Cases spike in Northern Mindanao as more returning residents positive for coronavirus

Bobby Lagsa
The Department of Health confirms 17 new coronavirus cases in Northern Mindanao – all locally-stranded individuals and OFWs who have returned to the region

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE. DOH Northern Mindanao Director Dr Adriano Suba-an at a press conference of the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases on May 26, 2020.  Photo from NorMin COVID 19 Response Task Force Facebook page

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Coronavirus cases in Northern Mindanao spiked as more locally- stranded individuals (LSIs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who returned to the region tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 10 days, regional health officials said.

Department of Health (DOH) Northern Mindanao Director Dr Adriano Suba-an said that as of Wednesday, July 1, the region has 157 COVID-19 cases. Of this number, 124 are LSIs and OFWs. 

Data showed that 40 LSIs and OFWs tested positive for the new virus on June 21, and that this number  more than doubled to 107 by June 30.

On July 1, 17 new cases were reported among LSIs and OFWs. Suba-an said of the confirmed cases, 5 are in Bukidnon, 5 in Iligan City, and 7 in Cagayan de Oro.

In a press briefing, Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno told the public that the city government anticipated more cases in the coming days as more LSIs and OFWs return via this city, and also because of the city’s increased testing capacity. 

“COVID-19 positive cases continue to increase especially as locally stranded individuals  and returning overseas Filipinos continue to reach the city,” Moreno said.

As this city serves as a transportation hub, LSIs and OFWs from other regions also arrive in the city as they wait for their respective local government units (LGUs) to fetch them. Some of them, however, have become stranded in the city again as some LGUs refused to fetch them.

Last week, the national government suspended trips bringing LSIs back to their provinces as it prepared to require them to undergo swab testing. This decision was made after LSIs who were brought home later tested positive for the coronavirus, with some of them even becoming their respective hometown’s first coronavirus cases.

The Regional Interagency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (RIATF-EID) has put up a holding area for these individuals inside the University Science and Technology in Southern Philippines (USTP) main campus here. 

Acting city health officer Dr Lorraine Nery said the public should not worry because LSIs and OFWs returning to this city from other places are placed in quarantine before they are allowed to go home.

“In the isolation units they are provided care, they are also given RT-PCR tests after 5 days in quarantine just to make sure they are not infected,” Nery said.

The city has tapped hotels as isolation units for its LSIs and OFWs. 

Meanwhile, city epidemiologist Dr Teodulfo Joselito Retuya Jr said that serologic tests being conducted by the city govenment in Barangay Carmen may also be another reason reason for an increase in cases.

“Conducting a serologic prevalence survey has been hailed by the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) as an ‘offensive’ strategy for reducing the virus outbreak.  Early on, the health team has recently identified asymptomatic subjects who were put on a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) and that may prove positive as they would be subjected to  RT-PCR test for confirmatory result,” Retuya said.

Moreno said the serologic prevalence tests will help decision makers see a clearer picture of the situation because of the data that will be available. It will also keep those with the disease from infecting people, as they would be placed in the city’s isolation units.

The city government has also donated 4 reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machines and 2 extractor machines to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) and to the DOH-TB reference center.

As of Wednesday, Cagayan de Oro’s confirmed corovonavirus cases totaled 42, as 3 new cases were reported that day. Of these cases, 25 are active cases, 11 recovered, and 6 died. – Rappler.com

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