Mayor refutes DOH, says Lapu-Lapu City doesn't need stricter quarantine status

Lapu-Lapu City officials led by Mayor Junard Chan disagree with the Department of Health’s assessment that the city, currently under Alert Level 2, may need to be escalated to Alert Level 3.

“I don't know why they would put us under Alert Level 3. Supposedly they should be communicating with our city's health [office]. That's the protocol. They should be advising us,” Chan told Rappler on Wednesday, November 25.

“What we're doing right now is that we're aggressive in our vaccination,” he added.

If the central government would push forward with placing Lapu-Lapu City under Alert Level 3, they would appeal this.

DOH says Lapu-Lapu at 'moderate risk'

In a press briefing on Monday, November 22, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that Lapu-Lapu City may be escalated to Alert Level 3.

“Lapu-Lapu City now shows a positive two-week growth rate and is currently at moderate risk case classification. With these numbers, Lapu-Lapu City will be monitored if they need to be escalated to Alert Level 3 from Alert Level 2,” she said.

Based on statistics presented during the DOH briefing, the city had tallied a moving two-week growth rate (October 25 to November 7, November 8 to 21) of 27.69%.

In terms of hospital utilization, the city recorded a bed utilization rate of 54.35% and a mechanical ventilator utilization rate of 52.94%, which reflected a moderate risk classification.

This is despite the city's low caseload overall.

Lapu-Lapu reported no new COVID-19 cases and deaths on Wednesday night, November 24. There are also only 44 active cases in the city.

Lapu-Lapu City has fully vaccinated 55.20% of the its eligible population, which is more than 225,000 residents as of this writing.

Rappler reached out to Vergeire for further clarification on Thursday, November 25, to ask why they believe Lapu-Lapu may need to be placed under Alert Level 3 and also to respond to Chan's comment that the DOH did not reach out to Lapu-Lapu's health office.

Vergeire has not responded to our calls and text messages. We will update this story once she does.

'No reason for Alert Level 3'

DOH Central Visayas chief pathologist Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, who is also a consultant for Lapu-Lapu City, told Rappler in a phone interview on Wednesday, November 24, that there is no reason to place the city under Alert Level 3.

Loreche said that before any city is put under a higher alert level, there are certain conditions that have to be met, including the number of new cases.

“If you look at our tracker, the average daily attack rate (ADAR) in Lapu-Lapu City is less than 1. It is at 0.6% now, if I'm not mistaken,” she said.

The chief pathologist explained that for every 100,000 individuals in the population, an ADAR of 1 would mean one new positive COVID-19 case.

Loreche was DOH Central Visayas' spokesperson until June 2021. Aside from her roles as chief pathologist and Lapu-Lapu consultant, she's also the spokesperson for the Visayas Vaccination Operations Center.

Loreche also said that hospital utilization is also a factor.

“If you look at their critical utilization rate, what happened was that they reduced the number of beds for COVID-19. There was a downsizing of hospital bed allocation,” she said in a mix of Filipino and English.

DOH tracker showed that there were now only 141 beds being used to cater to COVID-19 patients: 10 ICU beds, 119 isolation beds, and 12 ward beds. As of this writing, a total of 77 are being used.

“They have the ability to increase their allocation for COVID [beds], but because cases are lower now, they should not over-allocate because cases are low,” Loreche said.

Aside from the number of new cases and hospital utilization, Loreche said that the presence of COVID-19 variants and vaccine coverage are also conditions to be considered.

Wala tayong bagong Delta variant, at malaki ang (we don't have a new Delta variant and we have a high) vaccination rate. I do not agree neither do I believe that LLC should be placed in Alert Level 3,” she said.

The city has also tightened restrictions for unvaccinated residents, who can only enter malls if they take and show a negative antigen test. – Rappler.com