Out of hot spot rank

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FROM HIGH-RISK, to low-risk city, all in a matter of two weeks last month.

Not bad at all. After all, so much needless yet deadly flak has Baguio received all this time, purely on reports in most weeks of November that Baguio was at the top of high-risk cities, when it comes to ongoing coronavirus response programs. In a snap, tourism stakeholders in the city have raised serious concerns, publicly calling for responsible journalism, having noted that when the news broke out, based on Octa Research’s findings of two weeks back, nothing at all was cited of real-time developments taking place. In short, accurate findings but outdated reporting without proper context.

Now, the same research group may seem to have gotten more prudent and contextual in its survey, that in its November 30 news release, Baguio has slid out of the hot spot category where Metropolitan Manila and 7 other areas throughout the country were in the unenvied rankings.

As published by GMA News Online, the places now categorized as hot spots during the November 22-28 period were the National Capital Region, Davao del Sur, Quezon, Negros Occidental, Pampanga, Bulacan, Misamis Oriental and Western Samar.

Researchers also categorized the cities of Makati, Lucena, Batangas, Davao and Pagadian as high-risk areas owing to cases per day, positivity rate, attack rate, and/or high hospital occupancy rate.

In just a week’s time, Baguio got out of the hot-spot, high-risk category.

Which makes one wonder, just what happened? While Baguio being out of the high-risk areas is definitely good news, making us again the safe city that nationally has been its reputation, still the anxiety is there. Hopefully tourist cancellations knee-jerked a week back are back again. Hopefully, tourism revival gets going once more.

But here’s the rub: in today’s continuously struggling times, while the coronavirus remains a lurking lethal menace, there would certainly be a roller-coaster ride of the situation on-the-ground. The pandemic remains a potent, fierce, sly and deceptive enemy, just waiting to jump over any willing host when the circumstances favor it, like crowded settings and in-person gatherings where protocols are gleefully abandoned.

Now, we’re on the descent, but in a matter of just 7 days, the climb up in the numbers may just take place, the unseen enemy striking at will.

And let’s not ignore the fact that we’ve been having the best in vim and vigor in attacking the deadly foe in its tracks. Testing has become a routine 700-a-day effort, among the highest in the country. The concentration has been on vulnerable sectors as well as in places where transmissions occur due to irresponsibly held convergence taking place as a matter of daily recourse in work and fun places.

At the same time, contact tracing has also been aggressively undertaken at an enviable ratio of 1:37 (meaning for every 1 positively confirmed patient, 37 in-contact individuals are readily traced on a 24-7 operation). This has been Baguio’s long-standing target rate, even as nationally, key cities had ratio proportions of 1:6.

Effective contact tracing makes it possible to quicken the pace and upgrade the quality of isolation and treatment practices that thrives on consistency, constancy, and data analytics use. It further increases the opportunity to identify infected cases at the quickest way possible.

This past month, the high incidence of cases has been forecast all along, no doubt sparked by the economy loosening up to allow hard-hit industries and businesses to get some kind of a reprieve from worsening losses. Two community outbreaks readily come to mind, the one at Slaughterhouse and the other at Lower Lourdes.

Remember how residents simply threw caution out of the window and went about their drinking ways like there was no tomorrow? That kind of a devil-may-care attitude may have also caused police trainees to infect each other, again because health protocols during in-person gatherings have simply been shoved aside.

Roll in the fact that in recent weeks, like two weeks back, we’ve had an expanded mass testing activity that averaged about 700 a day, that it was no surprise being high-risk once more. More testing means simply that the asympthomatic ones are showing positivity signs from the intensified testing efforts. Now, we’re getting to know where the virulent strain is locally hitting any which way any host is there. Now, we’re learning how embedded the virus has become, enough to trigger community transmissions. Learning that makes it possible how to contain the viral spread, stem its spread, and enhance immunity. All these, while the vaccine remains beyond reach. Hopefully, not for long.

The good news is that border re-opening (to inbound travelers of whatever stripe) has nothing to do with the latest outbursts. No, it’s not because outsiders are coming in through liberalized restrictions. The virus is right here with us, striking with gay abandon, hitting us like no other simply because it respects no age, no gender, no social or economic status.

The good news is that the rising cases, while being easily detected (and the moderately stricken immediately confined, treated, isolated) are still within the standards of sound crisis management. That means those who are held as positive are quickly identified, their contacts to as high as 37 are speedily known. The confined victims are readily treated and their health condition managed well enough that in 2 weeks’ time, they recover from the diagnosed ailment.

Now a low-risk city? Sure, the labelling may just be there for comfort and ease for now. Really up to us to keep it that way, for the risk to our health and safety to be at the very minimum. Discipline, what we impose on ourselves, what we do to keep as safely as possible, should be deeply ingrained until it becomes a way of life, whatever we do, wherever we go to, for whatsoever the reason.

Angat Tayo Baguio will never lead us anywhere if by ourselves, by our habits, we remain prisoners of our old ways. No ifs and buts about it.