CdeO’s contract-tracing performance below national standard

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 20 August) – This city’s efficiency rating in contract-tracing for people who had close contact with COVID-19 patients fell below the national standard despite its vaunted “Retuya’s Army,” Baguio City Benjamin Magalong said.

Magalong said Cagayan de Oro’s performance was only 1:4 or four persons traced for each COVID-19 patient, the same ratio achieved in neighboring Iligan City.

Commuters wear face shields over their masks inside a jeepney along C.M. Recto Avenue in Cagayan de Oro on Monday, 17 August 2020. The Land Transportation Franchise Regulatory Board implemented a “No Face Shield, No Ride” policy in all public utility vehicles. Implemented last August 15, the directive prohibits commuters without face shields and masks from riding public utility vehicles nationwide. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

He said the ideal national benchmark for a successful contact-tracing program is 1:37 or 37 persons for each COVID-19 patient.

“That means your team here was only able to contact the close family of the patients,” he said.

“Where are the rest who have close contact with the COVID-19 patients?” he said.

The task of tracing people who have had close contact with COVID-19 patients in the city has been assigned to health workers led by City Health Office chief epidemiologist Dr. Joselito Retuya.

Dubbed “Retuya’s Army,” the team was praised by Mayor Oscar Moreno for supposedly minimizing the spread of the virus in the locality.

Magalong, however, said the contact tracers in the city only achieved an efficiency rating of 1:4.

“If we based it on the national standard of 1:37 or the lowest at 1:20, the team missed a lot of potential infected persons,” he said.

He added the low efficiency rate means that in 10 days the city would have several potential COVID-19 carriers walking around and infecting other people.

“These people are now walking in your streets infecting more people,” he said.

Magalong arrived here with Inter-Agency Task Force Secretary Carlito Galvez to train police personnel and Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams in contact-tracing.

The IATF and the Department of Health have adopted Baguio City’s method of contact-tracing as the new benchmark for the program.

Magalong said Cagayan de Oro’s low efficiency in contact-tracing was aggravated by the low number of RT-PCR tests for suspected infections.

He said only five percent of the city’s 500,000 residents underwent RT-PCR tests due to the high cost of testing.

He said the Health department will address this by sending more RT-PCR test kits. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)