WITH hospital admissions rising, local officials leading the pandemic response are pushing asymptomatic and mild cases towards barangay isolation centers (BIC), while hoping that private hospitals would again expand their capacity to care for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) patients.
The Cebu City Police, for its part, is urging eateries and “pungko-pungko” stalls to promote takeouts and discourage customers from “dining in.”
Five more hotels have converted their facilities into isolation centers exclusively for asymptomatic patients, bringing the total number of rooms for Covid-19 to over 300.
These are among the strategies that are being implemented to cope with the increasing Covid-19 cases in both Cebu City and Cebu Province, ease pressure on the health system and curb transmission of the disease.
Department of Health Central Visayas (DOH 7) officials are hard-pressed to come up with measures by Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, or risk having Cebu City and Cebu Province placed again under a more stringent community quarantine level in March.
The new quarantine classifications are expected to be announced before the end of February. Cebu City, Cebu Province, and other highly urbanized as well as component cities in Cebu are under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the most lenient form, until Feb. 28.
Critical care utilization
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH 7 spokesperson, said the critical care utilization rate (CCUR) in private hospitals in Cebu was approaching the warning level of 60 percent as of Wednesday, Feb. 24.
She said more than half, or 54.2 percent, of the beds (regular and intensive care unit) and ventilators set aside for Covid-19 patients in private hospitals were in use.
She noted, however, that private hospitals had reduced the number of Covid-19 beds to 794 from over 900 because of lack of manpower and the slowdown in infections in the second half of 2020.
Of the 794 beds, 430 were occupied as of Wednesday, according to DOH 7.
Nearly seven out of 10 patients admitted, or 295 out of 430, were moderately ill while more than one of every five patients, or 103, were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms. There were 32 Covid-19 patients in ICU as of Wednesday.
Loreche did not say why asymptomatic patients needed hospitalization.
She said she was hopeful that private hospitals would increase the number of beds back to more than 900.
To help meet manpower requirements, Loreche said DOH 7 has deployed 20 nurses to private hospitals. The possible deployment of more nurses was under evaluation.
In government hospitals, six out of 10 Covid-19 beds, or 1,971 out of the designated 3,227 beds, were occupied. This translates to a CCUR of 61 percent, which is within what the DOH considers the warning level.
At the Cebu City Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera said the CCUR in 15 hospitals in the city was at a “safe level” of 50.1 percent.
He also said three to four out of 10 patients in hospitals have mild or no symptoms of Covid-19.
“As I said earlier, 30 to 40 percent are asymptomatic. You take that away and we’ll be back to 20 percent,” said Garganera.
To ease the pressure on the healthcare system, Garganera appealed to coronavirus-positive individuals who have mild or no symptoms of Covid-19 to go to BICs or to Level 2 isolation facilities like the New Normal Oasis for Adaptation and a Home (Noah) and IC3 Bayanihan Center.
Garganera, as EOC deputy chief implementer, issued the appeal as cases exceeded 200 a day six times in the past eight days from Feb. 17 to 24 in Cebu City.
On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Brgy. Paril recorded its first Covid-19 case, leaving only Brgy. Tabunan as the sole barangay that is free from the infectious disease. There are 80 barangays in Cebu City.
In the past 10 days, Garganera said the number of barangays with no reported Covid-19 case declined to seven while those with active cases went up to 73.
On Wednesday, Feb. 24, DOH 7 confirmed 234 new infections in Cebu City, one additional death and 263 recoveries.
With more recoveries than new cases, the number of active cases went down to 3,120 (18.45 percent) and the total recoveries increased to 13,057 (77.24 percent).
The death toll, meanwhile, increased to 727. The case fatality rate, or the proportion of deaths in Covid-19 cases, was 4.3 percent.
As infections continued to increase, five more hotels in the cities of Cebu and Lapu-Lapu have converted their rooms into isolation facilities exclusively for asymptomatic Covid-19 patients.
Alfred Reyes, president of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC), said there are now eight hotels with over 300 rooms that are tapping into the asymptomatic Covid-19 market to help ease pressure on hospitals and, at the same time, keep their business afloat during the pandemic.
”The properties were strictly inspected by the Department of Health. There’s a health infection and prevention control officer (Hipco), a nurse and a doctor (who) monitor the asymptomatic patients 24/7 to make sure that they are receiving quality care,” Reyes said.
He said room rates are reasonable and affordable, despite the high operating costs due to compliance with health standards.
Asymptomatic individuals may stay for an average of 14 days in the isolation hotel, or until they test negative for Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
Meanwhile, the Cebu City Police Office has ordered all station commanders to monitor “pungko-pungko” stalls and eateries, where transmission of the disease was reported to be high.
Police Lt. Col. Wilbert Parilla, deputy director for operations, said owners of these stalls will be encouraged to promote takeouts and prohibit sharing of sauces.
Carenderia owners, on the other hand, will be urged to strictly implement physical distancing of at least one meter.
Garganera, however, said transmission in “pungko-pungko” stalls was significantly reduced in the last two to three weeks through the strict enforcement of health protocols.
On Tuesday, contact tracing data from the EOC showed that the household was the biggest source of transmission with 143 cases, followed by the workplace with 43 cases. (WBS / JJL / JOB / AYB)