The months of April and May have seen a steady rise not only in the number of total COVID-19 cases in the City, which stands at 647 as of May 8, 2021. More significantly, the number of “suspect cases” riding on the crest of the surge has yet to plateau in these two grueling months.

The Department of Health’s City Epidemiological Surveillance Unit (CESU) does not provide a complete tracking dataset on the management of non-RT-PCR tested patients or suspect cases, except to include some totals in its regular case bulletins.

Looking at these numbers in mid-March, the city still had a manageable active cases situation, hovering in the 20s and 30s. Daily recoveries were steady but the bad news numbers were already starting to rise.

The CESU started tracking suspect cases only at the onset of April. By May 2 for instance, there were 23 reported suspect cases on top of 11 new confirmed cases for the day, which had a total of 32 active cases. Starting in April, we were steadily turning out suspect cases on a daily basis amidst intensified contact tracing; the totals were already hovering in the hundreds and the city’s only six isolation facilities at that point were starting to fill. By mid-April, active cases were above 200, and suspect cases were adding at a steady pace.

By the first week of May, active cases in the city were nearing the 700 mark and there was no indication yet of a lowering trend in the turnout of suspect cases.

What the sparse numbers currently tell us is that the city is still in the middle of a surge and there is no indication yet of it subsiding.

It is indeed a scary time and to state the obvious is not to scare people but to help as many as possible to understand what we are all facing. It is unfortunate but there will always be naysayers who would either not trust or believe in the data or assert their own theories to explain this phenomenon. But the reality is that our hospitals are full, our facilities are pitifully lacking and our health frontliners are tired and thinning out.

This is the time the Incident Management Team headed by Dr. Dean Palanca needs all the help they can get from the city government and the public at large.

More than addressing the lack of manpower that at one point prompted health authorities to give up on the management of suspect cases by allowing many of them to return home, raising the risk of further infections, our policymakers are in the better position to find solutions in strengthening the IMT tracking and monitoring capacity. It will allow them to make strategic and crucial tactical decisions to bring down the numbers we are facing.

We need more grounded strategies apart from that suggestion emanating from the City Council designating one day of the week for people to lock themselves inside their homes. Capacitating our frontliners to gain a better handle on the problem so that they can help policymakers make critical decisions, including how to better handle suspect cases, is of critical importance. Let’s all try to understand the numbers; it is always a good start.