By John Noel E. Herrera
The Department of Education in Western Visayas (DepEd-6) said not a case of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was reported in schools across the region so far almost two months since the opening of face-to-face classes.
“Per monitoring namon, wala COVID-19 cases nga reported sa mga schools sa region,” DepEd-6 spokesperson Hernani Escullar Jr. said in an interview.
Escullar added that they continue to adhere to the provisions stated in DepEd Order No. 39, s. 2022, or the Health and Safety Protocols in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic, to ensure that the students, teachers and other non-teaching staff are safe.
The order also mandated that all schools shall continue the implementation of school-based routine vaccination and other medical services, and encourage all the personnel and learners to strictly monitor themselves for possible COVID-19 symptoms before reporting to work or school as “those with flu-like symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, will not be allowed to report onsite.”
“The wearing of facemasks, hand washing, disinfection, adequate ventilation, and physical distancing are strictly observed in schools,” Escullar added.
DepEd-6 said that if there will be reported cases, they have prepared a contingency plan, as infected positive learners or personnel will be immediately isolated and contact tracing will be done to prevent a possible surge in schools.
The school heads will also coordinate with the local government unit (LGU) and the barangay for appropriate responses and actions.
“Since this is a shared responsibility, DepEd will follow whatever recommendation is given by the LGU. For learners and personnel that will have covid-like symptoms at home, they have to advise their advisers or school heads regarding their situation and coordinate with Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT) or LGU to address their concerns,” Escullar said.
Schools shall also strengthen community monitoring measures and referral systems with LGUs and health centers and encourage participation and cooperation of parents and communities for safe transportation and home care isolation of learners when sick.
Data from DepEd-6 indicated that there are already 513,875 learners in the region who are completely vaccinated, while 552,696 received the first dose of vaccine, as of Sept 30, 2022.
Data also showed that out of 84,832 total DepEd-6 personnel, 79,352 are now completely vaccinated, while 906 only received the first dose of vaccine and 14,678 already received their first booster shot.
There are also 4,681 staff in the region who are still unvaccinated because of some reasons like their religion and medical and health conditions.
Meanwhile, DepEd central office confirmed on Friday, Sept 30, 2022, that there are schools across the country that reported cases of COVID-19 among learners, teachers, and nonteaching personnel.
“We already received reports all over the country that there are learners, teachers, and nonteaching staff who tested positive for COVID-19,” DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa said.
There was also a report stating that the total number of cases was not disclosed as authorities wanted to check if the DepEd regional or division offices, and even schools themselves were underreporting or not even reporting cases.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) also blamed the policies of DepEd as the reported COVID-19 cases in schools are a result of its “negligence” and “poor health measures.”
“Teachers who have taught in a class where there was a positive case are still required to teach in other sections. Then those who have symptoms or exposure need to spend for the RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test [for their absence can be] excused… because it might be deducted from their salary,” ACT chair Vladimer Quetua said