COVID-19

Cagayan de Oro gets stricter as funerals, parties blamed for COVID-19 surge

Herbie Gomez
Cagayan de Oro gets stricter as funerals, parties blamed for COVID-19 surge

TESTING. Workers wait for their turn to be swabbed at the capitol grounds in Cagayan de Oro following a sudden increase in COVID-19 cases in the city.

Photo by Herbie Gomez

(1st UPDATE) Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno limits wakes to a maximum of 3 days and funeral crowds to 20 people

Cagayan de Oro officials have gotten stricter regarding wakes, funeral gatherings, and birthday parties after health officials blamed these for a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases that threatened to overwhelm northern Mindanao’s main COVID-19 referral hospital.

Local health officials said they feared the number of COVID-19 cases this May would exceed the city’s April record.

The sharp increase in the COVID-19 cases has slowed down work in the state-run Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) in Cagayan de Oro, which also needs to attend to non-COVID-19 patients, said Dr. Bernard Julius Rocha, the hospital’s liaison officer.

Mayor Oscar Moreno on Monday, May 10, issued an executive order limiting wakes to a maximum of 3 days, and funeral crowds to only 20 people, including religious ministers.

Barangay officials and the police were directed to monitor neighborhoods, and call out those throwing birthday parties and similar home gatherings. Restaurants were also told to be strict and limit the number of people attending parties.

At the same time, city hall banned homeowners’ association gatherings in all resettlement areas of the government.

On May 14, Moreno also released an executive order instituting a 9 pm to 5 am curfew beginning midnight of Saturday, May 15. The order also prohibits the sale of “intoxicating drinks” such as alcoholic beverages during the curfew hours.

Opening more wards

Rocha said the number of new COVID-19 patients rushed to the NMMC suddenly increased to more than 100, almost beyond the capacity of the hospital’s Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Disease enclosure wards.

The NMMC was forced to open more COVID-19 wards this week because of the rising number of patients, and city hall quickly bought ventilators to augment the hospital’s equipment.

The City Health Office counted 644 new cases from May 1 to May 11 alone, just 117 short of the 761 cases recorded throughout April, said Dr. Teodulfo Joselito Retuya Jr., the city epidemiologist.

Retuya said data showed 45 of those who tested positive in April up to May 11 likely caught the virus while attending birthday parties and similar gatherings.

He said 24 others were likely infected while attending wakes and funerals during the same period.

But most of the new patients had traveled outside the city, and many of them had taken part in picnics and other outdoor group recreational activities especially in beach resorts in neighboring provinces, said city hall spokesperson Maricel Rivera.

Moreno said a city hall-imposed citywide lockdown was the last thing on his mind knowing full well that such measure would be devastating to the local economy, already been weakened by the pandemic.

Kamo na lang mag-lockdown sa inyong kaugalingon (You lock down yourselves). Follow the public health protocols. Don’t go out unless it’s really necessary. We can defend ourselves by not being reckless, and if we change our ways. No one is safe until everyone’s safe,” said Moreno, as he appealed for more public cooperation and discipline.

Cagayan de Oro topped the list of areas in northern Mindanao with the most number of COVID-19 cases. It registered 773 active cases as of Monday, May 10, and over 5,500 cumulative cases since March 2020.

There were 82 new cases as of May 14, said Rivera. – Rappler.com