Wednesday, 29 July 2020 09:26

Moreno: CdeO contact tracing helped limit COVID-19 cases

Written by Stephen Capillas

Cagayan de Oro City´s contact tracing and household surveillance system can be ranked among the best in the country since it helped limit COVID-19 cases even before City Hall acquired testing machines and test kits last May.

“Baguio City´s contact tracing system gained nationwide recognition and is adopted in Cebu City which experienced a surge in cases. I can safely say with confidence that our contact tracing system and intensified household surveillance produced good results even before we managed to acquire our testing equipment,” Mayor Moreno said during Wednesday noon´s press briefing.

From a few hundred families before the March 13 citywide quarantine took effect, the City Health Office (CHO) conducted a health profile of over 180,000 families in Cagayan de Oro City that is instrumental in monitoring cases of acute respiratory illness (ARI) and influenza-like illness (ILI) that are most likely to lead to COVID-19, said CHO resident epidemiologist Dr. Teodulfo Joselito Retuya.

Dr. Retuya, who helped monitor suspect cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)—the forerunner of COVID-19—in Cagayan de Oro City in the early 2000s, leads a network of barangay health workers, community development volunteers and barangay nutrition scholars in conducting citywide contact tracing.

This grassroots monitoring network dubbed by Mayor Moreno in the daily press briefings as “Retuya´s Army” was expanded last May to include barangay tanods and the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (COCPO) who assigned seven police officers per precinct to beef up the contact tracers in their monitoring and household surveillance particularly in areas under localized quarantine.

“Contact tracing is not a perfect science but we train everyone on board on how to interview and collect useful data from persons who either had contact or exposure to suspected COVID-19 cases or had a history of ARI and ILI. Whether by phone or face to face interviews, we make sure to get their numbers and information so (we are on top of everything),” Dr. Retuya said.

Mayor Moreno said the city´s contact tracing system is instrumental in monitoring close contacts of returning Kagay-anons. “Before, the moment a suspect case is admitted at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC), we conduct contact tracing right away. Now with the city´s testing capacity, we can identify, isolate and treat positive cases and trace their contacts efficiently,” Mayor Moreno said.