Baguio beefs up contact tracing efforts amid spike in COVID-19 cases

Published August 1, 2020, 11:25 AM

by Zaldy Comanda

BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Benjamin Magalong has tapped the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Cordillera, and the Department of Health (DOH) Cordillera to augment the contact tracing teams in the city, as well as assist other local government units in the region amid the recent and sudden increase of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.

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

The training of additional contact tracing personnel will be coming on the heels of the sudden increase of COVID-19 cases in the city, which was attributed to the expanded testing of high risk sectors, particularly frontliners and those with COVID-19-like symptoms, senior citizens, vendors, drivers, and workers of business establishments allowed to operate.

Magalong, named as the country’s contact tracing czar, developed a local system of tracking contacts of COVID-19 patients using his background in the military called cognitive interviewing skill, and added counselling and health protocols of the medical sector through the City Health Services Office (CSHO).

Baguio has 22 contact tracing teams composed of over 600 personnel from the Baguio City Police Office, and the CHSO trained by Magalong on cognitive interview for an effective tracking system.

He said that, with the expanded testing, additional contact tracing teams have to be trained as support groups. “In extreme cases, we can tap the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” he bared.

“Our target is to complete at least 80 to 90 percent of a patient’s contacts within three days, have them tested, isolated or quarantined,” Magalong explained.

An average of 37 individuals are being contact-traced for every COVID-19 patient.

Within three hours from receiving the report of a positive COVID-19 result, the contact tracing team is immediately deployed to locate the patient for health assessment, counselling and interview.

The team brings the patient to the city’s isolation facility at the Sto. Niño Hospital if asymptomatic, and referred to the Baguio General Hospital and General Center if the patient exhibits symptoms or having other health risks.

Recently, the Philippine Economic Authority Zone (PEZA), hospitals in the city and several academe and business establishments have sought the assistance of the city for the training of their own contact tracing units.