A silver lining in the heightened number of positive COVID-19 cases in Baguio is that the city has already tested almost a tenth of its residents.
As of August 4, it has undertaken a total of 33,970 Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain React Test (RT-PCR) and Rapid Diagnostic Tests which the mayor said was already high when compared to other cities and even regions.
This is equivalent to less than a tenth of the projected city population in 2020 at 372,680.
However, one problem is that the test is only "good as the day a person was tested" because he remains vulnerable to the virus even after testing negative of it, Mayor Magalong said.
Also, Baguio is now facing a testing shortage.
City Health Services Office chief, Dr Rowena Galpo, said that from the 40,000 kits procured by the mayor, the city is now down to only 19,000 kits, which would not be enough if the surge of SARS-CoV-2 infections continued.
Galpo said the city conducts an average of 462 RT-PCR tests and 75 RDT per day at present.
The swab samples were processed at the molecular laboratory of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC), a Department of Health (DOH) managed facility.
Magalong said swab testing was an important component of contact tracing to determine who needed to be isolated or quarantined.
The risk-based mass testing would determine the actual situation of the pandemic in the city aside from looking for asymptomatic patients for isolation and treatment.
The last sector to be tested was the banking industry.
Based on a CHSO report, there were 439 personnel from 23 banks who were swab tested. A total of 28 tested positive, or a positivity rate of 6.38%.
"At least we have situational awareness," Magalong said.
The mayor said persons who have had close contacts with a positive individual were also subjected to PCR testing.
He said that experience on contact tracing showed that a COVID-19 case has an average of 37 close contacts who were identified within 24 hours, swab tested, and immediately quarantined to avoid further spread of the disease.
Those with flu-like symptoms who were asked to report to the Barangay Health Emergency Team (BHERT) for assessment or to a medical facility for check-up were also swab tested.
Returning Overseas Filipino workers who have symptoms were also tested.
Magalong lauded the opening and accreditation of a private molecular laboratory in the city as an additional swab testing facility.
Magalong said regular swab testing of medical frontliners was a continuing activity as the city has sufficient PCR testing kits.
"We have sufficient supplies from donors. Actually, we are sharing the supply to nearby provinces of the Cordillera. By helping them, we are also helping ourselves," the mayor said.
The mayor said that for now, the city would have to manage the remaining kits while he tried to obtain more.
But if the city decides to continue its risk-based mass testing to identify more carriers, then it may have to resort to purchasing, albeit it will have to wait for the cheapest lot to save on cost.
But purchasing test kits would not be sustainable as the city still has to manage its resources amid the health crisis.
"We cannot go on testing forever especially since we know that this crisis might last until the end of 2021," the mayor said.
He said that faced with meager test kits, he might have to resort to zonal lockdown or quarantine system where in the event of clustering of cases, the entire barangay or purok will be declared as critical spot and will be put on lockdown and residents on quarantine for 14 days.
"It's either we test them or quarantine them for two weeks," he said. – Rappler.com