I THOUGHT I was in a different place. A place where there was no more coronavirus disease (Covid-19) threat in this part of Cebu City.
Driving up the hills of Cebu City one day in mid-May, I was surprised to discover that the higher I went, the fewer people wearing masks I saw. I had to take another look because it was weird to see all faces by the road no longer with masks.
The “new normal” is when you see people wearing masks and face shields when outside their homes or offices as a precaution against the spread of the Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. It became ordinary to encounter such scenes. What would catch my attention are people whose masks are below their chin or their shield is used as a headband.
Going up the transcentral highway, that mountain highway from the city to Cebu’s central and northwestern parts is like a trip to the future, not referring to technological innovation but to a time we envision where there is no more of this pandemic. Except we have not reached that period yet when we could safely disregard health protocols.
The people not wearing masks were not even vaccinated yet they acted like they have protection against the virus. Those I encountered said there was no more Covid-19 in their place and they do not believe they would get sick even if they catch the virus because “si kuan” or “among silingan na Covid pero wala lang man.” “Wala namay Covid diri,” one said.
They’re denying that Covid-19 is real or that the threat is real. They are what health experts call the deniers.
Cebu has been seeing a reduction in the number of infection cases and the use of hospital resources, including the intensive care units (ICU), is down. These are good developments after the rise in cases last February, and our neighbors, Negros Oriental for example, are still struggling to control the spread of the virus.
Department of Health (DOH) Central Visayas spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche said Friday, May 28, 2021, that only Negros Oriental out of the four provinces in Central Visayas has a high ICU utilization rate. The province had 13, or 72 percent, of the 18 ICU beds set aside for Covid-19 patients occupied as of May 27. In Cebu, only 10, or 11.5 percent, of the 87 ICU beds for Covid-19 patients were occupied.
The ICU utilization rate is used to gauge the preparedness of hospitals and medical facilities to handle a surge in serious cases. What is happening to Negros Oriental and to many other places here and in other countries is a resurgence of Covid-19 cases after they saw the numbers drop weeks or months before that.
Until community immunity is achieved or a cure is found, there is always the risk of Covid-19 showing up again in barangays, towns or cities. It is never a good idea to lower your guard even when the numbers are going down.