Bacolod City

Bacolod officials warn of ‘exponential’ rise in COVID-19 cases

Inday Espina-Varona
Bacolod officials warn of ‘exponential’ rise in COVID-19 cases

CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE. Bacolod Emergency Operations Center staff take a COVID-19 patient to the city isolation center during the September 2021 surge.

Bacolod City Administrator Em Ang

Cases are still way below the surge in September and October 2021, but Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia warns a new spike is 'just around the corner'

BACOLOD, Philippines – Bacolod City, the capital of Negros Occidental, recorded 90 new cases of COVID-19 from December 18 to 31, according to Department of Health (DOH) Western Visayas Center for Health Development daily tracker reports.

While the DOH regional office has not released a consolidated report for the last 14-day period, Rappler reviewed its daily updates over the last two weeks.

“We are closely watching it (rise in cases),” Em Ang, the co-chair of the city operations center, told Rappler on Saturday, January 1. “From daily cases of low single digits – two, two, four, two – then suddenly eight, then 14.”

The DOH tracker showed a two-week high on Wednesday, December 29, with 16 new cases in the city.

“While it’s still a far cry from the numbers in September, October, and November, we are wary about the exponential increase in these new cases,” Ang said.

Iloilo province had 91 cases for the same period, but its 2-million population is more than three times Bacolod’s 583,045.

At the height of the 2021 surge on October 1, new cases in the city hit 231, more than a hundred higher than September’s average of 119 new cases. Negros Occidental province’s new cases on the same day were at 393. 

In September and October 2021, one in three persons tested positive for COVID-19 in Bacolod City. Several major hospitals temporarily closed their doors because they had reached full capacity

The surge also caused a shortage in medical oxygen supplies. Private hospitals reported an exodus of overstretched health workers.

Vaccine drives

Ang said the city is ramping up its vaccine drive among minors aged 12 to 17 years old, as well as the campaign to give fully vaccinated residents their booster shots. A new inoculation round will start on Monday, January 3, after a break for the Rizal Day and New Year holidays.

The city, which remains on Alert Level 2, has not set new restrictions on mobility. Officials will meet to review reports from Metro Manila before deciding on any new policy involving visitors and returning residents.

Earlier, provincial health officials also expressed concern over a potential surge by January.

They noted that hundreds of thousands of families crammed evacuation centers after Typhoon Odette (Rai) destroyed 56,674 houses in the province and left 200,157 partially damaged on December 17.

Dr. Jessica Fama, a medical specialist of the Negros Occidental Provincial Health Office, also told Rappler the vaccination drive had slowed down after Odette as local governments focused on rescue and relief operations.

Negros Occidental has the smallest percentage of vaccinated individuals in Western Visayas, according to the DOH.

The DOH regional office’s report on Friday, December 31, showed Negros Occidental with 752,541 fully vaccinated individuals, just 41.23% of its 1.8-million target population. The target represents 70% of the province’s total population of 2.6 million. 

December 31, 2021 vaccine coverage report in Western Visayas

Bacolod City has the second highest coverage in Western Visayas, with 388,493 fully vaccinated individuals or 94.59% of its 410,701 target.

Ang, however, said the province’s low vaccine rate is a concern because “many of those from outside Bacolod also work, study, shop, or do business here.”

Mayor Evelio Leonardia warned on Thursday, December 30: “We cannot remain complacent and behave like the pandemic is over. On the contrary, it’s just around the corner.”

The mayor added, “We will be facing greater risks if we turn a deaf ear to calls of our government officials and local health experts to get vaccinated, secure a booster shot once qualified, wear protective gear such as face masks, attend at all times to your personal hygiene, and avoid crowded places.” – Rappler.com