New test

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Tomorrow, and the next days and weeks after, we will be ushered into another test that will determine how well we can further cope up with the testing times, when the coronavirus remains a potent, frightening threat, when just about everything has been wielded to possibly slow down its onslaught, when just about what we’ve known about life has undergone drastic, even revolutionary changes unprecedentedly unknown just a few months back.

From ECQ, now downgraded to GCQ, it’s still an effort that will certainly put to a severe test how well we can balance off our grimly crippled local economy with the ever-persistent demand of greater, stronger health protective measures that have been our collective endurance these past 8 weeks or so. GCQ means having too loosen up, bit by bit as Mayor Benjie has strategically opted to employ, even as we are reminded just as sternly to maintain all-out vigilance over the preventive approaches that have stood us well during the 60-day ECQ regime.

Which reminds us that just a week ago, our local chief executive was overheard expressing disappointment over the paucity of health protective efforts, precisely harnessed since Day One to keep us out of harm’s way, not just you and I, but the rest of the Baguio community. Sixty days of collective suffering and pain have been assuredly well endured, enough for many of us to publicly commend the city government for its decisive, tough-as-nails, no-nonsense leadership in the whole of society response to the pandemic.

Test, test and test may have been the national battle cry to whip into line everyone towards a singular goal, but there seems to have occurred significant lapses in the health system. Fifty days onward, our local authorities were bemoaning the lack of testing capacity that should have been applied to the maximum, precisely because we just had to know the situation on the ground. In a population like ours, by this time, the numbers should have showed, in full clarity, what they represent, but test results have agonizingly been southside and therefore very much capable of misleading much of what we’re told.

For some reason or another, the tests have not just been done fast enough for us to see the enemy for what it is. Does it surprise us, if pleasantly, that after 60 days the total confirmed tally is 1 Active, 29 Recovered, and 1 Death? The suspected cases are in the high 1,281, 170 of whom are Active, while 1,111 are Recovered. To this day, we still have 680 Possible cases. Somehow, the numbers have a way of benumbing us to believe that the fight against this dreaded disease has gone over the hill.

This is why the transition period of 2 weeks or thereabouts, from ECQ to GCQ, will be a new testing ground for Baguio. Surely, there’s need to re-open critically hit sectors of the economy. Business has to get back on its feet, hobbled it has been much so much. Workers have to return to jobs suddenly thrust out of them in the last two months. The growth drivers of our hurting economy have to hum anew, to breathe out in productive levels and quality.

At the same time, when the economy is re-opened, even in gradual, calibrated, sequential process, there is real danger that with more human bodies out there, the chances of the virus latching on to warmer hosts simply loom larger than it may seem. With the health system of tests and more tests improving by the day, forecast to be done at 1,000 each livid day, wouldn’t the number of infections exponentially rise, just as emphatically we strive to be on the rise, economically? And if this materializes, God forbid, wouldn’t the health facilities painstakingly put in place, be suddenly besieged by an upsurge of warm bodies? Would our health caring system be capable of serving its dedicated mandate, to the last man and woman conscripted to provide testing, tracing, isolating, and treating?

It is well enough that Mayor Benjie, wizened as he has been from the wars fought and the combats he had all his professional life, realizes the kind of situation that will rear up in a re-opened economic setting. This is surely discernible from the strategic choice of opting for a well-calibrated, cautious, and deliberate approach — baby steps, as he terms it — precisely because any slight hint of a spike in cases, any definitive sign of malingering prevalence, any indicative clue of a 2nd or 3rd wave in the pandemic’s virulence will be met with strategic pull-backs of people out at work.

Surely, it is time for the economy to be pushed up from the debilitating quagmire and allowed to breathe anew. It has been battered badly in the last two months and to allow this moribund condition, at so much cost to the government, will not infuse life, or be simply too late the heroic effort. Every locality caught up in the maelstrom of restrictions needs to let loose from the vise of deprivation imposed. Everyone who lost his job and sole income source may be able to withstand further difficulties the first and the second month, but extend it to another month of uncertainty and he becomes a candidate either for lunacy or death by hunger.

All throughout the collective ordeal, we have beenl encouraged by what we have done together, while staying safely apart from each other and keeping ourselves safe and secure. Despite difficulties arising from restrictions meant to foster better public health practices, we have shown what utmost unity, cooperation, and solidarity can do to help alleviate everyone and prevent the virus from infecting the populace. By our shared solidarity, we have spoken volumes in making our sense of humanity, our spirit of bayanihan, shine through.

In this new phase of our struggle, let us keep up the faith of being brothers and sisters bonded by a common destiny. Sure, small victories have been worthily earned, no doubt because we listened, we complied and we obeyed government’s efforts to make us out of risk every step of the way. In the last 60 days, let our little triumphs inspire us to be one in spirit in disciplining ourselves, very much at work while very much conscious of staying safe all the way.

And yet, as we continue addressing vigorously the covid-19 threat, there must be time wisely spent to begin looking ahead. Opportunities for growth have to open up anew and recovered in no time.
Our floundering economy deserve a strategic headstart to bounce back and re-grow. Slowly but steadily, Baguio will rise up on the backbone of a program that emphasizes how being better can emerge from building back in far better ways.

As a city nearest the Philippine skies, there’s always our loving God spraying the perpetual sunshine of endearment a blessed people like us fully deserves. As narrated by our glorious past, we will overcome. Always as One.