City tourism officer reacts to OCTA research report

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City Tourism Operations Officer Aloysius Mapalo reacted to a series of reports on Baguio City being a Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hotspot based on OCTA Research findings saying these do not reflect the true ground situation in the city.

Mapalo said there is no question on the accuracy of the OCTA Research data but as to whether these are up to date and whether they reflect the real picture or the obtaining situation in the subject area is doubtful.

Citing the Nov. 26, 2020 report of a national daily which again named Baguio City as a hotspot, he said, “The data were taken during the first half of November, when Baguio was doing aggressive targeted testing of contacts. So expectedly, spike in cases were discovered in the clustered outbreak areas and therefore, a high attack rate. What was not explained is that if the testing were random, the attack rate may be low.”

He added that the OCTA report does not include the “mitigation and control management strategies employed by our local government and health officials including the immediate strict isolation and quarantine measures of positive cases.”

Said aspect should have been given more importance, he added.

He said the OCTA data do not include the more recent numbers of cases, particularly starting Nov. 14 which showed a decline in the cases due to the effective response on the discovered clustered outbreaks.

“If those will now be considered, our attack rate for the period week of Nov. 14 to 20, would only be 4.05 percent or below the risk threshold of 5 percent,” he said.

“Now, what is more risky?  Being in a place where cases are identified and controlled, or in a place where you don’t even know if the person beside you is positive because they are not even testing?” he asked.

He said the reports had cast Baguio in the negative light which should have not been a problem if what was reported reflected the real scenario in the city.

Prof. Rizavel Addawe of the University of the Philippines Baguio Department of Mathematics and Computer Science whose team has been at the forefront of the city’s COVID-19 data analysis, said the OCTA research is limited to the available data from the Dept. of Health.

She said because of this limitation, this may not be reflective of the true situation in the area as DOH data are not real-time and do not cover the tests done and the other controls and interventions being done by a locality.

When the OCTA Research Team initially named the city as one of the top COVID high risk areas last October, Mayor Benjamin Magalong himself agreed that there is no dispute on the fact that the city had increased average of new cases recorded per day and high critical care occupancy but these did not mean that the situation had gone out of control because its Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treatment-Reintegration (PDITR) systems had remained in place albeit not cited in the study.

Aileen P. Refuerzo