By Jessica Pag-Iwayan
With more than 6.8 million confirmed cases across the globe and with a death toll of 397,000, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only threatened people’s lives but also challenged the leadership of different governments around the world.
Speaking of resourcefulness, in the town of San Jose, Camarines Sur, Mayor Marco Chavez is working on a double duty mode, as the town mayor and as a physician, to help contain the spread of the virus. In a conversation with the Manila Bulletin, the young mayor shares what inspires him to go beyond the call of duty and how their town is battling this deadly disease.
The desire to help people runs in Mayor Marco’s blood. He is the son of San Jose’s former mayor, Antonio Chavez. Growing up, the younger Chavez was very much aware that the health system in their town should be improved. This led him to provide free medical services to his townspeople when he graduated and passed the medical licensure exam in 2018. Now that the pandemic is threatening his hometown, the 33-year-old mayor didn’t hesitate to wear his physician’s gown and work on double duty shifts to help those in need.
“It started when our health workers had an exposure to a COVID-19 positive patient,” he says. “I couldn’t simply wait for help to come. I needed to act fast.”
With health workers put under isolation because of the quarantine, Chavez wore his PPE and started to lead the town’s rapid testing and contact tracing efforts. “Immediate solution was needed. So I spearheaded rapid testing and contact tracing procedures. I have to do this to let our frontliners know and feel that they are not alone in this fight. I am with them,” the Our Lady of Fatima University graduate said in Pilipino.
As of this writing, San Jose has one confirmed COVID-19 case. Having conducted more than 520 rapid tests, Chavez’s team is just waiting for swab test results. He also ordered to put the barangay where the positive patient comes from under lockdown.
“We sent relief goods to that barangay that we put under lockdown,” he said. “I also advised barangay officials to coordinate with my office in identifying individuals who had had direct contact with the patient.”
Fulfilling a mayor’s duty
Working on double duty is not an easy task, but the mayor-doctor is managing it fine. With the help of the Sangguniang Bayan (SB), Marco has passed an ordinance prohibiting people from going to public places without wearing face masks. This is to remind his constituents that even though San Jose is under a Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), they shouldn’t be complacent.
“We passed an ordinance for the mandatory wearing of face masks and practicing of social distancing,” he said. “Penalty awaits those who would not comply. Members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) are regularly patrolling [the town] to make sure everyone is following the ordinance.”
San Jose’s local government is working hard to protect its people, a population of 42,000. They even put up an isolation and quarantine area for those who are coming to town from other parts of the country, especially from Metro Manila. “Those who are coming back from Manila should go on mandatory isolation in our quarantine facility,” he says.
Chavez then gives a meaningful message to his people. “I am pleading with my townspeople to coordinate with the government for their own safety. And for those who graduated with a course related to the health profession, you can help us and be a volunteer because we are in need of more health personnel,” he said in Pilipino.