Baguio boosts triage, tests as new COVID-19 cases emerge


By Zaldy Comanda

BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the city government will boost its triage and testing schemes as new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases emerged this week.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong  (JJ Landingin / MANILA BULLETIN) Mayor Benjamin Magalong

He said the two new cases – a returning Baguio worker and a resident who is in jail – underscored the need to tighten the x-ray requirement in the city’s central triage, and the necessity to expand random testing.

The returning worker was found positive of the virus after her x-ray result showed suspicious pneumonia, necessitating a mandatory reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test which turned out positive. As a result of the triage findings, the patient was immediately isolated, preventing disease transmission at once.

Because of this, Magalong said chest x-rays will now become a requirement not only for returning workers, but also for all residents returning to the city as a precaution against the disease.

“We will now require x-rays among all our RBRs (returning Baguio residents) to ensure that no one with potential infection gets through the triage. We will deploy x-ray machines that will be good for a 24-hour operation for a minimal fee of P180 for the cost of the film,” Magalong said.

“I hope people would understand that this is the way to go if we want to safeguard our city because we really do not know how many of our RBRs and workers are potentially infected.”

He said triage records on construction workers alone showed that out of the 1,048 workers who came up from May 7-27, 11.9 percent were found to have pneumonia, tuberculosis and heart problems, all of which are comorbidities of COVID-19

Apart from the RBRs and workers, the city also contends with returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) now totaling 900.

He said they were expecting around 9,000 in the coming days, and the number could even reach 20,000 in the coming weeks.

Magalong said the case of the patient who was found positive while in jail highlighted the fact the prevalence of the infection remains unknown.

The patient who was committed to city jail only last May 28 was among those included in the random RT-PCR tests conducted at the facility. The situation will remain unknown until such time that an extensive RT-PCR testing is done.

At present, the city is only able to conduct 10 percent random sampling for RT-PCR tests among the at risk population due to limited supply of kits.

He said there were around 17,000 RT-PCR test kits available at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, and efforts are exerted to acquire more.

“So it is only until we have an adequate supply of test kits and able to do extensive testing can we determine our actual situation thus we have to be always on our toes and remain vigilant. We also have to be strict with our borders and we cannot simply ease up on all the sectors and let them all go out simply because we still do not know,” Magalong added.