MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education (DepEd) confirmed on Friday that schools across the country have reported cases of students, teachers, and nonteaching personnel getting COVID-19 since school opening in August.
“We already received reports all over the country that there are learners, teachers and nonteaching staff who tested positive for COVID-19,” Michael Poa, spokesperson for the DepEd, said in a joint presser with the Office of the Vice President.
But Poa did not specify the exact number of cases in public schools, saying only that the information had to be verified and that it was “expected.”
A DepEd source told the Inquirer the number of cases was not disclosed because authorities wanted to check if DepEd regional or division offices and even schools themselves were underreporting or not even reporting cases.
‘Caught off guard’
A public school principal in Metro Manila told the Inquirer on Saturday that their school was among the few that reported COVID-19 cases in their division.
“We were caught off guard for our first case, because while we have an infection control plan in place, it’s really hard to implement it for the first time,” the principal said in an interview.
“If we conceal what the real situation is on the field, then how will we be able to give proper solutions to the problems and how will it help us in controlling COVID-19 in our schools?” he said.
The DepEd Order No. 34, released in August, specified “guidelines on the prevention of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases,” but the Alliance of Concerned Teachers described it as a “recipe for disaster.”
The department delegated to schools and division offices the task of creating infection control plans and containment strategies.
Mostly mild, moderate
Thus far, infections among children have mostly been mild or moderate and even cancer-stricken children were still able to continue cancer treatment.
A 2020 study by the Philippine Society of Pediatric Oncology found that four out of five children with cancer who contracted COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic were either asymptomatic or had manageable symptoms.
The study was presented on Friday in a webinar titled, “Children with Cancer and COVID-19,” organized by the University of the Philippine Manila’s National Telehealth Center.
The research was conducted from March to November 2020, when there were still no available vaccines or medicines for COVID-19.
According to Mae Dolendo, head of the Children’s Cancer Institute at the Southern Philippines Medical Center, 67.6 percent of pediatric cancer patients who got infected recovered from April 2020 to August this year. Around 29 percent, however, died.
Of the 54 kids who participated in the study, 30 percent were asymptomatic, 26 percent had mild symptoms and 24 percent had a moderate case. The rest were either severe (13 percent) or critical (7 percent).