Families get hit as COVID-19 cases surge
MANILA, Philippines — Along with a surge in COVID-19 cases, emergency rooms in Metro Manila hospitals are lately seeing “family clustering” of infections.
Family clustering means the patients belong to the same family and among them are children.
“I confirm we are experiencing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases across all emergency departments or hospitals. Not only that, there is family clustering, which is unusual,” Dr. Pauline Convocar, president of the Philippine College of Emergency Medicine, said on Sunday.
“We used to count individual cases. Now we see entire families going for consultation so that’s what is unusual nowadays,” she said. Most patients show mild to moderate symptoms and do not require admission, she added.
For family clusters, children usually have mild symptoms while the elderly members of the household show moderate to severe symptoms.
“I don’t have the numbers, but there are reports they are seeing pediatric cases so I think we need to also investigate this particular area,” Convocar said.
She said patients in emergency rooms were piling up, as hospitals cannot admit those with severe symptoms as fast as they come in.
Due to the surge in cases, hospitals are again using tents to handle consultations and opened additional wards for COVID-19.
“It’s not just a question of beds but having health-care workers—nurses and doctors—to attend to those beds … So even if we open floors, we can’t admit ER patients because no one will attend to them. So they are stuck in the emergency department,” Convocar said.
The OCTA group of researchers from the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas on Sunday said daily cases in Metro Manila rose by 42 percent from the previous week and by 130 percent from two weeks ago.
From Feb. 28 to March 6, an average of 1,025 new infections have been detected in the metropolis, with 1,464 new cases confirmed on March 6.
The rate of increase in cases is comparable to levels seen in July last year, when hospitals in the region were overwhelmed.
“This surge is spreading more quickly than the July-August surge, and this suggests the possibility that the surge is driven by SARS-CoV-2 variants. The original strain does not spread this quickly considering the health guidelines in place,” the researchers said in their latest monitoring reports.
“Based on the current reproduction number of 1.66, [Metro Manila] is projected to have 2,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by March 21, and 3,000 new cases per day by the end of March,” they said.
Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said on Sunday that the trend was “alarming,” and urged all hospitals to prepare for a steeper rise in cases.
“[L]ook at the cases then compare them to the August 2020 cases when we reached 5,000 cases [daily]. We are already near the middle. In other words, we are now in the middle of that peak,” Vega said.
If the surge in Metro Manila is left unchecked, OCTA said, the entire country would have 5,000 to 6,000 new cases daily by the end of March.
But the surge in Metro Manila is still in its early stages and can still be mitigated or even reversed through timely action, the group said.
On Sunday the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 3,276 new COVID-19 cases, the third straight day of more than 3,000 daily cases, pushing the total to 594,412.
With 51 more deaths, including 13 who were previously tagged as recovered, the death toll stood at 12,516.
The DOH declared 10,516 people with mild or no symptoms as recovered after observing a two-week quarantine, bringing total recoveries to 545,853.
That left the country with 36,043 active cases, of which 90.6 percent were mild, 4.2 percent asymptomatic, 0.91 percent moderate, 2.1 percent severe, and 2.2 percent critical.
To help stem the surge, Metro Manila’s mayors agreed during a meeting on Saturday to suspend the reopening of movie houses and leisure arcades in the metropolis, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chief Benhur Abalos reported on Sunday.
Abalos said a doubling of COVID-19 cases in the metropolis in a span of 12 days prompted the mayors’ decision.
The DOH started noting a sharp increase in coronavirus cases last week, alarming the public and health experts.
In spite of warnings from the Metro mayors, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the temporary government body overseeing the Duterte administration’s coronavirus response, approved the reopening of movie theaters and leisure arcades starting March 5.
Major shopping malls, however, delayed the reopenings to wait for the go-signal from the local governments.
—WITH A REPORT FROM MEG ADONIS
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