Stare at the face of the enemy
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - September 28, 2020 - 12:00am

Over the weekend, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a dire prognostication that the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic may cause as many as two million deaths by next year if no vaccine is developed soon. For almost nine months now, the WHO noted, there are over one million people who died due to COVID-19. If this deadly contagion persists for the next nine months, the WHO conceded, COVID-19 deaths may reach two million worldwide.

So all of us must really embrace the necessary minimum health safety protocols and other anti-COVID measures if we are to survive this pandemic. In our country’s particular case, these anti-COVID measures include the community quarantines being strictly implemented by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).

From the regular monitoring of the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines breached Saturday the 300,000 mark of confirmed COVID-19 cases with over 5,000 Filipinos dying from its complications. On the same day, I became part of the DOH statistics on 87.3% “recoveries,” or people who survived from asymptomatic and mild cases of COVID-19 infection.

This was a month after COVID-19 penetrated our home defenses. I tested positive from nose and throat swab tests on Aug. 20. I have no symptoms but I had myself tested after having direct contact at home with unknown COVID-19 carriers. Our prime suspect was the online delivery services through which probably the “veerus” infected us.

So the three of us in the family went through 14 days in quarantine isolation at home. Except for losing our sense of smell for a brief while – praise God – we did not have any other serious illness except for my son who had low grade fever for two days. We were able to go through the isolation period with the help of my relatives and close friends. Thankfully, they sent us food, grocery supplies and other day-to-day errands we needed without going out of our house.

On my 16th day of quarantine, we took another swab test and mine still turned positive. My doctor-son was worried of my situation because I have pre-existing comorbidity related to my hypertension and asthma allergy. So, religiously, I have been taking extra Vitamins from A to Zinc, especially Vit. C and other immunity booster from fruits, or juices, and vegetables aside from my regular maintenance medicines. For a month, I was working-from-home.

It was only on my third swab test that it finally turned in a negative result. Prior to this, I underwent chemiluminescence immunoassay (CLIA) that showed both my IgG and IgM were “reactive to SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2),” with numerals showing higher count of anti-bodies from the cut-off value 1.00. It meant I have developed COVID-19 anti-bodies a month after my first swab test. Thank God, it was virus – not us – that died in our house.

But this unseen enemy continues to spread at the least expected places like our homes.

Thankfully also, my family have all been cleared before the IATF started to impose a ban on “home quarantine” for mild and asymptomatic cases, except under certain conditions. In the new IATF guidelines, they will all be required to undergo quarantine in DOH-accredited facilities.

The IATF came up with the revised home quarantine guidelines after a number of local government units (LGUs) have resurgence of COVID-19 cases. The local transmissions were traced mostly to household contamination, mainly due to lack of local quarantine and isolation facilities.

Since the “epicenter” of COVID-19 is in Metro Manila, the LGUs are mostly assisted by the IATF in the provision of such quarantine facilities. One of them is the City of Manila that has “Level 2” classification by the DOH with 300 authorized bed capacity.

After three months, the city government of Manila established its first Molecular Laboratory using cartridge-based machine and accredited at “Xpress Xpert SARS- COV 2. With a turn around time of six hours, the first Molecular Laboratory Testing was constructed at the initiative of Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno-Domagoso. The ceremonial handover of the P8.2-million facility will be held tomorrow at the Sta. Ana Hospital, one of the six district hospitals run by the city government of Manila.

According to Sta. Ana Hospital director, Dr. Grace Padilla, the P8.2-million facility was constructed “thru the generosity of Ayala Foundation, Inc.” which donated this to Mayor Moreno. Speaking for the hospital, Dr. Padilla expressed: “Our deepest gratitude to the generosity of the Zobel De Ayala for giving this armamentum for us to see this invisible enemy and continue our fight for COVID 19.”

Constructed at the ground floor of the 10-storey hospital, the Molecular Laboratory boasts of the latest equipment and technology that utilizes the WHO “gold standard” of the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Also, it has a built-in High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filter to meet the DOH requirement for the safety of the personnel and community and in compliance with the WHO requirements.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) along with the DOH, Padilla cited, assisted the city government of Manila by donating two units each of the RT-PCR machines and the fully automated Sansure Extraction machines. With 18 personnel who she cited as all fully trained medical technologists on biosafety training, Dr. Padilla now fondly calls their medical institution as “Simple General District Hospital of Sta. Ana of the City of Manila” with the addition of the Molecular Laboratory to their public health services.

She now calls their hospital with feminine reference: “We are just bound to serve but with this pandemic, we are excelling in our small way as we evolve and our hospital is on her way of reinvention.” The 49-year old pediatrician, Dr. Padilla obtained her masters in hospital administration from the University of the Philippines.

Under the care of Dr. Padilla, the city of Manila stares at the face of the enemy with conviction to defeat COVID-19.

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