UPLB participates in CALABARZON Dagyaw virtual townhall

UPLB presented to representatives of government agencies and local government units of CALABARZON the programs it implemented to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic at Dagyaw 2020: Open Government Virtual Town Hall Meetings via video conference at 2 PM on Nov. 18. 

Dr. Rowena Baconguis, professor and OIC dean at the College of Public Affairs and Development, gave the UPLB presentation for and on behalf of Chancellor Jose V. Camacho, Jr.

The presentation focused on how UPLB responded to COVID-19, its best practices, and the possible areas of vulnerability.

Dr. Baconguis said that the response of UPLB was primarily on student and community welfare, which involved institutional reforms such as the elevation of the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) into the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (OVCSA), and the implementation of service programs and flexible, remote learning, among others.

It will be recalled that the elevation of OSA into OVCSA was approved by the UP Board of Regents before the enhanced community quarantine was implemented, seemingly in time for OVCSA to step up and take charge of programs that were implemented for stranded students.

These were the adopt-a-dormer program, which facilitated the provision of food and other basic necessities of the students stranded in UPLB-managed dormitories; Oplan Kawingan, which took care of food and other needs of students living in housing facilities outside UPLB; Oplan Hatid, which reunited students with their families in other parts of the country and to other countries, as well; and Oplan Kumustahan, to take care of the mental health concerns of the students.   

Dr. Baconguis also discussed the work of the UPLB Task Force Laban ng Bayan Kontra sa COVID-19 as another means for UPLB to respond to COVID-19.

The Task Force oversaw the repurposing of one of the research laboratories of UPLB into what is now the COVID-19 Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory to help expand the testing capacity in CALABARZON.

It also fabricated materials such as intubation boxes, decontamination chambers, swabbing booths, and other materials designed to protect health workers from aerosol that could carry the SARS COV 2 virus.

The Task Force oversaw the conduct of research to produce enzymes for local test kits and for the UPLB Biomathematics Research Team on data analytics to guide in decision making.

In terms of the best practices, Dr. Baconguis enumerated these as: testing, tracing, and treating. UPLB, according to her, was able to bring down the cost of the test because of donated test kits from the Department of Health.

UPLB has implemented a protocol for contact tracing and although it is not considered a COVID-referral hospital, the University Health Service (UHS) needed to attend to and was able to treat 11 COVID cases.

Dr. Baconguis also reported key programs of UPLB that helped control COVID-19 in the campus. These are the early implementation of COVID-19 prevention strategies prior to the onslaught of the pandemic through a ban on mass gathering and enforcement of protocols for staff and visitors who came from travel abroad, instilling a culture of honest disclosure of health events among its workforce, and implementing a university-wide daily health monitoring for the UPLB workforce and students.

Moreover, Dr. Baconguis discussed the shift to remote learning that UPLB facilitated through the packaging of learning materials into course packs and providing these to students whether they may or may not have internet access. 

In anticipation of the reopening of the campus, the UHS and the UPLB COVID-19 Prevention and Mitigation Committee, both under the leadership of Dr. Jessie Imelda Foronda-Walde, has already come up with a protocol that will be followed by the returning students.

In conclusion, Dr. Baconguis discussed the following three lessons in controlling vulnerabilities: 1) strengthening and improving a dedicated public health agency to manage both prevention and control of a pandemic; 2) formulation of a generic pandemic plan that allows for responses to different disease agents; and 3) investing in resources and infrastructure that will allow quick response to future disease threats.

The other two resource persons who gave presentations in the Dagyaw virtual townhall were Dr. Eduardo Janairo, regional director of the Department of Health Center for Health Development for CALABARZON and Engr. Ariel Iglesia, regional director of the Department of Interior and Local Government of Region IV-A.

Dr. Janairo discussed the COVID-19 situation of CALABARZON while Dir. Iglesia talked about the government policies in the fight against COVID-19. 

(Please check the Facebook Page of the Philippine Information Agency Calabarzon where the presentations will be published.) (JMBo)

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