer patients, elderly, children and pregnant women.

"Ang best strategy karon kung naa tay kauban sa balay na dili pa mabakunahan, kaning mga batan-on or kanang mga bedridden nga mga edaran nga dili pa mabakunahan is to form a 'cocoon'. Ang tanang adults nga naa sa balay dapat magpabakuna para maprotektahan tong mga dili pa mabakunahan,” Roa said.

(The best strategy we can do for now is that if we have household members who are still not allowed to be vaccinated, including minors or those bedridden elders, is to form a "cocoon." The adults in the house should have themselves vaccinated to protect those who have not yet been vaccinated.)

Regardless of the vaccine, DOH-Davao Director Dr. Annabelle Yumang said the public should have themselves vaccinated for additional protection against Covid-19, especially with the recent detection of the highly infectious Delta variant.

Yumang added that all vaccines issued with emergency use authorization can fight the Delta variant.

“Now more than ever, we need a national government-enabled response, local government-led response, and people-centered-response. No single strategy is enough to protect the people and our health care system. We need a layer of protection against the Delta variant,” she said.

In addition, she also urged the public to abide by the minimum health protocols despite being fully vaccinated.

Health authorities also urged the public to stay away from gatherings and continue to abide by the minimum health protocols, especially those who are already fully vaccinated. RGL


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